Saturday, December 6, 2008

Lockwood Luxuries

In hot pursuit of a Northern Shrike spotted by Charley Burwick, Lisa Berger, and David Ringer last weekend, I bee lined to a largely agricultural area north of Lockwood on both Monday and Friday this week. Although the Monday trip did not result in the NSHR, I was not disappointed.

A light dusting of snow in the area made Monday a day for Longspurs. I ran into 3 mixed flocks of Horned Larks and Lapland Longspurs. With snow these little guys are a little easier to find, but locating them in a picture is still very difficult. I shot at least 20 photos and came out with only one that clearly identifies the species.
On the way home from Lockwood on Monday, I decided to stop by a mudflat area in the Bois D'Arc Conservation Area to check for late shorebirds. I found these two Least Sandpipers hanging out with the regular Killdeer and occasional Wilson's Snipe found during Ozark winters. After running a few errands on Friday, I realized that I had a window of opportunity to dash out to Lockwood once again. I called Charley and he was up for another search of the Lockwood area. Not long after leaving the main highway to the region, we saw a flock of 80 Lapland Longspurs scattered across a field. Shortly thereafter, 40 Brewer's Blackbirds were spotted sharing a tree with a Red-tailed Hawk. I was surprised when I entered my observation of these Brewer's Blackbird on e-bird, the sighting required confirmation by a reviewer. I saw flocks of them on both days, and they are truly winter regulars in the Lockwood area. I was intriqued by a MoBird post this week by Larry Herbert of Joplin. He said that of the 10 or so Northern Shrikes that he has seen in his lifetime, 8 have been associated with brush piles, and that is true of this Lockwood shrike. The second brush pile from the left that this particular shrike inhabited is clearly visible on Google maps. It must be a fairly recent picture.
View Larger Map

And, On this day, the Northern Shrike was right where he was supposed to be, on the second brush pile. One year ago, on December 8, I saw my first Northern Shrike, but it was not in a brush pile nor was it as cooperative as this one was. All the key field marks are visible in the photos. Take a look!
It would have been a wonderful 2 hours of birding if it had ended there. But one mile south of the Northern Shrike, we were delighted to spot a Prairie Falcon zipping low down the road in front of the car. We were lucky enough to observe the restless bird briefly as it sat on a fence post, and then we flushed it to another fence row and I got a great swing by look at it as it darted for cover. Although this isn't my photo, it certainly is a picture etched in my memory. Although I believe I had a very brief glance at the bird on Monday, this look would go down as my first Missouri Prairie Falcon. Just after a look like the one below, the bird hung a sharp left and I clearly saw the dark wingpits. Check! Got it!
Photo by Doug Backlund at http://pie.midcoat.net/dougback/North%20Cave%20Hills.htm

Since I had another committment at 4:00, we headed for home. The drive home was largely uneventful except for a nice look at a Black Vulture soaring over the Springfield Conservation Nature Center. Some days, like this Friday, the great birding boils down to a couple hours in the field. Guess that is proof that anything can happen the instant you slip out that front door!

4 comments:

N8 said...

So the year I stay in NC for the holidays is the one you find Northern Shrikes and lots of Longspurs.

And just where were these birds last year? : )

Greg said...

Well, by the time you get back here in the winter, I will be an expert in finding the Longspurs! Northern Shrike? We will have to see. There could be some serious range expansion going on. Mark Robbins located a bird on the exact same territory this year as last. It was an immature last year and is in its adult plumage this year. Same bird? Probably....

Larry said...

Prairie Falcons, Shrikes and Brewsters Blackbirds! You see some pretty good stuff.-I like those shrike photos. I've seen a couple but my photo attempts have ended in failure.

Greg said...

Larry,
Thanks for dropping by. Lockwood is an under-birded treasure on the western edge of the Ozarks, where the Ozarks meets the prairie. It's a 75 mile drive for me to get out there, but I'm seldom disappointed. All shades of Red-tails, large numbers of Harriers, Prairie Chicken and a few Roughlegs also inhabit the area It reminds me of the flat land prairies around where I grew up in Kansas.