Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Jan 30, 2012: Swans

    Swans on south lake, Jan 2, 2012 -- Kevin Kane

Just thought I should mention we saw 16 trumpeter swans yesterday (1/30/12) around 5:20 p.m. in the open water of the south lake.  Several adolescents were in the group, but it was difficult for me to distinguish more detail,  since I do not have a spotting scope. (I had been by the lake earlier in the day--around 3:30-- and at that time I counted 6 swans.) Several pairs of the swans were interacting with each other bobbing their heads and going through ritualistic steps. I was amazed at the loudness of their clapping wings  when the swans lifted up from the water and how perfectly their trumpeting carried over to the shore.  By 5:30, there were at least a “gazillion” of geese, of course, with huge lines coming in from the north .  Also:  a lovely mink scrambling among the rocks near the far southeast corner.

Zora Zimmerman

Jan 30, 2012: The Iowa Wildlife Center

Today's post is to highlight The Iowa Wildlife Center. IWC's mission is to provide professional wildlife rescue, medical treatment and rehabilitation of native wildlife in central Iowa; teaches about wildlife and habitat stewardship; and provides wildlife assistance skills training.

Please take some time to visit them at:

Monday, January 30, 2012

Jan 29, 2012: Caspian Tern

With the beautiful weather predicted for this week, maybe we can tun an eye toward spring again -- just a little?  Here is a pic of a Caspian Tern that was spotted over Ada Haden Park in July 2009.  Check out the blog posting - the link is below.

Caspian Tern at Ada Hayden Park by Cory Gregory
from "Corey Gregory's Birding Blog" at:

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Jan 28, 2012: Video of the Day

Video pan of the north lake from north to south at sunset on
January 25, 2012 showing anglers out on the ice fishing for trout
and flocks of geese taking off from the south lake in the background.
Kevin Kane

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Jan 26, 2012: 40 years of change, 1970-2010

Dave James, local outdoorsman and map maker extraordinaire, produced this animated aerial photo of the changes in the lake boundaries at Ada Hayde Park over the past 40 years exclusively for Reflections:. The blue lines represent the outline of the lakes in 1970. Click on the map above to see the animation.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Jan 25, 2012: Trout Rush!

Anglers on north shore of north lake fish for trout, 1/25/12 -- Kevin Kane

The Iowa DNR stocked the north lake yesterday with trout about 11am and ever since the rush has been on for central Iowa ice fishermen to land them.

Jan 24, 2012: Wolf's Field Notes

Geese flying into the open water area on south central part of south lake, 1/22/12 -- Kevin Kane

After being house-bound for 4 days due to an illness, I was finally able to get out to the Park today.  I was surprised to find over 2,000 waterfowl, mostly Cackling and Canada Geese, with over 150 Mallards.  The drake American Black Duck and hen American Wigeon were still present, as was a drake Ruddy Duck, the first one seen this year.  Most of the waterfowl had left by the time I was on my third lap, but waves of geese started to filter back at dusk.  A Northern Shrike was observed in the line of trees immediately to the north of the main shelter.  This is probably the same individual that Erv and I have seen numerous times near the bridge.

Wolfgang Oesterreich

Monday, January 23, 2012

Jan 23, 2012: Erv's Field Notes #22

Squadrons of geese on a "strafing mission" (Kevin Kane)

Saturday, January 21, 2:30-3:30 pm, 28 degrees F., cloudy, brisk east wind. Temperature dipped to near zero degrees overnight.

The waterfowl were all huddled close around a small area of open water on the south lake. As I was watching them a large flock of several hundred geese flew in from the north west. I was standing on the south shore and as they came over the tree-covered bluff they cupped their wings and maple-leafed down to the frozen lake. I was looking at them head-on so they gave an appearance of squadrons of small fighter planes on a strafing mission. (Maybe I have watched too many war movies.) I counted 9 fisherman and 3 fishing tents on the north lake. I also a Bald Eagle soaring over the Skunk River east of the park.

Sunday, January 22, 2:00-3:00 pm, 34 degrees F. Fog, low cloud ceiling, slight breeze from the east. The open water area was twice as large as yesterday.

The goose flock was similar to yesterday but some of the geese were walking around on the ice some distance from open water. They seemed to be picking at something on the ice. About 100 Mallards were mixed in with the geese. A Bald Eagle flew over the flock, circled once and then flew towards the river. The geese paid little attention. The reaction of Canada and Cackling Geese to an eagle overhead is very different from that of Snow Geese. I have spent many hours observing Snow Geese in the Missouri River valley, along the Platte River in Nebraska and around Sand Lake National Wildlife Refuge in South Dakota. Eagles always cause Snow Geese to flush from the ground or water and mill around in the air for several minutes until the eagles leave. On four different occasions, I have seen Bald Eagles snatch Snow Geese in mid-air with their talons and take them to the ground. On one occasion, the eagle that made the kill was quickly joined by two other eagles who joined in the feast. A Snow Goose is smaller than a Giant Canada Goose, but not a Cackling Goose. Eagles are opportunistic and prefer to feed on carrion whenever it is available.

Erv Klaas

Jan 22, 2012: A foggy day at the park

Ice skater on north lake -- Kevin Kane
All photos from Sunday

It was a foggy and overcast day Sunday at Ada Hayden Park but that didn't stop lots of people from using the favorable conditions for ice fishing, skating, walking and jogging.  The just-over-freezing temperatures and misty/foggy conditions left a thin layer of water over the ice that made the surface perfect for skating.  It made for tough picture taking though as the mist kept my lens fairly cloudy. I slid across the north lake taking pictures from the parking lot to the bridge.  The south lake had open water in the south central area and hundreds of geese were coming in to land as I walked around the south lake.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Jan 21, 2012: Pic of the Day

From the archive: Erv Klaas & Kay Berger address an Ada Hayden Park master planning meeting, Sept. 20, 2001, Ames Public Library - Kevin Kane

All pics from this meeting

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Jan 20, 2012: Snow

  Looking south toward north shelter, 1/14/09 (Kevin Kane)

The most snow of the year so far fell on Ada Hayden Park today and covered almost everthing with soft white blanket. I say almost everything because the lack of snow on a section of the south lake where there is still some open water made the dark water very easy to spot, even after dusk. This archived photo shows the park on Jan. 14th, 2009 after a larger snowfall and Paul Anderson's Landscape Architecture class touring the park to learn of its unique landscape features.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Jan 19, 2012: Story County Winter Hikes

Upper trail south of Jensen Pond, Ada Hayden Park (Kevin Kane)

Today I'm posting information from another central Iowa conservation group,
Story County Winter Hikes.

Winter 2012 http://www.schikes.org/

Story County winter hikes are held on Sunday afternoons at 1:30 pm and last about 2 hours.

January 22nd Soper’s Mill Greenbelt. Coordinator: Jeff White

Includes hiking along a narrow, beautiful trail through rocks and woods, a visit to the new DOT rest stop, and (new!) a walk through Pleasant Grove Woods On Hwy 69, drive 2.5 miles north from Ada Hayden Park. Turn right (east) at Gilbert corner onto 170th Street. Go 2.5 miles until you cross the Skunk River Bridge. The parking area is just past the bridge on the left (north).

January 29th Zumwalt Park in southwest Ames. Coordinator: David Brenner
A well-kept secret, this park is a gem and lovely in the winter. Meet at the north end of the parking lot at Gateway Hotel on University Avenue, just south of Hwy 30. This hike is best when it’s cold and the creek is frozen.


February 5th Petersons Pits, east and west. Coordinator: Jeff White

We will walk back trails and view the old cemetery and the new bridge. Meet at West Petersons Pit parking lot. On Hwy 69, drive 1.5 miles north of Ada Hayden Park and then turn right (east) onto 180th Street. There is a sign about Peterson Pits. Drive 1.5 miles on 180th and turn right (south) at the sign. Drive 3/8 mile on the road to the parking lot by the lake. Park at the east end of the parking lot.

February 12th Carr Woods in Ames. Coordinator: Jeff White
We will walk both east and west sides of the Skunk River. Meet at the old Carr Pool (to be demolished next year) parking lot. From 13th Street in east Ames, turn north on Meadowlane Avenue. Go about three blocks and turn right into the pool parking lot.

February 19th Heart of Iowa Nature Trail at Cambridge. Coordinator: Cindy Barrowcliff
Join us to cross the Skunk at the new bridge and walk the trail completed last year. Drive south on I-35 to Exit 102, Hwy 210, and go left (east) toward Cambridge. Go 2.5 mile on 210 and turn left (north) toward Cambridge on 585th Avenue. Drive into Cambridge, following the road as it turns right (east) and becomes Center Street. After three blocks, turn right (south) onto South Water Street. The trailhead will be one block south on S. Water St.

February 26th Christensen Preserve north of Huxley. Coordinator: Cindy Barrowcliff
This relatively new preserve has wildlife and lovely scenery. Drive south from Ames on Hwy 69 about 7 miles to the north end of Huxley. Turn left (east) on Centennial Drive (becomes 310th Street after 1 mile). Drive from Hwy 69 a distance of 1.5 miles, then turn left (north) at the sign into the Preserve parking lot.


March 4th Dakins Lake. Coordinator: Jeff White

We will view lake and area before the planned expansion of the park and the new lake! From Ames, drive north on I-35 to the E-18 exit (Exit 123) and turn right (east) toward Roland and Zearing. Continue on E-18 for 14 miles and drive through Zearing. On the east side of Zearing, turn left (north) onto 710th Street. After less than half a mile, turn left at the sign into the lake.

March 12th McFarland Park. Coordinator: Cindy Barrowcliff
The headquarters of Story County Trails and Story County Hikes. We will hike back trails and along the river. Directions: In east Ames, drive north on Dayton Road north of 13th Street for 4 miles. The road ends at 180th Street; turn right (east) and go ¾ mile to the entrance to the Conservation Center where we will meet.

March 18th Ada Hayden Park (subject to change). Coordinator: Cindy Barrowcliff
Last winter hike and potluck picnic! Please RSVP with the coordinator so we can arrange for food and drink. We will meet at the main parking lot off of Highway 69 in north Ames and hike the Sleepy Hollow trail as well as around the Ada Hayden grounds.

Hikes Information
Contact information for coordinators
You may email the coordinators any time, but please call only on hike days.
Cindy Barrowcliff: cindy.barrowcliff@gmail.com 231-1435 (please call only on hike days)
Jeff White. jeff.white613@gmail.com 515-231-7444
David Prichard: mcfixer1@gmail.com 515-232-9910
David Brenner: Brenner_david@hotmail.com

General information
We recommend you open a Google map prior to each hike to determine the best way to reach the starting location. We will proceed on these hikes regardless of the weather . . . mostly, anyway. Blizzards, hard rains, or nuclear attack could deter us.
All participants will be required to sign waivers. None of these hikes are dangerous, but everyone must dress appropriately and be careful. There will be mud or snow!
If there are any changes or special conditions, we will email everyone for whom we have email addresses.
Hikes last for about two hours. Afterwards we share hot drinks, snacks, and the latest gossip. Bring your favorite cookie, trail mix, cocoa, etc.
If there is deep snow, some participants will bring snowshoes. If it’s icy, spikes or sturdy overshoes are useful. Dress for the weather, but be sure not to overdress; sweating in the cold is not good.
Trekking poles or walking sticks help those of us who are less sure footed.
Visit www.schikes.org or you email Jeff or Cindy with questions or requests.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Jan 18, 2012: Erv's Field Notes #21

Today I was driving by the park and decided to stop for a few pictures.  I saw my first ice fisherman of the season out on the north lake.  The frigid temps and dying winds last night had put a thin sheet of ice over yesterday's open water on the south lake.  Only a small ribbon of open water was left (shown in the photo left and described in Erv's field notes from today).  The winds and cold temps have also built some interesting ice sculptures along the shoreline (see all the pictures from today here).  Kevin
Small ribbon of open water on south lake, 1/18/12 (Kevin Kane)

Erv's Field Notes #21 (1/18/12)
Wednesday, January 18, 1-2 pm. Sunny, strong west wind, Temp., 28 degrees F.

Although last night was cold, near zero degrees F., there was still a long narrow channel of open water in the south lake. The waterfowl were crowded around the open water in the southwest part of the lake. Last Sunday and Monday, the open water covered a third to half the lake. On Sunday, I estimated 2000 Canada Geese, several dozen Cackling Geese, about 100 mallards, and 1 unmarked Trumpeter Swan. The swan was not present on Tuesday when I visited the park briefly about 3 pm. Today, the flock seemed reduced somewhat but I was not able to take a good count. I did see the blue neck-banded Canada Goose from Minnesota.

I talked to someone who lives east of the park who told me that the geese had been feeding in a field near her house at night. Geese will often feed at night especially if there is a bright moon.

Other birds sighted today, American Crow (6), Red-tai! led Hawk (1), Song Sparrow (1), Tree Sparrow (2).

Three groups of ice fisherman were out on the north lake.

If you haven't done so yet, check out this site: http://adahaydenpark.blogspot.com/

Erv Klaas

Jan 17, 2012: Pic of the Day

 Ice formations on rocks at lake edge, south lake, 1/16/12 (Kevin Kane)

Monday, January 16, 2012

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Jan 15, 2012: Iowa DNR Fishing Report for AHHP


Fishing Report (1/12/12)

Cold temps may finally allow ice anglers to get their gear out this weekend. Most ponds and some lakes may have enough ice to allow ice fishing. Anglers are urged to be very cautious and check ice thickness frequently. Larger, deeper lakes may still have ice too thin. The winter trout stockings in Lake Petoka and Ada Hayden will occur unannounced prior to February 1. For more information on central Iowa lakes and rivers contact Ben Dodd or Andy Otting at 515-432-2823.
The winter trout stocking will occur unannounced prior to February 1. The stocking will be unannounced to avoid a large crowd gathered in a small area on unsafe ice.

Fishing Forecast (1/12/12)

2010 was the first year significant sampling was completed on Ada Hayden, followed by some species specific surveys in 2011. Bluegills are abundant, but their size is a little less than what is preferred by anglers. Bluegill size ranged from 3 to 7 inches with most being 4 to 6.5 inches. A quality black crappie fishery exists. Their numbers are fair and sizes range from 6 to 12 inches with most being 9 to 11 inches. Yellow perch are present in low numbers, but were found up to 12.5 inches. Most perch were 8 to 9 inches. Approximately 1,400 10 to 12 inch walleye left over from an Iowa State University project were stocked into Ada Hayden in April 2010. These walleye were sampled in 2011 and have reached sizes from 15 to just over 17 inches. Low numbers of larger walleye over 25 inches do exist from private stockings in the past. Hybrid white bass fry, often called wipers, were initially stocked in 2009 and again in 2011. Wipers were collected in 2010 sampling and showed excellent growth. They ranged in size from 11 to 15 inches. They were sampled again in 2011 and their growth slowed significantly with sizes between 13.5 to just over 15 inches. Wipers of this age should be nearing 18 inches. It is suspected little to no gizzard shad production in 2010 and 2011 is a probable cause for slowed growth. Even though slower growing, the wipers are still present in good numbers and provide some fun fishing. Channel catfish were sampled in fair numbers and ranged in size from 12 to 27 inches. (2011)

(I have added the AHHP Iowa DNR Fishing Report to the Links on the right.)

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Jan 14, 2012: Now and Then

   Left: Bing Maps & K. Kane 2010, Right: Ames Historical Society, 1992

After posting yesterday's 1992 photo of Hallett's Quarry, I was thinking about how the park had changed in the same over time.  So I went to Bing Maps to see if I could find a Birdseye photo of the same area.  After a little manipulating I came up with the photo above.  The four red lines in the image show how the same four spots looked in both 1992 and 2010.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Jan 13, 2012: Happy 10th Anniversary Ada Hayden Park

 We missed an anniversary that took place earlier this week.  It was January 8th, 2002 that the City of Ames took over Hallett's Quarry and the transformation to Ada Hayden Heritage Park began.  A lot has happened over those 10 years and we have a lot to be grateful for - our city has become a better place because of it.

Hallett's Quarry ca. 1992 (Ames Historical Society)

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Jan 12, 2012: Erv's Field Notes #20 (1/10/12)

   "Restless by Nature" sculpture after being dismantled (12/24/11) - k. kane

January 10, 2011, 9:30-10:30 am, sunny, slight breeze from west, temperature 33 degrees F. Lakes frozen except for a small hole of open water in the south lake.

As I walked around the south lake this morning, small flocks of geese were coming in from the east and other flocks were leaving and flying southwest and north. The wind began to pick up and shifted to the north; clouds were on the horizon to the west and north. I saw a female Northern Harrier flying high heading north against the wind. After a few minutes, she turned and went south. Females in this species are brown and a bit larger than the gray males.

Remember the Canada Goose I mentioned in the last Field Note that had a blue neck band? Wolf Oesterreich was able to read the code. He reports that it was #536A. He reported it and learned that the goose is a female banded on 6 July 2007 at Rochert, Minnesota, by Douglas E. McArthur, who is with the White Earth Reservation. Wolf has seen McArthur's blue bands at the park before.

Wolf further reports that the number of waterfowl today (1/11/12) was greatly reduced, with the addition of a male American Black Duck.

All the branches & twigs from the "Restless By Nature" exhibit were hauled off today.

Erv Klaas

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Jan 11, 2012: Looking Ahead...

With the weather turning back to more closely resemble January in Iowa today, I thought a look forward to April and Earth Day might bring some warmer reflections to mind.

Here St. Cecilia Catholic School fourth graders Nora Benson, 9, right, and Riley Austin, 10, spray paint storm drain stencils as part of an Earth Day event held at Ada Hayden Heritage Park in Ames, Iowa, April 22, 2005. The 2005 Earth Day celebration focused on how important wetlands are to the water supply and how individuals can improve the environment.

Author: CBS News Staff
Credit: AP/Ames Tribune

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Jan 10, 2012: Big Bluestem Audubon Meetings

One of the great things I hope I can do with this blog is spread the word not only about events at Ada Hayden Park but also some great related events around Ames.  Here is the schedule for Big Bluestem Audubon meetings in the coming months.

Upcoming Big Bluestem Audubon Meetings
Meeting Place - Extension & 4-H Building, ISU Campus
Starting Time: 7:00 P.M.
The building is located at the southwest corner of 13th St. and Stange
Road. Enter on the first street south of 13th Street (Wanda Daley Drive)


12-spotted skimmer male at AHHP - E. Klaas

Dr. Harsha Jayawardena - Capturing the moment
May 17, 2012
Stephanie Sheperd - Frogs and Toads in Iowa
April 19, 2012
Sue Fairbanks - Iowa Jackrabbits
March 22, 2012 (Note change - this meeting is held the 4th week of March)
Nathan Brockman - Butterflies in Iowa
February 16, 2012
Andrew Williams - Milkweed and Fauna
January 19, 2012

Monday, January 9, 2012

Jan 9, 2012: 911 Deer Emergency

Erv's Field Notes #19
Monday, January 9, 2012.
Bright sunshine, temperature 48-50 degrees F. Slight wind from the west.

    Deer in west wetland, 1/2/12 - k.kkane

The lakes are still mostly frozen except for a large hole of open water on the south lake. Yesterday, there was little open water but temperatures are climbing. I estimated about 1000 geese (mostly Giant Canada with a few dozen Cackling Geese) and Mallards mixed in. The geese were congregated on the ice around the open water, most of them were sleeping or preening their feathers. I spotted a blue neckband with white letters on a Giant Canada fairly close to the walking path on the south shore. I edged closer to try and read the four digit code with my binoculars. Eventually I was able to read the first and last digits, 5__A.

Suddenly, the all geese on the south edge of the open water flew in response to a man and two women yelling at me from the path. They were pointing at something floundering in broken ice some distance off shore on the west arm of the lake. I trained my binoculars in that direction and saw that it was four deer. The man told me that he saw the deer running across the ice and they suddenly broke through one by one. One of the women called 911 and was connected with the Ames Animal Shelter. As I watched, the deer were lunging towards the south shore line, a distance of about 150 feet. Their lunging reminded me of a human swimmer doing a butterfly stroke. Their head and shoulders would rise up out of the water and they seemed to try to climb up on the ice. With each lunge, more ice would break in front of them. They stayed very close together, and two or three minutes later they all made it to shore. The lady with the phone called the Animal Shelter back and told them the emergency was over. I wondered how they would have rescued the deer?

I have been noticing that someone is throwing rocks on to the ice in several places around the lake. This is not a good practice because the rock was put there to control bank erosion from wave action. If it continues, the rocks will eventually disappear. If you see this happening, please ask the people doing it to stop.

Erv Klaas

Snowy Owl

Josh Obrecht took this picture of a snowy owl yesterday (1/8/12) using  his phone camera through binoculars.  Although it was not taken at Ada Hayden Park, it was close by at 190th and 570th, the intersection just to the east of the McFarland Park exit off of I-35. Josh reports that it had been there a few days and this morning was seen on a directional sign on I-35 closer to the 13th St exit.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Jan. 8, 2012 - Sunday in the Park

Another great January day in Iowa and especially at Ada Hayden. With temperatures in the high 30s there were many people out and about the park. Both lakes are ice covered and the cooler nights has the ice thickening again.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Jan. 7, 2012 - Pic of the Day

    Geese taking off about 5:15 pm from the south lake on 1/5/12 - k.kane

Friday, January 6, 2012

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Jan 5, 2012 - Spring?

With record highs set all over Iowa today, Ada Hayden Park entertained hundreds of people getting out to brush away the winter blues.  The parking lot was 80% full with most people walking or jogging.  I set out on my bike to to get some exercise and some photos from as many spots around the park as possible.    The ice was melting on both lakes and the remainig thickness would not even hold rocks that kids were throwing in by the banks.  All of the geese and ducks were on the south lake which had some open water.  There were two main groups of geese - one taking off and one coming in right around sundown.  After the sun set temps started to fall and I could feel pockets of both warm and cold air as I cycled through the park.

    Sunset was beautiful from the upper trail (looking east)- k.kane

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Jan. 3&4, 2012 - Wolf's Field Notes

Now that I'm back at work I'm unable to get out in the morning or early afternoon.  When I finally arrived at the Park (near 5pm) I noticed that all the pools, ponds and lakes were ice-covered, except for one open spot at the southwest corner of the south lake.  This is where the waterfowl were concentrated, not in the water but on the ice.  The only duck swimming around was a female Lesser Scaup.  By the time I started the second lap around the lakes the sun had set.  As I rounded the southeast corner a Barred Owl flew by and landed in a tree near the restroom facility.

[Mike Meetz found a Snowy Owl today, along E29 and between 570th and 580th Ave (east of I-35).]

The open water area had expanded, as did the number of waterfowl.  Over 1500 Canada Geese, 100-150 Cackling Geese, and 75-100 Mallards were present.  Two of the Canada Geese had metal ankle bands.  It wasn't till the second lap when I spotted the white juvenile Snow Goose.  None of the specialty ducks seen earlier this week were found.  A Northern Shrike was found west of the bridge, between the south lake and the trail.  During the third lap I could hear its trill call, but I was unable to locate the bird.


    Eastern Garter Snake seen on Jan. 1st - Wolf O.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Erv's Field Notes #18 (1/2/2012)

What a difference a day makes!  On my way in to work this morning both lakes had turned from rough, open water to glazed over with a sheet of ice.  Only the south-central shore of the south lake was open enough for all the bird life to congregate.

Wolf and Erv talk birds - Kevin K.
Here are Erv's note from yesterday:

Monday, January 2, 2012, 1:30-3:30. Sunny, temperature in the 20's, brisk wind blowing from the northwest. The wind has helped prevent the water from freezing in the lakes and the only ice today is that which is frozen on the rocky shoreline. When the wind dies tonight, the lakes will most surely freeze over.

I walked around the lakes today with Kevin Kane. We took our cameras and took a lot of pictures. Kevin has created a blog with lots of information. Anyone can read or post messages of observations at the Park. The link is: http://adahaydenpark.blogspot.com/. This will be a great supplement to the web site. Kevin and I met Wolf Oesterreich who later posted the report  (below).


Monday, January 2, 2012

Jan. 2, 2012 - Fantastic Day at Ada Hayden!

I met Erv at the park today for a walk around the two lakes.  It was really cold (22 degrees) and really windy (~20 mph) but there was not a cloud in the sky - brisk!  We met Wolf north of the bridge on his bike and did some bird watching/strategizing. There was no ice left on either of the lakes as a result of all the wind over the last couple days and very few birds.  As you can see by the pictures and Wolf's report below, we did see some deer, swans, geese, ducks, and a couple of bald eagles.  The moon could just be seen in the southeastern sky and I waited for one of the eagles to pass by to get the shot here in the blog.  Erv and I walked and talked for almost 2 hours - very well worth the cold and wind.  Some of the ice formations on the south and east side of the lake were very picturesque.  A day well spent!
Bald Eagle over south lake - k.kane

Wolf's Field Notes (1/2/2012)

Erv and I met Wolf today at the park and Wolf will be adding his field notes to the blog as well.  Since he lives so close to the park and is an avid bird observer, Wolf's reports will give a detailed look at bird life in and around the park.

Monday, January 02, 2012 4:37 PM
From my house I spotted four Trumpeter Swans (2 adults and 2 immatures) on the south lake this morning.  They have been present all day.  While on my daily ride at the Park, I was able to obtain the ID (#7K4) off of the neck collar on the only adult to have one.  This bird is a female from the Lincoln Park Zoo in Chicago.  She was hatched in 2005 and was released 1 mile south of Granger, IA, on 10 May 2006.  I have seen her before at Ada Hayden (2007) and at the ISU Kelley Farm (2007, 2009, & 2010) in Boone County.  With #8K4 (male) she raised 6 cygnets in 2009 and 2 in 2010, although I'm not sure the latter survived as the pond's plug failed and all the water drained out.

Of the three Snow Geese that had been present at the Park for much of December, only the white juvenile was present today.  In addition to the Cackling & Canada Geese, the raft of Mallards, and the female Bufflehead, I found a pair of Gadwalls and a female American Wigeon.  Two adult Bald Eagles were perched side-by-side in a tree below the bluff (north side of the south lake).  Two immatures would be seen later.  A bright blue male Eastern Bluebird was found along the Upland Trail, just west of Jensen Pond.

The wind wasn't quite as strong as yesterday, but it was definitely colder (causing my nose to run constantly).

I ended the year (2011) with 205 avian species at the Park.  Three species (Ruff, Glaucous Gull, & Bohemian Waxwing) were added to my Park List, bringing the total to 257 species.  The official list for Iowa has 425 species, so that means I have recorded 60% at the Park.


Erv's Field Notes #17 (12/30/2011)

Friday, December 30, 2011. No wind, temperature 48 degrees F.

What a beautiful afternoon for a walk. Most of the ice on the lakes had melted again and the water was smooth as glass. Most of the geese were in the west arm of the south lake, sleeping on the little ice left in that end of the lake. It looked like a good opportunity to get a count. Looking down on the birds from the elevated path made it easier. Looking through binoculars, I first counted 10 birds one by one. I did this for the first 100 birds. That gave me a good idea of what 100 birds looked like as a segment of the flock. Then I estimated the number of groups of 100 for a total of about 1100 geese. People often ask me how do biologists count birds in a large flocks. That's how its done, although conditions vary and estimates can be good or bad depending on the view, whether the birds are clumped close together or spread apart. The same procedure is used to count birds in flight. It is easier to count them when they are flying in long skeins. Ducks are more difficult because they don't fly in formations like geese do.

A little later in my walk, I counted 160 geese on the partially frozen north lake, including the three Snow Geese that I have been reporting in previous notes. I saw a female Bufflehead swimming near the ice in the south lake and a hundred or so Mallards were in the middle of the lake with some mixed in with the geese on the ice. I did not try to count Cackling Geese separately today but I would estimate they comprised about 10 percent of the flock. Last Tuesday, when most of the geese were swimming in open water, there was a lot of bathing activity. Bathing involves a lot of splashing, wing flapping, and even somersaulting in the water. Geese get dirty when they are feeding in the crop fields and so cleaning their feathers is important for insulation and for flight.

While I was writing this, Wolf Oesterreich sent me this note:

Sunday, New Year's Day, January 1, 2012. Sunny, strong NW wind.
Like a stubborn, crazy fool, I went out and rode (his bike) in this wind! Most of the geese (Cackling & Canada) were gone by the time I went to the Park. A raft of about 100 Mallards was all that remained. During the second lap, the female Bufflehead flew over the bridge and landed in the south lake's west bay. While on the Upland Trail, I did see the juvenile white Snow Goose with Canada Geese on Pond E. It was too far to see clearly and too windy to set up the scope to determine the presence of the other two Snow Geese. The most astounding sight was that of an Eastern Garter Snake, "sunning" on the trail (southwest corner of the south lake, where Pond N [south wetland complex] dumps into the south lake). I have never seen a snake in Winter in Iowa.

Best wishes for the New Year,

And Erv

Other "Erv's Field Notes" can be found here.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

... and Hello 2012!

Kelly Poole observed that the lake had a much different personality this morning after the change in weather from our mild days to the very windy turn last night.  White caps in the south lake churned from the northern winds over beautiful blue-green water. Later in the day Erv received a note from Wolf Oesterreich (which is part of Erv's field notes # 17 that I'll post tomorrow.)

Sunday, New Year's Day, January 1, 2012. Sunny, strong NW wind. Like a stubborn, crazy fool, I went out and rode (his bike) in this wind! Most of the geese (Cackling & Canada) were gone by the time I went to the Park. A raft of about 100 Mallards was all that remained. During the second lap, the female Bufflehead flew over the bridge and landed in the south lake's west bay. While on the Upland Trail, I did see the juvenile white Snow Goose with Canada Geese on Pond E. It was too far to see clearly and too windy to set up the scope to determine the presence of the other two Snow Geese. The most astounding sight was that of an Eastern Garter Snake, "sunning" on the trail (southwest corner of the south lake, where Pond N [south wetland complex] dumps into the south lake). I have never seen a snake in Winter in Iowa.
Best wishes for the New Year,