This year’s outing was held, Saturday, 4/17/2021. We had 17 attendees from across the state. The weather was nice and sunny, a bit cool and crisp. Temperatures were in the low to mid 40s. For the 17 attendees a great time was had by all.
Leading our car caravan to our first stop, County Line Rd, we expected to see the few remaining Greater Prairie Chickens on the only LEK in Marathon County. This has been a tough year for our Greater Prairie Chickens as we’ve only seen 3 males all spring. And today we saw only this one that our local expert (Dan Belter) found a ¼ mile away in the plowed field.
(Photo Credit Myles Hurlburt)
From there, we traveled to Smokey Hill Rd and stopped at the viewing platform on South Rice Lake. With things seeming so still and quiet, with only the naked eye one would suspect there to be no life at all, except for the obvious proof in us hearing the sounds of nature galore. It was only when looking through our binoculars and spotting scopes, that we could see some activity on the backside of the lake. We typically see Yellow-headed Blackbirds but none were here due to the cold weather, we saw 6 Trumpeter Swans, and 40 total species of waterfowl including Wood Ducks, Blue-winged Teal, Norther Shovelers, Gadwall, Northern Pintails, Ring-necked Ducks, Lesser Scaup, Common Goldeneye, Hooded and Common Mergansers, Pied-billed Grebes, and American Coot.
(Photo credit Myles Hurlburt)
Next, we headed north on Smokey Hill Rd hoping to find Yellow-headed Blackbirds that were seen earlier in the week, but again with the cold, none were found. We also had these beautiful Yellow-rumped Warblers and a few Barn Swallows.
(Photo credit Adam Knueppel)
Next, we headed over to Rangeline Rd. Here again we saw a few Tundra Swans and a few species of waterfowl such as Lesser Scaup, Blue-winged Teal, Mallards, Ring-neck ducks(100’s), Bufflehead and American Coot.
From there we headed over to the George W. Mead Visitor Center where we walked around the lower trails to the pond and through the woods. We tallied 21 species on this walk. While a little light on birds it was good to experience the beauty of nature. As a sweet unexpected surprise, we saw two Mourning Cloak butterflies.
(Photo credits – Myles Hurlburt & Adam Knueppel)
We concluded the morning with a tally of 75 species. While the weather was on the cool side, it ended up being a great trip for everyone. We had an awesome group of people. We’d love to attract and encourage more, of all ages, to get out and explore their world. There is so much amazing life and beauty out there, if we only take the time to look for, see and enjoy it. We all should know just how beneficial spending some time in nature truly is. The peace and tranquility are good for the soul. It changes your perspective on things. It makes you feel more positive and alive and more at peace with yourself and others. I challenge you to get out there today and see and feel for yourself!