Sunday, June 8, 2008

Willard Quarry Specialties

When does human activity that alters the landscape benefit avian species? Suburban housing developments provide perfect habitat for Purple Martins. Perhaps we could add House Sparrows, Brown-headed Cowbirds, Eurasian Collared Doves, Rock Pigeons, various swallows, and many others to the list. Human-constructed reservoirs provide habitat for countless waterfowl species. And, of course, we birders are partial to those species indigenous to North America. An exception would be those species from elsewhere in the world that have, on their own power, found their way to North America. Well, back to the topic.......My favorite local example of an altered landscape that has become a birder's mecca is the Conco Quarry in Willard, Missouri. Species that are both rare and common in the Ozarks inhabit this barren and scrubby habitat. The deep and wide quarry plays with the air currents, so many Turkey Vultures take advantage of thermals to sail on the winds. Red tails, Red shoulders, and Kestrel frequently join the vultures in the skies. This vulture sets on the ledge awaiting the winds that will carry him high above the limestone cliffs.In the same environment and very uncommon in the Ozarks, Bank Swallows take advantage of huge piles of crushed limestone to carve out amazing nesting colonies on the bare ledges.But the best of all is the population of Painted Buntings that has inhabited the quarry for at least five years. There seems to be something about the steep ledge of the quarry that attracts the species to this northern portion of its geographical range. The local population is currently increasing and provides a predictable warm season site in which all Missouri birders can locate and marvel in what is arguably the most beautiful bird in North America.This photo by Marvin DeJong. I took the rest.

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