Birds in the Raccoon River Valley, Iowa

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  • 1. Birdwatching in the Raccoon River Watershed Belted Kingfisher (male), Waukee, IA Lee Searles, DMACC & Leeward Solutions, LLC All photos by Leland Searles unless otherwise credited
  • 2. Identifying Birds
    • One or more good field guides
      • National Geographic
        • 5th edition available
      • Peterson
  • 3. Identifying Birds
    • Guides to local/regional species
    • Books on bird behavior
  • 4. Common Iowa Birds A BIRDWATCHING GROUP AT BRENTON ARBORETUM
  • 5. Northern Cardinal, female
  • 6. Northern Cardinal, male
  • 7. House Finch, male
  • 8. Mourning Dove
  • 9. Canada Goose (“Chinstrap”)
  • 10. Great Blue Heron
  • 11. Ruby-Throated Hummingbird (male)
  • 12. White-Throated Sparrow
  • 13. White-Breasted Nuthatch
  • 14. Bald Eagle
  • 15. Red-Winged Blackbird (male)
  • 16. European Starling (winter plumage)
  • 17. Eastern Bluebird (male)
  • 18. Downy Woodpecker (female)
  • 19. Common Grackle (male)
  • 20. Cedar Waxwing
  • 21. Black-Capped Chickadee
  • 22. Blue Jay
  • 23. Eastern Kingbird
  • 24. Dark-Eyed Junco
  • 25. American Crow
  • 26. Ecosystems & Bird Life
    • A good strategy for birdwatching, especially beginners:
      • Explore a single ecosystem
        • Prepare a list of potential common birds
        • Listen to CDs or tapes of bird calls & songs
      • Prepare for two or more ecosystems at a specific location
    Xavier Avenue, south of Granger, Iowa (Beaver Creek/Des Moines River watersheds)
  • 27. Lakes & Shorelines
    • Mallard
    • Canada Goose
    • Northern Pintail
    • American Wigeon
    • Gadwall
    • Northern Shoveler
    • Scaup (2 spp.)
    • Other ducks
    • Shorebirds
      • Dowitchers (2 spp.)
      • Yellowlegs (2 spp.)
      • Killdeer
      • Spotted Sandpiper
    • Red-Winged Blackbird
  • 28. Riparian Woodlands
    • Warbling Vireo
    • Carolina Wren
    • House Wren
    • Wood Duck
  • 29. Riparian Waters & Banks
    • Wilson’s Snipe
    • Osprey
    • Bald Eagle
    • Green Heron
    • Great Blue Heron
    • American Redstart
    • Other warblers
    • Vireos
  • 30. Woodlands
    • Ovenbird
    • Tufted Titmouse
    • Cooper’s Hawk
    • Sharp-Shinned Hawk
    • Blue-Headed Vireo
    • Red-Eyed Vireo
    • Wood Thrush
    • Barred Owl
    • Screech Owl
    • Great Horned (“Hoot”) Owl
    • Long-Eared Owl
    • Migrating warblers & vireos
  • 31. Tallgrass Savannahs
    • Lark Sparrow
    • American Kestrel
    • Red-Tailed Hawk
    • Meadowlarks (2 spp.)
    • Grasshopper Sparrow
    • Savannah Sparrow
    • Lincoln’s Sparrow
    • Song Sparrow
    • Eastern Bluebird
    • Gray Catbird
    • Brown Thrasher
    • Common Yellowthroat
    • Indigo Bunting
  • 32. Wetlands & Potholes
    • Shorebirds
      • Dowitchers (2 spp.)
      • Yellowlegs (2 spp.)
      • Killdeer
    • American Bittern
    • Least Bittern
    • Red-Winged Blackbird
    • Great Egret
    • Yellow-Headed Blackbird
    • Sora
    • Virginia Rail
    • Marsh Wren
    • Sedge Wren
    • LeConte’s Sparrow
    • Henslow’s Sparrow
  • 33. Pastures & Feedlots
    • Introduced species
      • Ring-Necked Pheasant
      • European House Sparrow
      • European Starling
      • Rock Dove (Pigeon)
    • Native species
      • Savannah sparrow
      • Bobolink
      • Eastern & Western Meadowlarks
      • Mourning Dove
      • Lincoln’s Sparrow
      • Dickcissel
      • Eastern Bluebird
      • Short-Eared Owl
  • 34. Cropland, Fencerows, & Edges
    • Horned Lark
    • Vesper Sparrow
    • American Crow
    • Ring-Necked Pheasant (exotic)
    • Meadowlark (2 spp.)
    • Northern Harrier
    • Red-Tailed Hawk
    • American Kestrel
    • Shrike (2 spp.)
    • Red-Winged Blackbird
  • 35. Places to Go in the Watershed
    • Swan Lake: marsh, lake, shoreline
    • Walnut Woods & Brown’s Woods: mature woodlands, woods openings
    • Xavier Avenue/Brenton Slough: marsh, lake, riparian, woods, farmland
    • Clive Greenbelt: urban riparian & woods, prairie restoration
    • Kuehn Conservation Area: upland prairie & savannah, riparian & upland woods
    • Big Bend: riparian, woods, prairie
  • 36. Voas Nature Center Dallas County Conservation Board
  • 37. Whiterock Conservancy
    • Middle Raccoon River
      • Border between the Wisconsin glacial surface (N & E) & older drift plains
    • Local birding list based on several years’ observations
      • Wide variety of ecosystems, including riparian, prairie, & savannah restoration
    • Accommodations for overnight & longer visits
  • 38. Des Moines Water Works Park Riverine woods Savannahs & edges Open fields Arboretum with pines & spruces Waterways & ponds
  • 39. Squirrel Hollow Park Greene County Conservation Board Riverine woods Sandbars Major stream reach (riffle-run-pool) Bluff & upland woods Camping
  • 40. Greenwood & Ashworth Parks, Des Moines Urban park land: some landscaping Tallgrass prairie restoration Bluff & “breaks” woodlands, mostly mixed oak Riparian woods at extreme south end
  • 41. Gray’s Lake & Donald MacCrae Park, Des Moines
  • 42. Brenton Arboretum Short- & tallgrass prairie restoration Mixed tree types Grasslands Waterways/riparian Pond & shoreline Wooded ravines
  • 43. Feeding Birds
    • Winter-only feeding
    • All-year feeding
  • 44. Housing Birds
    • Birdhouses should be appropriate for a local ecosystem
    • Cleaning & other maintenance is best
  • 45. Birding Activities
    • Christmas Bird Counts (CBCs)
    • Great Backyard Bird Count
    • Breeding Bird Surveys
    • Individual & small-group bird hikes
    • Documentation of rare & unusual sightings
  • 46. Ornithology Web Sites
    • Iowa Ornithology Union
    • Whatbird.com
    • Audubon Society
  • 47. For In-Depth Information
    • Stokes guides to behavior
    • Arthur Cleveland Bent’s life histories
    • Kent & Dinsmore: seasonality, migration, reported counties, populations
    • Audubon CBC data
    • IOU web site: data, groups, activities, rare bird sightings, & more