IOU Special Events

opportunities to join others for birding adventures

Past Special Events and Trips

  • 11/09/2019 to Mississippi River Pools 8&9 - Leader(s): Charles Wittman
    Join the IOU events committee on a birding adventure to the Upper Mississippi Wildlife Refuge, Pools 8 and 9, between Lansing, Iowa, and Brownsville, Minn., for the annual fall migration of tundra swans and other waterfowl. During the fall, 20-45% of the eastern population of tundra swans use the Upper Mississippi refuge as a stopover point. Swans begin arriving in late October, and the largest numbers of birds gather in mid-November and will remain until freeze-up, then head to wintering areas on the Atlantic Coast. Historic aerial surveys estimated 10,000 or more There are also Canada geese, mallard, gadwall, canvasback, goldeneye, scaup, coot and other waterbirds. Large numbers of bald eagle dot the islands and trees. We will meet in at the at 9:00 a.m. at the Allamakee Co. Conservation’s Driftless Center south of Lansing. Possible side trip to Harper’s Ferry (grade B road so weather permitting). Will stop at Pool Slough, New Albin, where sandhill crane likely are still present. There are other viewing spots on Highway 26 along the west side of the Mississippi but it is a two-lane and parking may be limited so we encourage vehicle pooling. Swan typically are active all day. Bald eagle are present along both pools of the river. There will be a NWFR naturalist at Brownsville overlook from 10 a.m. - 4 p.m. (Sunset is 4:46 p.m.) Motels in the area include Stony Creek Inn, Waukon, Scenic Valley Motel In Lansing, and Inn and Suite, New Albin.

  • 09/28/2019 to Grammer Grove Wildlife Area - Leader(s): Mark Proescholdt
    The IOU will be spending the day at the Grammer Grove Hawk Watch at Grammer Grove Wildlife Area in Marshall County, just southeast of Liscomb, IA. Grammer Grove is positioned along the Iowa River, a corridor used by a river of raptors migrating south for the winter. Participants welcome to arrive anytime between 8:00 AM and mid to late afternoon. At 8:00 AM we will bird the excellent trails through the riparian forest in the Iowa River floodplain, where many passerine species can be found. Around 10:00 AM or so, the raptors usually start flying, so we will head up the hill to the hawk watch and turn our eyes to the sky for the remainder of the day. Broad-winged Hawks, Sharp-shinned Hawks, Merlins, and Peregrine falcons will be our expected targets, but who knows what will show up. Turkey Vultures and Red-tailed Hawks will be plentiful. Be sure to bring a lawn chair, a hat, sunscreen, something to drink and maybe even a snack. You are welcome to stay for as long or as short as you please. Admission is free and all are welcome.

  • 12/01/2018 to Mississippi River - Pool 13 - Leader(s): Eric Ollie, Denny Thompson
    Join the IOU Events Committee on a Mississippi River birding adventure as we make a loop around Pool 13 (the "lake" above Lock & Dam 13), which is positioned between the towns of Fulton, IL Thomson, IL, Savanna, IL, Sabula, IA and Clinton, IA. The waterfowl migration should be in full swing, and Pool 13 is a great place to find them in abundance! All of the regular Iowa waterfowl could potentially be present, including over-wintering Tundra Swans. Will we find scoters, Long-tailed Ducks, loons, or grebes? Never know! Bald Eagles could be abundant around Lock and Dam 13, as well as gulls, possibly even pelicans and cormorants. Our focus will primarily be on the water, but there is also forest (riparian and on the bluffs), wetland, grassland, and sand prairie habitats to find passerines and raptors in. There is a good chance of getting at least six woodpecker species, including Red-headed and Pileated. Meet the group by 8:00 AM in the southwest corner of the Hy-Vee parking lot in Clinton, IA (901 S 4th St). This is a free event, but you MUST register in advance on the IOU website, so we know how many people to expect. We all would prefer to keep our independence and autonomy, but carpooling is going to be imperative for this event. We can't have an unwieldy string of 10-15-20 cars, for many reasons, safety being chief among them. Carpooling will be very highly encouraged, maybe even just short of mandatory, so please come prepared to share a ride. Depending on our luck with the birds, the trip around Pool 13 should take until at least noon, but should probably last a bit longer. It will be done by 2:00 PM at the latest.

  • 06/23/2018 to Spencer - Leader(s): Lee Schoenewe
    Lee Schoenewe has graciously agreed to lead an IOU field trip to several NW Iowa hotspots on Saturday, June 23rd. We'll leave at 7:30 from Oenota Park on the SE side of Spencer. Lee is planning to visit Dewey's Pasture, Dan Green Slough and Trumbull Lake. The wetland restoration efforts by the DNR and other groups have created some great habitat for summering birds. Eared, Red-necked and Western Grebes are again nesting in the area. Forster's and Black Terns appear to be doing the same. There is always a good supply of nesting or summering waterfowl and who knows what herons and bitterns will be present. It's just a great place for birders at this time of year.

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  • 04/29/2018 to Shimek State Forest - Leader(s): Dan Rose, Francis Moore, Eric Ollie
    The IOU is teaming with Iowa City Bird Club for a day of birding one of the top birding locations in Iowa, Shimek State Forest in Lee and Van Buren Counties in southeast Iowa. Shimek SF is one of the largest remaining contiguous forests in Iowa and is positioned in extreme southeast Iowa to be one of the first places in Iowa to greet returning migrating birds to the state. Get a jump on your spring migration warbler watching, potentially including Pine, Kentucky, Worm-eating, and Cerulean Warblers, along with White-eyed Vireos, Bewick's Wren and many other great birds. Meet the group at the Casey's in Donnellson, IA (201 Madison Ave) by 8:00 AM. Please be prepared for wet and muddy conditions.

  • 03/17/2018 to Saylorville Reservoir - Leader(s): Denny Thompson, Ray Cummins
    Please join your fellow IOU members on a field trip around Saylorville and Big Creek lakes. This should be prime time for migrating waterfowl and gulls, so those will be our focus. We'll meet at the Saylorville Visitor Center at 7:30 and plan to finish at noon. There's no charge, but you have to be an IOU or IYB member to attend. Pre-registration is required so we can make sure there are an adequate number of field trip leaders.

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  • 06/17/2017 to Yellow River State Forest - Leader(s): Paul Skrade
    This field trip, led by Dr. Paul Skrade, a professor at Upper Iowa University, will be to Yellow River State Forest in Northeast Iowa (Allamakee County), which was officially designated as a Globally Important Bird Area, primarily for its prime nesting habitat for the threatened Cerulean Warbler. This is also a great place to find Blue-winged Warblers, Acadian Flycatchers, Veery and much, much more! We will meet at the Yellow River SF Headquarters parking lot by 7;00 AM. The field trip will commence rain or shine. The field trip is scheduled to last until 12:00 PM, with possible optional extensions in the afternoon. Pre-registration is REQUIRED and the fee is non-refundable.

  • 01/21/2017 to NW Iowa (Ida and O'Brien) - Leader(s): Eric Ollie, Don Poggensee, Paul Roisen
    NW Iowa Field Trip: The next IOU field trip will be held in January, with the focus on wintering species in NW Iowa. First, Northern Saw-whet Owls, with an outside chance of Long-eared Owls, at Moorhead Pioneer Park in Ida County. Don Poggensee has guided many hundreds of birders to see these marvelous owls. Next is O’Brien County to check the Waterman area and Sheldon Cemetery. Last 2 years: Red-breasted Nuthatch, Brown Creeper, Red and White-winged Crossbill, Bohemian Waxwing, Pine Grosbeak, Pine Siskin and more. . Extension: Depending on time, weather and interest we will go to Owego Wetlands Complex for Short-eared Owls. Date: Saturday, January 21, 2016 Start Time: 10:00AM Meeting Place: Ida County Conservation Center in Moorhead Pioneer Park, west of Ida Grove, IA. Guides: Don Poggensee, Eric Ollie, Paul Roisen …. Cost: $5.00 for IOU members, $10.00 for non-members. Register for this trip by 1/17/17 at: Fees are due by 1/20/17 to be eligible to participate and are non-refundable. Make checks out to "The IOU" Mail trip fees (and trip fees only) to: Eric Ollie 1512 Ridgewood Ave Ames, IA 50010 IOU Membership can pay for itself quickly if you do a couple of Special events trips JOIN here: O’Brien County—ASAP after Moorhead Pioneer Park *Carpooling: Highly encouraged due to the distance and to be more “green". Please contact Paul Roisen at or 712-301-2817 if you would like more information or help with car-pooling. We would certainly entertain car-pooling from other areas as well. Hotels are available in Ida Grove and surrounds.

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  • 10/08/2016 to Sedan Bottoms WMA - Leader(s): Tom Johnson, Ray Cummins
    Fall migration sparrows of Appanoose County - On Saturday, October 8th, IOU birders Tom Johnson and Ray Cummins, who are very experienced and know the area well, will guide a field trip through Sedan Bottoms Wildlife Management Area (just southeast of Centerville, near the Missouri border) in search of migrating sparrows. Nelson's and LeConte's Sparrows will be our top goals on this trip, but there will be many other species of sparrows and other birds to see. Meet the group at the Centerville, IA Hy-Vee parking lot at 609 N 18th St.(Highway 5) by 7:45AM. Register on the IOU website and have your non-refundable registration fee in the mail by the end of the day on Sunday, October 2nd. Interested parties MUST be pre-registered and have their fee pre-paid to participate in this field trip. SPECIAL NOTE: Waterproof boots are HIGHLY recommended for this event. It will also be hunting season, so having something blaze orange to wear is also advised. The official field trip will last until around noon or so, but there may be additional birding opportunities in the afternoon for those who are interested. Mail your non-refundable registration fee ($5.00 for IOU members, $10 for non-members - checks preferred) to: Eric Ollie 1512 Ridgewood Ave., Ames, IA 50010.

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  • 06/18/2016 to Yellow River State Forest - Leader(s): Mark Proescholdt, Paul Roisen, Eric Ollie
    Field trip to Yellow River State Forest in Northeast Iowa (Allamakee County), which was officially designated as a Globally Important Bird Area, primarily for its prime nesting habitat for the threatened Cerulean Warbler. This is also a great place to find Blue-winged Warblers, Acadian Flycatchers, Veery and much, much more! We will meet at the Little Paint Creek campground in Yellow River SF by 6:45AM. The field trip will leave the meeting site at 7:00AM sharp, rain or shine. The field trip is scheduled to last until 12:00PM, with an option for an extension in the afternoon to bird Effigy Mounds National Monument for those who are willing. Pre-registration is REQUIRED and the fee is non-refundable.

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  • 04/30/2016 to Shimek State Forest, Lee Co. - Leader(s): Paul Roisen/Eric Ollie
    We will spend the morning searching for early migrants and particularly some of the southeast Iowa specialties like Bewick's Wren, Yellow-breasted Chat, White-eyed Vireo, and Worm-eating Warbler. Two sessions are scheduled - one at 6:00 am and the other at 9:00 am. Please register so we will know how many leaders are needed for each time slot. The trips will commence from Casey's in Donnellson and for those interested in an afternoon extension we may proceed on to some excellent birding locations in Van Buren County.

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  • 10/17/2015 to Grammer Grove Hawk Watch, Marshall Co. - Leader(s): Mark Proescholdt/Eric Ollie
    October is a prime raptor watching time and Grammer Grove, strategically positioned along the Iowa River, is a prime raptor watching area. Join experienced IOU birders and the Grammer Grove hawk watchers as we watch the southerly raptor migration and teach about raptors and raptor identification. The trails of Grammer Grove are also a great place to view other resident and migration passerines! 7:45-8:45AM Sunrise passerine birding 8:45-9:30AM Raptor identification program 9:30-2:00PM Raptor watching Be sure to dress warmly in layers, bring your binoculars and a portable chair to sit on

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  • 10/03/2009 - 10/13/2009 to Central California - Leader(s): Ann Johnson/Jim Bangma
    This trip will concentrate on specialties of the Central California area. Early October is prime time for a wide variety of seabirds and we will maximize our opportunities for these with two charter trips into the Pacific. Our group will be the only people on board so the chances of everyone seeing seabirds and marine mammals is very good. Most of our days will be spent in the Monterey area with ample opportunity for photographers. 10 participants are a minimum at this price.

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  • 06/06/2008 - 06/14/2008 to North Dakota - Leader(s): Linda Donelson
    This trip searches for prairie breeding species such as Baird's Sparrow and Chestnut-collared Longspur. We will bird our way north to the Prairies & Potholes Festival before moving further west. Our return trip will be through the Black Hills where we hope to find the unusual White-winged Junco.

  • 03/04/2008 - 03/12/2008 to Southern California - Leader(s): Jim Fuller/Bill Scheible
    San Diego and Imperial Counties will be visited, with habitats ranging from the Pacific Ocean to the Salton Sea, and mountains and deserts in between. Target birds will range from Brandt's Cormrorant and Surfbird to Le Conte's Thrasher and Yellow-footed Gull, Calif. Gnatcatcher and Nuttall's Woodpecker to Wrentit and Tricolored Blackbird. The weather should be fantastic for Iowans tiring of winter.

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  • 06/16/2007 to Blackmun Prairie - Leader(s): Marlene Ehresman
    Join Marlene Ehresman to help inventory one of the newest public properties, originally protected by the Iowa Natural Heritage Foundation. Besides birds, participants can expect to see unique prairie plants and who knows what other discoveries might be in store.

  • 04/27/2007 - 05/06/2007 to Rio Grande Valley - Leader(s): Ann Johnson/Jim Bangma
    After looking for South Texas coastal specialties like Roseate Spoonbill and Wilson's Plover, we head south to the magical land of Altamira Oriole, Plain Chachalaca, and Great Kiskadee. Parrot roosts are sure to entertain and you never know what rarities may be lurking around the corner. As we move up river, we will look for more Mexican species such as Brown Jay, Audubon's Oriole, and White-collared Seedeater as well as enjoy the numerous Scissor-tailed and Vermilion Flycatchers.

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  • 08/04/2006 - 08/13/2006 to Southeast Arizona - Leader(s): Ann Johnson/Jim Bangma
    We will explore the Sky Islands of Southeast Arizona during the post-breeding and monsoon season. Targets will be Mexican specialties which just reach the US in this part of the world. August is a great time for unusual hummingbirds as well as breeding grassland sparrows. Weather can be very hot to pleasantly cool in the mountains. This trip will commence in Phoenix on Friday and end on Sunday morning for flights home. Lodging is included in the trip price.

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  • 05/28/2006 to Southwest Iowa/Fremont County - Leader(s): Ross Silcock
    The strategy for the trip is to focus on sw Iowa specialties (Chuck-will's-widow, Summer Tanager, Blue Grosbeak, Western Kingbird, etc.) and take requests from participants (in advance, hopefully) for personal target birds. This would determine the route taken. Plan to start before dawn at Waubonsie for Chucks, and continue as determined by target birds requested.

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  • 04/29/2006 - 04/30/2006 to Crex Meadows - Leader(s): James Scheib/Jim Fuller
    Crex Meadows near Granstburg, Wisconsin to see the mating display of Sharp-tailed Grouse along with other northern nesting species such as Trumpeter Swan, Common Loon, Bald Eagles, and a variety of egrets, ducks and grebes and migrants. On the way home we visit Necedah NWR to view Whooping Cranes and tour the National Crane Foundation in Baraboo.

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  • 04/01/2005 - 04/09/2005 to Colorado - Leader(s): Ric Zarwell/Doug Faulkner
    After enjoying the cranes in Nebraska en route, and perhaps finding a Whooping Crane, we will enjoy several days birding from the eastern plains to the higher mountain elevations of Colorado. April is grouse season and our local guide Doug Faulkner, a top birder in Colorado, will attempt to find us many specialties such as Lesser Prairie-Chicken and White-tailed Ptarmigan. Be prepared for a variety of habitats and no doubt a variety of weather conditions as well. Spring in Colorado can be exciting!

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