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Field Notes No. 11 (Dec 6, 2011)

December 6, 2011
Afternoon, between 2 and 3 pm, temperature 18 degrees F., light north wind, sunny.

As soon as I got out of the car, I could hear the goose music; lots of geese on the south lake. Canada Geese were spread out over the entire lake and I estimated the flock to be about 4000 with about 100 Cackling Geese mixed in. Lots of ducks too. The north lake had no waterfowl on it.

Met up with Wolf Oesterreich as I was leaving and we compared notes. Here is an attempt at a compiled list; I may have missed some from Wolf's list.

Waterfowl:
Canada Goose, 4-5000.
Cackling Goose, 100-200.
Snow Goose, 2 blue-phase, 1 adult and 1 juvenile.
Trumpeter Swan, 6 adults (1 with a red neckband) and 1 juvenile.
Ring-neck Duck, 1 female.
Ruddy Duck, 3
Northern Shoveller, 1 female.
Gadwall, 1 female.
Red-headed Duck, 5 males, 1 female.
Mallard, 2-300.
Long-tailed Duck, 1 male.
Lesser Scaup, 1

The Long-tailed Duck (formerly known as Old-Squaw Duck) breeds on the tundra. It is an uncommon visitor to Iowa. Wolf saw the swans fly over the lake about 10:30 this morning, they did not stop. The geese all went out to feed in the morning and returned in the afternoon. A few were still coming in when I left at 4:00 pm.

Non-waterfowl:
American Coot, 11 at the lake outlet (with a dozen mallards).
Northern Shrike, Wolf saw the shrike on the upland trail.
Belted Kingfisher, flew across the lake just south of the bridge.
Red-tailed Hawk, 1 adult.
Rough-legged Hawk, 1 adult.
Ring-necked Pheasant, 1 adult male.
Song Sparrow, 1.
Tree Sparrow, 1.

Birders have been seeing Snowy Owls in several places in Iowa including one in Ames (near DMAAC building at I-35 and Hwy 30) and in Boone County (along Hwy 17). The Snowy Owl is a tundra breeder and every few years we experience an incursion of this species into Iowa during the winter.! This is one of those years. These incursions are believed to be related to population cycles of lemmings, their main food. Watch for them at Hayden Park; it would be a new record for the park.

I made a few mistakes on the last field note. The date should have been December 4, not 12. I referred to the main outlet of the lake as the southwest corner, it should be the southeast corner. I said the Cormorant had been present for the whole month (December that is). Thanks to those who let me know. Sorry.

Erv Klaas
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