Karen, Harney, and I just returned from a wonderful birding weekend in SE Iowa. On our way down we stopped at Eddyville Sand Dunes Prairie, which we had never visited. Some great habitat there we had never seen in Iowa, and nice birding as well, including BELL'S VIREO, ORCHARD ORIOLE, RED-HEADED WOODPECKER and CLAY-COLORED SPARROW. Finding the campground at Lacey-Keosauqua State Park closed (during the best camping month of the year ?!?) we pivoted towards Shimek SF (Lee Co) and camped at White Oak in Donnellson unit for two nights. Each night we heard 3 - 5 EASTERN WHIP-POOR-WILLS, and multiple BARRED OWLS as well as noisy coyotes calling in chorus. Our constant companions in the campsite were a BLUE-WINGED WARBLER (commonly seen wherever we went down there, it seemed), a BLUE-GRAY GNATCATCHER pair making their gnatcher noises, and OVENBIRDS, with SUMMER TANAGER dropping through occasionally. Along Donnellson Road in the forest we had both GRAY-CHEEKED THRUSH and BLACK-THROATED GREEN WARBLER.
On Saturday we birded Ely Ford area of Lacey-Keosauqua State Park, which was abundant with NORTHERN PARULA and WARBLING VIREO. We had multiple YELLOW-THROATED WARBLERS near the road, and walked in along the creek , finding a couple GOLDEN-WINGED WARBLERS, a few CHESTNUT-SIDED WARBLERS, a loudly singing very conspicuous KENTUCKY WARBLER, and our FOY EASTERN WOOD-PEWEE. A late morning hike around Lake Lacey was less birdy, but still yielded two more Kentucky Warblers and more Chestnut-sideds. ACADIAN FLYCATCHER was heard, WOOD THRUSH was heard often and seen briefly, and a stunning PILEATED WOODPECKER made an appearance. An afternoon stop by Lake Sugema found PURPLE MARTINS, PALM WARBLERS, and NORTHERN BOBWHITE.
This morning's walk around the Croton Unit of Shimek State Forest yielded about five each of YELLOW-BREASTED CHAT and WHITE-EYED VIREO, both of which were conspicuous and giving great views. We were lacking two vireo species for our Iowa vireo slam for this trip, when a WHITE-EYED sounded off, then appeared, then flew into a tree very close to us. Karen said "There's two!" but when we inspected the second one, it turned out to be a PHILADELPHIA VIREO. That was a nice moment of serendipity, as the slam was completed. A SCARLET TANAGER made a nice appearance as well, and eight BLUE-WINGED WARBLERS eventually stopped gaining our attention. INDIGO BUNTINGS buzzed like an invading army. No Worm-eating Warbler was detected this morning, and the wrecked cars to the east were silent of wrens, though just to the east of the junk a GREEN HERON flew up off of a farm pond for an unexpected viewing. Back at Croton, walking the road along the creek gained us a LOUISIANA WATERTHRUSH at the creek crossing, a BARRED OWL flushing from under the bridge, another YELLOW-THROATED WARBLER, a curious OVENBIRD who was strutting along the gravel road for over two minutes, maybe picking up grit (?), and a FOY MAGNOLIA WARBLER, a nice capper for the trip. As a bonus, when we arrived home Karen discovered that our local EASTERN PHOEBES (which had been acting suspiciously) had built a nest above our seldom used porch door behind our garage and the female was sitting on it. We'll be watching their progress with interest.
Enjoyed meeting Chuck Fuller and Candace Havely along the birding trail, as well as some nice new-to-us birders from Fairfield and elsewhere. Hope to see many of you at IOU.