A Feathered Scavenger Hunt
By Travis West | June 14, 2021
I moved to here in September of last year with little to no expectation of how Iowa would be, let alone Fairfield. To my pleasant surprise, it has been amazing. The people have been friendly and interesting and the place has been beautiful and dynamic. But I’ve wanted to start delving more into the depths of what could be found here and this loop trail thing seemed like just the ticket. It was and what I found were birds! Let me tell you about the bike ride I rode the other day.
I left about 9 am on a Sunday, It was a little cloudy which I didn’t mind as it would offset the heat from my out-of-shape body. I packed a few snacks, pumped up my tires, and headed to the trail. The birds were already chirping, as they do, but I wanted to spot some. I’ve been a bird-watching enthusiast in the past (I even wrote a rap about it) and knew that a good technique to lure them in is to stay perfectly still and quiet. This worked in perfect alignment with the slew of breaks I was offered by the trail's ample benches.
With over 240 species in Jefferson County, I didn't expect to see them all but here are five birds I saw in abundance on the loop trail:
American robin – This classic has a funny sounding scientific name in Turdus Migratorious. This bird is in such abundance. I literally saw them everywhere and they have become the telltale sign that Spring is here.
Red-winged blackbird – It's actually only the males who are black with red wings. The red is used to display its readiness to mate with the female counterpart who is brown with white streaks and a yellow wash around the bill. Just be careful not to get too close to their nest... these little guys will love to dive-bomb you!
Cardinal - Might not seem like a big deal to locals, but as a west coast native, I’ve only heard about this scarlet beaut in stories and on baseball uniforms. Cuter than I imagined and the red color of the male is striking. You frequently hear these songbirds before you see them and here's an interesting factoid... a mated pair of cardinals will actually share song phrases.
Downy Woodpecker – With the skills to pay the bills, this little drummer is hard not to Love. The “drumming” on trees is their way of communicating and announcing their nesting areas.
Canadian Goose – These handsome devils like chilling in the water. They seem so casual floating but you know they are pumping them flippers furiously just beneath the surface.
As I traversed the trail through its varied terrain including forests, prairie, and wetland I witnessed an equally diverse range of birds. The ride was so fun and easy it didn’t feel like 15 miles at all. I was able to pace myself nicely, catch glimpses of some spry fowl and make it all the way around in time for brunch. Biking the loop trail will be a staple in my fair field activities for the foreseeable future. See you out there!