Date: 6/29/20 9:36 am From: Eric Ollie <uphawkeye...> Subject: [ia-bird] Jackson County - Green Island WMA
Green Island Wildlife Management Area, in Jackson County, between Bellevue and Sabula, right on the Mississippi River, is in my estimation one of the elite birding locations in the state of Iowa, right alongside more well-known places, such as Yellow River State Forest and Shimek State Forest/Lacey-Keosauqua State Park. I'm sure many of you reading this have been there, but it seems to me that it is still a relatively unheralded and unknown birding location for most Iowa birders and deserves much more recognition.
In the month of June (on the 7th and the 28th) I have found: 40+ Wood Ducks 5-10 Hooded Mergansers 5+ Yellow-billed Cuckoos Common Gallinules in 2-3 locations 3 Sandhill Cranes 75+ Double-crested Cormorants 300-350 American White Pelicans Least Bittern 75-100 Great Egrets 2-3 Green Herons 3 Bald Eagles (active nest) 10-12 Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers (clearly the most common woodpecker) 4-5 Pileated Woodpecker 4-5 Willow Flycatchers 25-30 Marsh Wrens 2-3 Yellow-headed Blackbirds Orchard Oriole 5 Baltimore Orioles 20 Prothonotary Warblers!!! 55 species total
Swarms of odonates - literally! Tons of butterflies! Wildflowers, wildflowers, wildflowers!
Green Island WMA is a 4,064 acre wetland (50%) upland (25%), and timber (25%) complex, tucked within the beautiful forested bluffs of the Mississippi River, surrounded and sectioned by a system of levees that separate the area from the Mississippi River on its northeast and the Maquoketa River on its northwest that the DNR uses to manage the habitat.
These levees provide miles and miles of roads and hiking trails that give close access to the habitat to birders of all levels of experience, interest and mobility. Green Island is a perfect place to car bird, and most of the Green Island experience can be had from the seat of your car, but it is also an absolutely incredible nature experience to hike the levees that lead out to and along the rivers that motor vehicles are prohibited on.
You could easily take up to a five, ten, or even as much as a fifteen mile hike without treading on the same stretch of levee twice. Once you are out on the levees and away from the roads, you can experience some true social distancing, often with another soul not being within miles. You can truly leave civilization behind and experience peaceful solitude surrounded only by the sights and sounds of nature. Truly spectacular!
The levees are perfectly flat, so they are not strenuous to walk in that sense, but this is a wildlife management area, not a park or recreation area, so the levees are significantly vegetated, maybe being mowed 1-2, maybe 3 times throughout the growing season. There are also variably hidden chuck holes here and there to keep an eye out for, some occasional Wild Parsnip and Poison Ivy here and there and you should probably not be too squeamish about ticks. This is not flip-flop territory. Hiking boots will be advantageous, along with a good sun hat and some water. The nearest public restroom is on Bellevue or Sabula. Despite the challenges, it is still definitely well worth the time time effort - magical!
During migration Green Island is filled to the brim with an abundance of waterfowl, shorebirds, warblers and much more. In the winter it is a great place to find eagles, hawks and other raptors.
While you are there, I would highly recommend visiting Mississippi Palisades State Park, which is only a 20 minute drive away, across the river in Illinois, just north of Savanna. The scenery is absolutely stunning, the habitat is incredible and the birding is fantastic - nesting Cerulean Warblers, Kentucky Warblers, Blue-winged Warblers, Yellow-throated Warblers, Ovenbirds, Acadian Flycatchers, Veery, Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers, Pileated Woodpeckers, Summer and Scarlet Tanagers and more - definitely worth the trip all by itself!