Monday, February 11, 2008

Blue (Ice) Monday

It's a great early Feeder Watch day here in Missouri, especially since there's nothing better to do. An early morning ice storm has cancelled school and prohibited sane driving for at least a few hours. Seems to be inhibiting the flight of one of my goldfinches this morning, too.
The rest of the photos on this posting are courtesy of Marvin DeJong.
In area birding news, another Prairie Falcon was spotted on Golden Prairie by Charley and Dean on Friday! This is the third Prairie Falcon sighting in 2 weeks for Charley. Even though I've been out to the prairie twice in the same time period. I have yet to spot one........this year or ever....

So, it was tempting to return to the Golden City/Lockwood area Sunday to falcon search one more time before spring, but we opted for a close to home 1/2 day trip to the old standbys, Fellows Lake, Lake Springfield, and the surrounding ponds and lakes of our area.

Our first noteable sighting was this Red-tailed Hawk on Valley Water Mill Road at the Highway 65 interchange. It's finely streaked belly band defined it as an individual among the countless variations of Red-tailed Hawks that we have seen in the past month. The I-44 corridor between Springfield and Tulsa is the winter home for hundreds of Red-tails. On recent trips we have observed variations ranging from Harlan's to dark morph red-tails to very light morph hawks, and everything in between. However, I've yet to see a true Krider's or leucistic red-tail this winter.

At Valley Water Mill we were happy to see 50 or so Green-winged Teal, as they have been scarce this winter. They were joined by Mallards, Gadwalls, and a single Northern Shovelor. Our trip north toward Fellows Lake netted Lesser Scaup on a farm pond. At the horse ranch, a group of courting Eastern Meadowlarks entertained us for a while, while 500+ Red-wings, cowbirds, and grackles twisted and turned in the distance. Orange and white flashes accented the black masses. Six Northern Shovelors sat on the distance pond while Horned Larks scratched dirt near the horses.

We descended into the Sac River valley, where once a Northern Shrike perched and Bald Eagles gathered branches to reinforce their nest. Unfortunately, recent avian work on the eagle nest met with another weather disaster. Part of the nest, hit hard by the ice storm one year ago, has collapsed, most likely in recent strong winds that dropped temperatures 30+ degrees in an hour a week ago. And so, the pair of eagles that has worked on nesting in this area for 5 years, is facing another setback.

Adrenaline surged as we spotted a shrike atop a Honey Locust tree in the same field where the December 8 Northern Shrike perched. As hard as we tried to make it into the former record worthy shrike, we left the area with a single Loggerhead. A comparison of our two Fellows Lake Spillway shrikes reveals the obvious differences in the two species.

North winds forced waterfowl into the coves on the accessible side of Fellows Lake, so we had close up views of about 10 Common Goldeneye. A flock of Lesser Scaup, a single Horned Grebe, 3 Pied-billed Grebes, and a Ring-billed Gull were also seen. A light-morph Red-tail got us excited with the possibility of a Krider's, but in the end we decided that it was just another Red-tail, yet another beautiful variation.We then headed over to McDaniel's Lake, where we scoped about 30 Ring-billed Gulls. We searched unsuccessfully for something different among them. Later a flock of ring bills on Lake Springfield confirmed some movement of gulls into our area.

The trip home was largely uneventful. A single Turkey Vulture certainly cannot be deemed a harbinger of spring, but we in Missouri surely need the elixir. On the Mo-Bird listserv, birders are arguing about the use of three exclamation marks in postings. Yes, we need spring to burst out all over, but the Ground Hog did bask in warm temperatures and sunshine....... The grip of winter is still upon us.

Today, I wish I was in Northern Carolina looking for birds at Mattamuskeet and Alligator River NWR with my son, serving as a second pair of eyes, spotting rarities.

Instead, I sit watching my feeders for something different as surrounding tree limbs sag and break with the weight of accumulated ice.

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