Despite the chilly temps it was a great morning of birding. I had 69 species with 21 species of waterfowl (swans, geese, ducks) between Wiese Slough (Muscatine Co.), Cone Marsh (Louisa Co.), Terry Trueblood, Lake Ridge Pond, and Goose Lake (last three in Johnson Co.). My best guess is that when things get warmer, like maybe this weekend, there will be a peak in waterfowl diversity in our area IF there are any geese around. Strangely, I couldn't detect any Greater White-fronted, Snow, or Ross's at all today, although I "power birded" for the most part. I suspect I may have missed some straggling geese at Cone. On my way out of Cone I got excited when I saw a field full of white geese, alas, they were decoys.
The vast majority of Cone Marsh was frozen, however, the open areas were overflowing with waterfowl! I was bedazzled at the west side overlook/parking lot when, to my surprise, a Hermit Thrush (FOY) flew out near my car. It appeared some robins had done a good job clearing away snow and this had caused a feedback loop, where White-throated Sparrows, cardinals, and juncos were also helping uncover the ground. Why was I really bedazzled? I eventually noticed two American Woodcocks probing with them! I was able to get my best Hermit Thrush and woodcock photos to date, which I'll try to post at some later time.
All this excitement and I even got in five solid hours of work on campus!
Other highlights around and near Cone:
--Chuck Fuller's Smith's Longspur(s) were clearly heard with a small group of Laplands (I only managed one crumby photo of the bird flying), both FOYs...both species stages in decent numbers in this same place last year (about a mile north of G-28 aka 230th St on Atwood Ave, it's north of the hog confinement, both sides of the road)
--Western Meadowlark singing at traditional T Ave/220th St intersection, FOY (no sign of Loggerhead Shrikes yet)
--both the single Greater Yellowlegs (FOY) and two Lesser Yellowlegs were holding on in a tiny patch of unfrozen water...the Lessers looked just fine and the Greater looked perturbed (I suspect all of the water along 220th will completely freeze tonight, but who knows)
--at least three Tundra Swans were seen off the west overlook/parking lot, one sporting yellow loral...one interesting thing I've noticed is that many of the Trumpeter Swans I've seen lately have the yellowish cast to the head while the Tundras are white
I stopped at Cedar Lake on my way home to see if I could pick up another FOY in Double-crested Cormorant, but no dice. There were an absolute SILLY number of Ring-billed Gulls.