Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Willets, Merlin on FR 166, Palmetto Meadows

Casual water at Palmetto, specifically on Farm Road 166 1/4 mile east of Highway 125, continues to attract great birds. This week Charley Burwick saw a Merlin chasing a Spotted Sandpiper there.

Today Jan Horton reported Willets in the same place. Here's a picture that Marvin DeJong took this afternoon. There are more photos on the GOAS Message Board.Bobolinks also arrived on the same road today. I'm hoping that everything holds for one more day so I can get out there.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Catching Up on the Blog

Last Thursday I headed out to Palmetto in hopes of seeing new arrivals. I was not disappointed. Less than a mile from my house I spotted these two Blue Grosbeaks. I had six for the day.On Farm Road 166, I spotted the returning Dickcissel on the barbed wire, diving in and out of the grasses. I was also fortunate to see some good shorebirds along the road there, including this
American Golden Plover.
Included in the birds on the mudflat were American Pipits, Semipalmated Sandpipers, Pectoral Sandpipers, and both species of Yellowlegs.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Busiek State Forest Birding

Early on Sunday, I led a neotropical migrant field trip with nine GOASers and interested birders. Our destination was Busiek State Forest in southern Christian County, but we diverged a bit to take in some potentially good locations. Our first stop on the way south was just west of the junction of Hwy 65 and CC, where we observed a Great Horned Owl was sitting on two fledglings. A great look was had by all.

Ten minutes later we were gathering the parking lot at Busiek's when a peculiar wren popped up in front of everyone. Turned out to be a Marsh Wren! This was a lifer for many in the group, and the ones of us that had seen the species had trouble recalling how long ago it was that we had seen it.It was then that we settled into the business of the day, searching for neotropical migrants. First to appear was a nice Yellow-throated Warbler in the sycamore near the parking lot. It was not long before we add American Redstart, Black and White Warbler, Kentucky Warbler, Northern Parula, Nashville Warbler, and Tennessee Warbler.

We turned around to search for a newly arrived Cerulean Warbler along Wood's Fork Creek. Unfortunately, our attempts were in vain, but we added Blue-winged Warbler and Louisiana Waterthrush to our growing warbler list. Kentucky and redstart numbers dramatically climbed.

Moving away from the creek we heard Prairie Warbler and Yellow breasted Chat songs ringing out from the glade. It was not long before we were seeing both. We began to notice that our vireo list was rising; included Red-eyed, White-eyed, and Yellow-throated. It was then that a Warbling Vireo voice rang out in the forest edge. Baltimore Oriole, Rose-breasted Grosbeaks, Indigo Buntings, and an Empidonax sp. unwilling to reveal its identity join in the gathering. Then the highlight vireo of the day, Blue-headed, came into view on the far side of a Cedar tree. Its striking white spectacle dazzled the viewers.

Walking up to the glade, we were reward by great visuals of the Prairie Warblers and a cooperative Yellow-breasted Chat.We then left Busiek State Forest to check a lower stretch of Bull Creek for Ceruleans and a pair of Mississippi Kites that had spent last summer there. No luck on either, but we did pick up Blue Grosbeak, Broad-winged hawk, and Ovenbird.

We concluded the day with a short run down Center Road to Marvin's farm. We added Scissortails and Kingbirds on the way, and Common Yellowthroat while there. Lincoln's Sparrow posed for a picture.All in all, it was a good day considering the brisk north wind, cold temperatures, and cloudy skies. We ended up with 13 warbler species with 68 species total, and departed with hopes of 20+ warblers and over 100 species in a day next week. Complete trip list at the GOAS Message Board.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

DeJong's on Bull Creek

After my awesome photographer friend Marvin sent me his beautiful pictures of American Redstart, Northern Parula, and White-eyed Vireo that he shot near Bull Creek at his home, I couldn't resist getting out there to take a few shoots myself. Although mine can't touch the quality of Marvin's photos, it's still great fun to try to catch those beauties close up.Blue-gray Gnatcatcher

DeJong's land on the pristine Bull Creek is a wonderful place for birds, and migrating warblers are arriving daily to supplement the native avian populations. I arrived in the middle of the afternoon, not typically a great time for birding. In spite of this, I managed to see

8 warbler species:
2 Blue-winged Warblers, over 10 Northern Parula, 3 Yellow-throated Warblers, one with no legs! :)
over 10 American Redstarts, 1 Louisiana Waterthrush, 1 Kentucky Warbler, 2 Common Yellowthroat, and my favorite; one Yellow-breasted Chat.

3 Vireo Species:
3 Yellow-throated Vireo, 1 Red-eyed Vireo, and over 6 White-eyed Vireos
And other highlights:
6 Orchard Orioles, 1 Least Flycatcher, 1 House Wren, and 1 Pileated Woodpecker.

Listen to Big Smith sing about that beautiful Bull Creek!

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Evening Hues

Earth Day 2008

The evening light from the setting sun danced across the leaves, flowers, and skies, casting its vision, and leading our own vision, from the heavens to the Earth and back to the heavens again.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Red Bridge Round Up

Red Bridge photo courtesy of David Backlin. Taken in June 2005

Clouds gave way to sun as a large group of GOAS birders ventured out to the Mark Twain National Forest in southeastern Christian County. The Red Bridge Road loop over to Busiek State Forest is my favorite neotropical migrant birding field trip. Last spring the area was phenomenal because a very late hard freeze left the canopy leafless. This combined with weather that created fall-out conditions brought large flocks of warblers down to the understory to feed. On a memorable early May morning last year, we logged over a dozen Blackburnian Warblers and over a dozen Philadelphia Vireos along with the flocks of many others, giving us over 20 warbler species for the day.

But this is early warbler season 2008, not peak warbler season 2007. Compared to last spring's blistering birding, the numbers and variety are down, but we are still two weeks away from the May Madness that grips our local birders. A lot can happen in that time.

On my way to the meeting point, a beautiful male Red-headed Woodpecker flew across the road just in front of me. This is perhaps the least common of the 7 woodpeckers that inhabit our area. It's always a thrill to see one, but this sighting follows a fairly lengthy dry spell of about 7 months.

At the meeting point for the GOAS field trip, we were greeted by sparse warbler song. I fine-tuned my ears to differentiate the distant warbler songs for another season. Our first was the handsome Ovenbird, following quickly by the ubiquitous Northern Parula. The squeaky song of the Black-and-white Warbler echoed in the valley. Soon we caught glimpses of all three. A Worm-eating Warbler called out from the steep, rocky hillside. Despite a concentrated effort, I was unable to local the secretive bird.

We had the pleasure of birding with David Ringer today. David is one of two young birders that fledged from the active group of GOAS birders during the mid to late '90s.David Ringer, left, Lisa Berger, and Jane Simpson, enjoy the view from the bridge at Busiek State Forest.

Both have become excellent birders and writers, and both have carved their niches out in the blogosphere. David hosts Search and Serendipity and is the co-founder of the Birdstack listing website. The other GOAS fledging is my son Nathan, who keeps things hopping over at The Drinking Bird. So, many of you already know both of them, or at least have read their birding stories and spin on the culture of birding.

We headed down to Red Bridge, an old bridge crossing the clear Bull Creek. We quickly added Louisiana Waterthrush and Kentucky Warbler to our growing list. While climbing up to the pine covered ridge, we heard the burry Yellow-throated Vireo and watched as a small kettle of Broad-winged Hawks circled above.

At the top of the ridge, I spotted a Hermit Thrush with his rufous rump and tail. I watched as it bobbed its tail and adjusted its wings with each call note. Immediately thereafter, an amorous pair of Black and White Warblers danced closely in the branches directly above us. Pine warblers, Ovenbirds, and Ruby Crowned Kinglets added their voices to the growing cacophony.
With time restraints arising, we headed over to Busiek State Forest to conclude our trip. We immediately picked up a Yellow-throated Warbler and a White-eyed Vireo. I then climbed up to the glade to scout it
out for the group. It was there that
I photographed a cooperative Eastern Towhee and an Eastern Fence Swift and saw/heard three Prairie Warblers.

So, I think that makes a nine warbler and two vireo day. It's a start, and it forced me to hone my ears for the coming three weeks of birder madness. There is gold and precious jewels in them thar trees and bushes. I can't wait to find my share!

Monday, April 14, 2008

"That Old Mockingbird Shouted Me Down"

My favorite truly Ozarkian musical group is Big Smith. Composed of brothers and cousins from my own Missouri county, they are a fun-loving band with their roots reaching deeply into these hills. One of the founding members is a fine young musician and lyricist, Jody Bilyeu, who wrote and sang a song called "Mockingbird". You can here a sample here.

Today on a short trip into the countryside, as Jody would say, that "old mockingbird shouted me down." Here are the lyrics of "Mockingbird" and the pictures I took. The birds were very cooperative.
by Jody Bilyeu
Walked along the creek bank--
Had to kick the brambles down.
Stopped to watch a plane fly by
That was towing the sky around
It was towing the sky around.

Grabbed a snake from the water
But his mouth opened cotton white.
I took his head and his skin from his long white flesh
But his coils wrapped my wrist so tight--
His coils wrapped my wrist so tight.
I reached up in a golden branch
To shake the fox grapes down.
A sacred song was in my mouth
But the mockingbird shouted me down--
That old mockingbird shouted me down.Lay back in a bed of last year's leaves
The whole sky cotton white.
And the crow that coughed his terrible names
Flapped his way out of sight--
He flapped his way out of sight.
The highway back to the city
Just as blank as it could be
And I forgot the snake and the birds
For you waited in town for me--
At least I hoped that you waited for me.

Stood at your bathroom mirror
Knocked your wine glass in the sink
Red wine, red wine everywhere
But not a drop to drink
There was nary a drop to drink

So I went back to that golden branch
But all had been rained down
A sacred song was in my mouth
But the mockingbird shouted me down--
That old mockingbird shouted me down.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Branson Falls

We drove down to Table Rock Reservoir to see the tremendous release of water from Table Rock Dam. Dave Snider, meteorologist of KY3 TV station, active local birder, and intelligent blogger, prepared a very interesting article about the tremendous volume of water that is moving through the dams of reservoirs in the White River watershed of the Ozarks these days.

Among other things, he estimates how long it would take to fill the Empire State Building with water at the current rate of release. Check out the article here.

Here's a 20 second video of the awesome power of water at Table Rock dam this afternoon.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Shorebirds and Scissor-tails Wash Into Palmetto Meadows

Sometime in the last few weeks, I lost my desire to blog. Not sure what happened except that lots of stuff is going on. The fact that relatively spring-like weather arrives every few days and has kept me out of doors is also a contributing factor.
I have missed several blogging opportunities, however. Petit Jean State Park in Arkansas during spring break was a welcomed respite from cold weather here. I picked up Black and White Warblers, Pine Warblers, many Pine Siskins, and a Red-breasted Nuthatch while there, but managed to miss the Brown-headed Nuthatches that apparently make the mountain their home. Enough of the past.....

Another flood hit the Ozarks this week, so Marvin DeJong and I headed out to Palmetto in search of shorebirds. We were not disappointed as Pectorals, Semipalmalteds, and Yellowlegs, both Greater and Lesser, congregated in the first casual water stop. I had never noticed an orange-legged Yellowlegs before, but found one there.My best shorebird pictures for the day involved Solitary Sandpipers. Guess you saw the one at the beginning of the entry. Here's a couple more of them.
Both Marvin and I celebrated the arrival of two very cooperative Scissor-tailed Flycatchers. We saw three for the day, and also spotted our first Blue-gray Gnatcatcher of the year. I have posted one of my STFL pictures.It's been a great year for shorebirds in the greater Ozarks area. Charley Burwick spotted 10 Long-billed Curlews a week ago near Lockwood, Missouri. It was the first Long-billed Curlews sighting in Missouri since 1996 and the sighting beat the previous high number set over 100 years ago! Here's a picture of one of the birds he saw on April 3rd.