The Black Rush Lake Waterfowl Production Area is a recently reclaimed 600 acre wetland and upland prairie upland complex. Black Rush Lake is rapidly developing into a useful nesting ground for area waterbirds including Redhead, Northern Pintail, Black Tern, and (of course) the American Coot. It might also prove useful for nesting Least Bittern, Wilson's Phalarope, and perhaps Eared Grebe, though no nesting activity has been documented as yet.
DIRECTIONS: When you leave Camden State Park, turn south on Highway 23 for one mile to County Road 59. Turn East to reach the Black Rush Lake Waterfowl Production Area.
To the north of Lyon County Road 59 the north basin of the old lakebed has also been reclaimed. This area is the only possibly useful area to migrating shorebirds, since the Black Rush Lake has been quickly overgrown with vegetation. Willet, Ruddy Turnstone, and both godwits have been observed here in the spring.
Because of its proximity to the Regional Landfill, this is the most likely place to locate lingering gull species in the fall. Fall 2001 brought a Lesser Black-backed Gull to this location among the more common Ring-billed Gulls. A possible 1st winter Thayer's Gull was also reported here. Although those species are unlikely to be seen with any frequency, Franklin's, Bonaparte's, and Ring-billed, and Herring Gulls abound for your identification pleasure. And don't forget this spot for vagrant White-faced Ibis (October 2001) or lurking American Bittern during either migration period. Snowy Egret has been observed in 2002, and 2004, and Tricolored Heron was observed in 2007.
Turning south on the gravel road one mile from State Highway 23 takes you through the old lakebed. As you pass through this area keep a careful eye for wanderers such as Great-tailed Grackle (April 2001) along with the species usually observed in this habitat. Dickcissel, Orchard Oriole, and Indigo Bunting nest in the trees near the lakebed, while Swamp Sparrow and Yellow-headed Blackbird nest about in the reeds. After traveling south one mile, you may want to take a walk through the upland part of this acreage.
Either turn East or West (or both) to find a suitable location to park before starting your walk through the upland area. Big Blustem and Indian grasses are plentiful, and the walk along the rolling hill may spook up a migrating Short-eared Owl, or one of the local Gray Partridge. In fall this seems a possible spot to search for a Smith's Longspur, and always be on the look-up for a wayward Ferruginous Hawk. American Tree, Harris', and White-throated Sparrows will like the food supply and cover on the cold autumn mornings while the summer heat will keep the Sedge Wren, Grasshopper Sparrow, and Horned Lark close to shade. When do Yellow Rails migrate through the area in the fall? A walk through the lower part of the upland grasses near the wetland may give you an answer.
Written by Roger Schroeder