Iowa Hiking, Nature July 16, 2021
Go Hiking With Ospreys In Iowa For An Adventure Unlike Any Other
Iowa is well known for the bald eagles that live along its rivers and lakes. We even have the Decorah eagle cams trained on nests to let us watch a family of eaglets hatch and grow up. But did you know that eagles aren’t the only interesting bird of prey that calls Iowa home? We also have ospreys nesting right now in the Hawkeye State!
Ospreys are large migratory hawks, spending the winters in Florida or further south into Mexico or South America. But come April, ospreys can be found nesting at the Colfax Quarry Springs Park in Jasper County.
The park used to be the site of a large rock and sand quarry, but springs have now filled the old mines, forming a series of 3 connected quarry ponds totaling around 240 acres of beautiful water. The 480-acre park is now home to abundant wildlife, one of the most unique being the osprey.
Ospreys typically build large nests of sticks - they return to the same site year after year, successively adding more nesting materials until 10 foot deep nests have been spotted!
Ospreys historically have chosen tall dead trees for their nests, but nowadays, they seem just as comfortable constructing their nests on power poles or manmade nesting platforms like those built around Colfax Springs.
These dark brown and white birds of prey are smaller than the better known bald eagle, and eagles don’t hesitate to flex their superior size, sometimes knocking an osprey’s freshly caught fish out of its talons and catching the free meal mid-air.
However, Quarry Springs has enough fish for all, making it an ideal summer home for these beautiful birds and an equally great place for bird watchers and fishermen.
It’s important to respect ospreys’ space, so don’t approach the nesting sites, but you’re likely to see these birds of prey until fall, flying overhead or diving for fish if you’re out walking the Quarry Springs Park trails or paddling on the beautiful water.
Picture this: you take a kayak out on one of the quarry ponds or hike a loop along its banks. You spend a few minutes watching a beaver at work, then spot an osprey bringing a fish back to its nest. You finish the day by sinking your toes in the soft sand of the dunes while soaking up the beauty of nature that you’d never guess was right off I-80.
All that and more is well within the realm of possibility here at Quarry Springs Park.
The Colfax Quarry Park is still being developed, with shelter houses under construction and plans for other amenities in the works. But, there are already kayaks for rent on site at Quarry Springs Outfitters as well as primitive camping sites available.
It’s a great place to picnic, paddle, mountain bike, fish, play in the sand, and watch the birds.
Are you a birdwatcher? What’s another great Iowa destination for spotting unique birds (how about this one)? Have you seen ospreys elsewhere in Iowa? Address: Quarry Springs Park, 200 North Park Road, Colfax, IA 50054, USA