It occurred to me that in winter GOAS birders tend to underbird the Palmetto region along the Greene/Webster County line east of Springfield. On the way there, we counted 7 Rusty Blackbirds in the short grasses in front of a ranch at McCraw's Ford near the James River.
However, it is in this "Palmetto region", that extremely fertile fields, remnants of natural grasslands that once topped the Springfield Plateau, give way to agriculture. Interspersed in the area are natural wetlands where shorebirds thrive during spring migration. The birds that occasionally make their way to Palmetto are many and varied, genetically linked to an earlier time when bluestem, Indian, and switch grasses thrived and natural playas supplied plentiful moisture to the area. These species continue to pass through, hoping to meet their survival needs in the current soybean, alfalfa, and fescue fields that dominate the area now.
Records of species from this area in the last 15 years are amazing. Most amazing; A Swallow-tailed Kite by the late Betty Dyer. My personal list from the areas includes Sandhill Cranes, Western Kingbirds, Peregrine Falcons, shorebirds galore, Black-bellied Plovers, American Golden Plovers, Baird's, Pectoral, Least, Semipalmated, Western, Solitary, Spotted, White-rumped, and Upland Sandpipers, Dunlins, Sanderlings, Dowitchers, Phalaropes, Willet, Sora, Snipe, Black Terns, Forster's Terns, Caspian Terns, Franklin's Gulls, Rough-legged Hawks, Swainson's Hawks, Yellow-crowned Night Herons, Marsh Wrens, Bobolinks, and countless others I cannot currently recall.
On this day, the Northern Harriers glided and the Horned Lark sang, entertaining us on the productive FR 166 through the region.We headed up the road to the French's Mustard plant on I-44 just NE of Springfield. In the ponds near the plant, we added Gadwalls, Lesser Scaup, Hooded Mergansers, Mallards and Ring-necked Ducks to our list. I was lucky enough to catch the splash as the duck on the left eagerly dove.
Valley Water Mill added 2 female Northern Shovelors, and a cooperative mockingbird enjoyed the warm temperatures on the road to Fellows Lake.
Fellows Lake was choppy but yielded 12 Common Goldeneye, 4 Horned Grebes, 25+ Pied-billed Grebes, and 2 Common Loons. Passerines were almost totally absent on the windblown north side of the lake. Stopping at a popular feeding station on the road near Fellows yielded this handsome immature White-crowned Sparrow.