On our second day at the Midwest Birding Symposium we headed out before dawn to Port Louisa National Wildlife Refuge. Port Louisa is a complex of four divisions along the Mississippi River which comprises of 8,375 acres of floodplain. We birded the Keithsburg Division on the Illinois side of the river.
Arriving before daybreak, we were able to hear Barred and Great Horned Owls, Soras, scolding Marsh Wrens and others. The grassy trail was wet (up to Dakota’s armpits in places) and we all got pretty soaked. But the birding was excellent along our 3-4 mile hike. Every few minutes a large bird would flyover – Great Egret, Great Blue Heron, Double-crested Cormorant, etc. It was the first time any of us had ever seen Great Egrets flying in formation – a perfect V of about seven birds.
Most of the birds tried to stay hidden and many were seen as they flew away. We had several other sharp birders along so it was quite easy to find a lot of birds (although some of the views weren’t that great). Photography was limited because of the pace and wetness. (Dakota took over as head photographer so the pictures here are his).
Some of the other highlight birds – American Golden Plover, Pileated Woodpecker, Bald Eagle, and Black-billed Cuckoo.
We headed over to another area near the small (very small) town of Keithsburg. Here we found Eurasian Tree Sparrows. Despite it being a lifer, I preferred the Wilson’s Warbler in plain view not more than 10 feet away.
We ended the trip with 99 species and our trip leader later found two more bringing the total over 100.