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Curious about a bird that someone has seen? Consult the "Links" page for links to birding ID sites. Scroll down to see other local observations. Thanks to those who share your observations.

NEW! Sightings in Iowa- a lot of PRAS birders post their observations on this listserv and it is automatically updated, so consult the "Sightings in Iowa" link to see what's being seen in Iowa and our local six-county area. 

April 14, 2021: Wednesday Morning Birding: Twenty PRAS members were bundled up to face the breezy winds blowing across Martin Lake as they searched for spring migrants.  Forty species were seen and heard by the sharp eyes and ears of the group in their two and one half hour trek. Join us next week as we wander through George Wyth State Park.  Meet at the kiosk at 8:30 on the 21st.  See you then.  All are welcome.  And bring warmer weather!

Martin Lake (Greenbelt Lake), Black Hawk, Iowa, US

Apr 14, 2021 8:30 AM - 11:00 AM

Protocol: Traveling

1.5 mile(s)

Checklist Comments:    PRAS Wednesday Morning birding

44 species

Canada Goose  2

Wood Duck  4

Blue-winged Teal  6

Northern Shoveler  2

Mallard  2

Green-winged Teal  3

Lesser Scaup  1

Pied-billed Grebe  1

Mourning Dove  1

American Coot  4

Killdeer  1

Lesser Yellowlegs  1

Turkey Vulture  1

Osprey  1

Belted Kingfisher  1

Red-bellied Woodpecker  1

Downy Woodpecker  1

Northern Flicker (Yellow-shafted)  1

Eastern Phoebe  2

Blue Jay  1

American Crow  2

Black-capped Chickadee  2

Tree Swallow  40

Barn Swallow  2

Golden-crowned Kinglet  4

Ruby-crowned Kinglet  8

White-breasted Nuthatch  1

Brown Creeper  1

Brown Thrasher  2

Hermit Thrush  2

American Robin  2

Pine Siskin  12

American Goldfinch  2

Chipping Sparrow  1

American Tree Sparrow  2

Fox Sparrow  1

Dark-eyed Junco  2

White-throated Sparrow  1

Song Sparrow  1

Red-winged Blackbird  3

Brown-headed Cowbird  7

Common Grackle  1

Yellow-rumped Warbler  3

Northern Cardinal  2 

Barn Swallow-Greenbelt Lake  Photo by John McCormick

April 10, 2021: A Green Heron was an early arrival at Prairie Lakes Park.

April 7, 2021: The Osprey are back at their nest behind the Cattle Congress! We watched one bring in a small stick, then enjoyed watching the pair perched or on the nest or flying. Woohoo! -J.H.

I am excited that colleagues at my workplace seem to be noticing birds aptly described the field marks for a Northern Flicker (Yellow-shafted, of course) that they observed while walking across campus. She even mentioned its call that resembled a laugh, kind of like Woody Woodpecker. Makes me pleased that others have been inspired to take a closer look at the birds they encounter. - C.H.

April 7, 2021: Our first Wednesday Morning Birding Field Trip
Thanks to all who joined us for our field trip. 
We resumed our PRAS Wednesday morning birding after a long delay for the Covid pandemic with 17 people in attendance at Big Woods Lake in Cedar Falls with rain showers threatening.  It was great to see so many of our friends and a few new faces, as well.  See you next  Wednesday at Martin Lake in Waterloo.  Check out future field trips on the web site.

Apr 7, 2021 8:30 AM - 10:15 AM
Protocol: Traveling
0.5 mile(s)
Checklist Comments:    PRAS Wednesday morning birding with 17 attendees
25 species
Canada Goose  6
Wood Duck  6
Blue-winged Teal  6
Mallard  4
Pied-billed Grebe  2
Double-crested Cormorant  18
American White Pelican  8
Turkey Vulture  1
Bald Eagle  1
Belted Kingfisher  1
Downy Woodpecker  4
Blue Jay  1
American Crow  3
Black-capped Chickadee  4
Tree Swallow  5
White-breasted Nuthatch  2
European Starling  1
American Robin  3
House Finch  1
Dark-eyed Junco  2
Song Sparrow  2
Red-winged Blackbird  6
Brown-headed Cowbird  3
Common Grackle  6
Northern Cardinal  4
April 5, 2021: A hybrid duck, thought to be perhaps a Cinnamon teal x shoveler has been seen at the wetlands at Dunkerton and Wagner Road in Black Hawk County. The bird is hanging with a small flock of shovelers.  

April 4, 2021: I just listened to the podcast of Talk of Iowa with Dr. Jim Pease (one of PRAS's favorite speakers!) about all of the wildlife and birds starting to appear now that it is spring and Dr. Pease said that now is a great time to put wren houses out. I bought a lovely ceramic wren house at one of our PRAS silent auctions and put it out yesterday. know the saying, "build it and they will come", well, I noticed, for the first time a House Wren in my backyard this a.m. I am hoping that it will discover my wren house and take up residence!  C. Havely

Great Egrets were seen at Sweet Marsh today.

April 3, 2021: First of the year (FOY) Song Sparrows, Ruby-Crowned Kinglet and Fox Sparrow were seen at Hickory Hills. A bike ride later on the Cedar Valley Trail south towards LaPorte City yielded a Sandhill Crane sighting in a location that this species has not been seen. Plus, on the way to the Gilbertville Depot, on the backwaters at the first bridge east of Washburn were approximately a gathering of 200 American White Pelicans. Pretty cool...
The photo below is merely to illustrate part of the flock that was visible from the road. 

A circuitous route between some of our PRAS counties yielded an abundance of wildflowers and birds, including Snow Trilliums at Eagle City Park and Pasque Flowers at Blackmun Prairie in Butler County. Photos by Kris Rash.  Check out the Iowa Prairie Network's webpage or Instagram account to see events, such as the Spring Prairie & Pasque Flower Walk, April 25, 2021 at 1:00 p.m.

March 31, 2021: A pinkish Snow Trillium was spotted at Hickory Hills Park in Tama County. Photo by Candace Havely

February 24, 2021: The Eurasian Tree Sparrow continues in Buchanan County. 

Pine Siskins are back at my feeders in the backyard. C.H.

February 23, 2021: 5 Bald Eagles (4 mature, 1 juvenile) were seen in a tree along Dysart Road.  Flushed 5 different Ring-necked Pheasants at Hickory Hills. Found this lovely pheasant feather perfectly nestled in a track in the snow. 

February 14, 2021: Over this weekend I have seen one blue jay and a pair of juncos.  One squirrel and one rabbit have dashed across the backyard. Last month … My snow crab tree has been picked clean by the robins and the cedar waxwings, none of whom are around anymore. - S.F.

February 11, 2021: A Rusty Blackbird appeared at a Waterloo feeder along with a continuing Spotted Towhee (a western species), a Carolina Wren and Red-breasted Nuthatches.

February 9, 2021: Northern Shrike was seen around 2300 Timber Ave, north of Aldo Leopold WMA in Bremer Co. Flocks of Horned Larks seemed particularly plentiful. No longspurs or snow buntings were seen. A. B.

February 8, 2021: Gray Partridge have been observed in various locations in Black Hawk County. 

Continuing Eurasian Tree Sparrow is being seen at a feeder in Buchanan County. 

February 6, 2021: Eurasian Tree Sparrow seen in Buchanan County.

January 30, 2021: Spotted Towhee was seen at a Waterloo feeder. Bird has been observed throughout the fall and winter. 

January 25, 2021: Barred Owl at George Wyth S.P. 

Photo by Stephanie Kleiner

January 17, 2021: Swans and other waterfowl at Brinker Lake at George Wyth State Park.

Swans at Brinker Lake, George Wyth State Park. Photo by Stephanie Kleiner

January 16, 2021: There are Currently 4 Tundra Swans among about a 100 or so Trumpeter S. at Brinker Lake. Tommy Stone

January 2, 2021: It was a good day for raptors here. At home I had 3 different Cooper's
Hawks and a Sharp-shinned H. hoping for an easy meal at the feeders. In the afternoon, I did some road birding and saw and photographed 3 Merlins at different locations. I also saw a RLHA, 5 RTHA, 1 AMKE, and 2 Bald E. all within an hour and 10 miles from our house. Tommy Stone, Waterloo

American Robin - Buchanan County: I know, I know, some can overwinter. I had one show up late this afternoon in the crabapple, loudly announcing his presence and saying it was spring. Wendy VanDeWalle

What was your first bird seen in the new year?

Dec 4, 2020: Two Bald Eagles must be pair bonding as they are sitting so close together on the same branch. Wonderful to see! Thanks for sharing your observation.


November 29, 2020: Sandhill Cranes were seen at Big Woods Lake, 2 adults marked with red crowns and 2 juvenile birds. Rarely do a pair raise both crane colts, so this is a great sighting! - D.E.

November 26, 2020: A Northern Saw-whet Owl was found at Greenbelt Lake at the north end of the the conifer stand. Take the main path by the lake till you see an "x" that was marked in the path. Then take a left and walk on the small path about 30 ft. Then take a riht and look for the white wash under the Red Pine. The owl was perched about 3-4 feet above the ground. T. Stone

I tried to relocate the Saw-whet early this afternoon, but did not see it. A couple of other PRAS birders came along and we found the spot where the white wash was, but we couldn't spy the owl. That is often how my luck goes! I looked in neighboring trees and in the other "usual" spots at Greenbelt, but no owl for me. I did enjoy the blue sky, a nice walk and saw two Red-breasted Nuthatches who were foraging together, so all was not lost. C. Havely 

November 25, 2020: A Spotted Towhee has been seen at a local feeder in Waterloo. TS

November 19, 2020: An Evening Grosbeak fly over and a mature Golden Eagle soaring near Greenbelt Lake were the observations from Waterloo today.

November 18, 2020: No less than 5 different Brown Creepers were foraging in the woods around Casey Lake at Hickory Hills. Lots of Canada Geese, but no other special waterfowl were present. A calling Barred Owl was heard and on the drive back to Waterloo, a Great Horned Owl was seen perched on the top of a telephone pole.

November 12 & 13, 2020:  The beautiful crescent moon with Venus, Spica and the not often seen Mercury in the pre-dawn eastern sky (about 5:45 a.m.). Gorgeous! Thank you David Voigts for your "In the Sky" column that teaches us about astronomy.  I have so enjoyed the skies this year. From the comet visible this summer to the glorious showing of our planets, it has been one positive thing about 2020! Hope I get a peek at some of the Leonid meteor showers. C Havely

November 8, 2020: A Greater Yellowlegs was observed at Bonser's Wildlife Refuge. D. E. 

November 7, 2020: A Spotted Towhee was observed at a feeder in Waterloo. T. S. 

November 5, 2020: Male Evening Grosbeak observed at feeder in Bremer County. The grosbeak dwarfed the House Finch that was feeding alongside it. M.W.

November 1, 2020: A Swainson's Thrush was seen at Greenbelt Lake. Alan Orr. and a female Evening Grosbeak was seen at a feeder near Hartman Reserve. B.R.

October 30 & 31, 2020: Evening Grosbeaks made an appearance at the feeders of a family in Dike, Iowa! Thanks Mark & Amy for sharing your sighting and for joining our presentation at our November program.

Male & two female Evening Grosbeaks. Photo by Mark Dutton

October 30, 2020: A pair of Common Redpolls were also foraging in the parking lot at Greenbelt Lake.  Scott Garrett 

This morning I found two Common Redpolls at one of my favorite places to bird- only a couple miles from my house! They were in the parking lot of the Mt Auburn Bridge access to the Cedar River on Benton/Buchanan Ave.This is the corner of Buchanan, Benton & Black Hawk counties.  They were next to the boat ramp and hung out for quite some time feeding. Iowa bird #300! - Wendy VanDeWalle

October 29, 2020: Red-bellied, Downy & Hairy Woodpeckers, a pair of Purple Finch, Am. Goldfinch, House Finch, WB Nuthatch, chickadees, starlings, juncos and White-throated and House Sparrows are among the yard birds coming to my feeders and heated bird bath. C.H.

October 28, 2020: A Horned Grebe can be viewed on the east end of Brinker Lake at George Wyth State Park. Observable from the bike path. A.O. 

October 23, 2020:
When leaving my favorite new bookstore (Soul Book Nook) in downtown Waterloo, I saw a Cooper's Hawk dive into the hedge across the street in pursuit of Rock Pigeons. It wasn't successful, but I got a good look at this handsome bird when it flew up and perched in a nearby tree. - CH 

October 17, 2020:
I participated in the eBird October Big Day today. (At this moment 6,298 species of birds have been seen across the world by 22,797 participants.) As part of my effort I visited the Black Hawk Creek Wildlife Center in Grundy County. It has been greatly affected by the Derecho and the trails have not been cleared, so I had to bushwhack quite a bit. I saw a Black-throated Green Warbler at eye level. This is a small place, so I went back to my car to get my camera and returned to the area where I had seen the warbler. I never saw warbler again, but waiting around quietly I added Brown Creeper, Winter Wren, Purple Finch, Pine Siskin and Red-breasted Nuthatch. That's a lot of neat birds for such a small place.

Linda Rudolph

October 8, 2020: A small flock of Rusty Blackbirds were seen at Diagonal Street Marsh.  J.M.

October 7, 2020: An adult light morph Ferruginous Hawk was seen in Black Hawk County today. A cell phone photo was shared with Tommy Stone who confirmed the identification.

October 1, 2020:  I still have hummingbird at my feeder and four juncos below it.  Had a palm and orange crowned during my daily walk at Riverview this morning. - T.S.

A rather unfortunate bird sighting happened today at work; a Sharp-shinned Hawk and American Robin were victims of a window collision. At home the feeder is busy with seemingly every House Sparrow and House Finch in the neighborhood. An occasional N. Cardinal and White-throated Sparrow, Chickadee and Downy Woodpecker joins the mix. So far, no juncos at my feeder yet. - C.H.

September 18, 2020: A flight of Broad-winged Hawks were seen flying over Waterloo.

A Red-breasted Nuthatch, a White-throated Sparrow and three Ruby-throated Hummingbirds were visitors to backyard feeders in Waterloo.

September 15, 2020: Migrating warblers, Red-breasted Nuthatches and Scarlet Tanagers were visitors to the backyard near Denver. Nearby, a group of four Red-shouldered Hawks were observed. 

September 14, 2020: A Female Black-throated Blue Warbler was seen at Riverview Park (old Mitchell Sandpits).

September 13, 2020: Red-breasted Nuthatches have been moving into all parts of Iowa, including Cedar Falls. Click on the "Photos" link to take a look at the PRAS Flickr account to see some great photos of this bird. 

September 12, 2020: Numerous Broad-winged Hawks and groups of Northern Flickers were seen along the Cedar Valley Nature Trail.

September 8, 2020: The previous couple of nights, birders in Denver, IA, Iowa's 3rd Bird Friendly City, were witness to the amazing spectacle of 200+ Chimney Swifts swooping into roost in chimneys in the downtown area. Every year there is a citizen science project titled, Swift Night Out, that asks citizens to record the number of swifts they see and share the data. 

Sept 8, 2020: A Mourning Warbler found it's way to our PRAS President's backyard! Other birds seen at Riverview Park in Waterloo (old Mitchell Sand Pits) included: Philadelphia Vireo, Blackpoll Warbler, Osprey, Nashville, Tennessee Warblers, etc. 

Hummingbirds were at seen at a backyard bird feeder in Waterloo.

Sept 5, 2020: Purple Finch seen at feed in Buchanan County.

Sept 2, 2020: I just refilled our hummingbird feeders!  It is like Grand Central Station. We also have had red-breasted nuthatches. They are one of my favorites. We didn’t have any in the 2029/2020 fall/ winter season. The year before they were here from September-May. Enjoy the beautiful fall weather! -S.L.

Sept 1, 2020:
Three American Avocets were seen at Riverview Park (old Mitchell Sand Pits) right across from the boat ramp on the beach. An Osprey feeding young was also observed.

A Barred Owl was seen along the Cedar Valley Nature Trail.

August 23, 2020: An Osprey was seen over the Cedar River in Waverly and a Blue-grey gnatcatcher was also seen among a small flock of birds. - J. Q. 

August 22, 2020: A Least Tern was seen by two PRAS members in the morning at the Wagner Rd wetlands outside of Waterloo.  Later in the afternoon, Sandhill Cranes, several Great Blue Heron, lots of Killdeer, Lesser Yellowlegs,Blue-winged Teal, Red-winged Blackbirds and a couple of Yellow-headed Blackbirds, a lone Cormorant, a Ring-necked Pheasant, and an immature eagle were observed. 
At the nearby private wetlands, a Sora and three chicks were observed. Virginia Rail, Pectoral Sandpiper, Lesser Yellowlegs, Eastern Kingbird, American Goldfinch, were among the birds seen. The highlight being the Sora chicks!

August 16, 2020: Pileated Woodpecker at Babcock Woods.- J. Q. 

August 7, 2020: Northern Waterthrush  Greenbelt Lake Photo by Scott Garrett

August 5, 2020: I saw a Gray Partridge with several chicks and I had a Bluebird nest with 8 eggs.  It was lost to predation.  - David V. 

The merlins left the nest on Liberty Ave.on July 30th and have been flying around the neighborhood ever since, and chasing each other at times.  All 5, the adults and 3 young exploded from the trees to chase a crow this morning.  Bird carnage (house sparrows) is much more evident now with whole birds, half eaten ones, and pieces strewn on lawns.  My neighbor had what we think was a gizzard fall on his shoulder.  His baby daughter had a feather land on her.  They have been active throughout the day calling, flying, and practicing being merlins -  mostly hanging out near the sycamore nest tree.    This has been a rare opportunity to watch merlin behaviors in a way we we usually don’t see. 

The birds seen on Kimball in Waterloo are from a different nest.  At least four have been seen over there.  Not sure where the nest had been over there - maybe in the ponderosa pines next to the Subway. 

Tom Schilke - Waterloo

July 22, 2020: Big Woods Lake - Male Blue Grosbeak singing from treetop observed from approx 50' away for several minutes. He was still singing when I left.  Location on NW side of lake near bench marked as Bob & Kathy Braun bench.

July 19, 2020: The merlin nest across the street from my house at 1432 Liberty Ave. has three mostly downy young as best that I can tell.  The parents have been on guard and are quite vocal when feeding time is near or crows, vultures, etc. come too close.  Viewers that have come to see the nest have been rewarded with views of the birds in usually short order, often seeing them on open favored branches plucking apart prey (house sparrows ) or standing watch. 

Francis Moore reports the likelihood of another merlin nest on south Kimball in Waterloo by or in large ponderosa pines next to the Subway parking lot.  Merlins have been seen in that spot multiple times and carrying food.  Haven’t spotted the nest yet.

The merlins that nested in Waterloo in 2016 were fledged and flying about by July 12th.  Here we are on July 19 and the young are just now beginning to get some feathers.  Also in 2016 the merlins decapitated their prey.  I have yet to find heads or see them rip a head off while feeding.  From about 6:00 - 8:00 p.m. has been a pretty consistent time to watch them in good light.

Merlins have been spotted during the summer months each year since 2016,  I think it is safe to assume that we have a continual breeding population, one that is perhaps expanding through the metro area.

Tom Schilke - Waterloo

July 18, 2020: Multiple Wood Thrushes were singing at McFarlane Park Saturday morning. It was quite lovely.

July 15, 2020: An Upland Sandpiper was heard flying overhead while observing the Neowise comet.

July 14, 2020: An early morning bike ride on the Cedar Valley Trail can present various wildlife encounters. Luckily the Striped Skunk did not feel threatened when I rode passed it. 

June 29, 2020: The merlins that have occupied a nest across the street north from my house for the last two months in Waterloo have begun to actively feed nestlings.  During the first month they came to and from the nest, straightened it up, mated, stashed food, etc.  The next month she, and occasionally he, incubated eggs.  There has been  on occasion a second male.  I still have a clear view of the nest in the tall sycamore which is now beginning to leave out after a bout with anthracnose.  The neighbors are cool with visitors watching the merlins. I usually have a scope on the nest by my garage door at 1432 Liberty Ave.  Visitors are welcome.  Evening light is best from my angle.

It will be about another month before the young fledge during which time the male could bring up to nine birds a day to the nest - mostly house sparrows.  Vocalizations have been interesting - more to it than a simple call.  I haven’t seen little heads yet.  The nest survived 50 mph straight line winds and torrential rain.  They defend the nest from any raptor that gets anywhere near calling at length during the attack.  Soft little chinks mixed in with the calls generally seem to mean some kind of interaction between the merlins - either food is here or it is time to switch places for a while. 

Also of interest near by are nesting black billed cuckoo, flicker, bells vireos and maybe red-headed woodpecker on the bike trail at Gilbertville.  Go north from the depot towards Evansdale until you get almost get to the Schaefer Natural area bench, almost a half mile walk. 

Bank Swallows are nesting in the private quarry south of the road to the water treatment plant which is along the south border of of Riverview Park in Waterloo 1.5 miles from my house.   Stand by the gate and watch - also YB cuckoo hanging out there. 

Best Wishes,  Tom Schilke - Waterloo