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

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!

Eric Ollie

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