Saturday, December 18, 2010

Bluebird skies

Thick, crisp white snow carpeted the landscape during the Christmas Bird Counts today. Assigned to Section 6 of the COMO circle, I was treated to song sparrows by the droves, and thousands--around 9,000, actually--of waterfowl hanging out in the artificial wetlands outside of town. Among the 9,000 birds in the marsh were shovelers, pintail, thousands of mallards whose wingbeats above sent chills down my spine, wigeons, wood ducks, green-wing teal (about 200), coots, Virginia rails clucking in the yellow cattails, marsh wrens and swamp sparrows.

Highlights from the day came from the woodlands, my favorite landscape in all Missouri:

A hermit thrush flitting from branch to branch in a fencerow along the KATY Trail, the only speckled thrush that winters in Missouri in significant numbers. Wonderful birds with big, baleful eyes and a trim little beak

Super sleek and elegant multi-colored Lincoln sparrows eating monarda seeds

We spent so much time with the waterfowl that we didn't hit the woodlands until 10 am. We were imnmediately greeted by three darling golden-crowned kinglets offering their little meager pip! high up in a sycamore, finally moving down the tree so we could see them up close.

Bluebirds. It's hard to find a more brilliant blue in nature than the plumage of Eastern bluebirds. Four (3 males, one female) were seen in the canopy along a wooded section of Hinkson Creek, all basking in the bright late afternoon sun that literally electrified their colors.

The stark white chest of a brown creeper moved into view at the bottom of a hickory snag. He quickly danced up the tree, skirting from side to side.

One lone fox sparrow, the largest of the sparrows on our list, revealed himself to us in a tangle of vines along Perche Creek.

So it begins, the Christmas Bird Count season. Next up this week is the western Ozarks and hopefully so many red-headed woodpeckers that I start counting them by fives.

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