A Travellerspoint blog

Day 1: Hawkeye WMA, Lewis & Clark Recreation Area


semi-overcast 81 °F

Today was the first day of my family’s roadtrip to South Dakota! We woke up bright and early at 5:40am and were on the road around 6. Our first stop was in the town of Big Rock, IL to pick up our rental RV. There were no birds of note apart from a singing CAROLINA WREN across the street.

Then, it was a straight shot west along the Lincoln Highway and I-88 into Iowa, and right as we were crossing the Mississippi, my dad spotted a flyover flock of AMERICAN WHITE PELICANS, of which I miraculously obtained a shot from the moving car:

One hilarious way to pass the time during the drive is for Pearl and I to tease my father every time he makes a slight error in driving. Pearl and I are keeping a list of “de-merits” — the name for infractions with which he grew up in the 1970s (and loves to “award” to me when I drive), as well as the time, place, and reason for the de-merit. We are up to 38 in total and may even post Dad’s personal de-merit log at the end of the trip! :)

We had an early lunch stop at Hawkeye Wildlife Management Area off of I-380 closer to Cedar Rapids, IA where I was able to bird for a bit less than thirty minutes. Upon stepping out of the car, I heard the melodic song of ORCHARD ORIOLES and, although the male was impossible to track down, I was afforded a brief view of the female.

Its relative the male BALTIMORE:

In the woods alongside the road I saw and heard two male AMERICAN REDSTARTS on territory:

And I almost stepped on this snake! If anyone has an identification down to the species, let me know. Eastern Garter? So cool!

And the bird-of-the-stop for me was definitely this YELLOW-BILLED CUCKOO which perched really nicely. As my mom told me today, it’s been quite a “cuckoo” year!

I ended the quick stop at Hawkeye with 34 species, over 1 species per minute — pretty good! Then, it was time for the long haul up to the southeast corner of South Dakota: Lewis and Clark Recreation Area where we would enjoy our first campsite of the the trip. At the recreation area, I enjoyed some swimming with Pearl and saw a few nice birds including YELLOW-THROATED VIREO, BALD EAGLE, and my first truly “western” species of the trip: WESTERN KINGBIRD! Unfortunately, at this time, Travellerspoint is not letting me upload any more pictures due to poor wifi here so those photos will have to wait till tomorrow or a later date...

Stay tuned: tomorrow, before another big day of driving, I am waking up *before* dawn and birding the area in search of three classic Great Plains species, and possible life birds, right across the border in Nebraska: Greater Prairie-Chicken, Sharp-tailed Grouse, and Lark Bunting. Wish me luck!

Good birding,
World Life List: 1115 Species

Posted by skwclar 19:21 Archived in USA

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I think it's a bull snake.

by Joanne Dusatko

What a great day! Or should I say half hour! Beautiful redstart and great cuckoo (I’ve chased them a few times here with no luck, it is now my nemesis after seeing the spruce grouse with you last year!). Good luck on your AM adventure!

by Poo

Re:snake- my best guess, given your location, is a young black rat snake (harmless to you). It helped to see it with dandelions- for the length. Older black rat snakes are much darker. I nearly stepped on one of these in my garden shed! It could also have been an Eastern milk snake (also harmless). I couldn't see enough detail on the head to be sure. I love the white pelican photo! Notice how clear the air is compared to the Chicago area. Bon voyage!

by liz cifani

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