A New Year ‘for the birds’

Above: A Northern Mockingbird takes a look at us.

Photo by Ryan Steffens.
            Christmas Bird Counts (CBCs) are a long-standing tradition  http://birds.audubon.org/christmas-bird-count. If you’ve never participated before, you are missing out on fun day in the field. We participated on two separate occasions in the past month to continue the over 100-year tradition.
            Our first CBC was two days after Christmas in the area around Cole Camp, MO.  We saw one Great-horned Owl and one Barred Owl on the way into Cole Camp. As usual, directives were given to the entire pool of participants and specific areas were delegated at our usual pre-dawn meeting place.
            The Cole Camp CBC was full of little surprises, like large mixed flocks of wintering sparrows (Harris’s, American Tree, and even a Vesper Sparrow). A single American Pelican rested on a lakes icy edge as Bald Eagle kept an eye on it from just meters away.
Above: An immature Bald Eagle and an American White

Pelican standoff.
Photo by: Stephanie Putnam.
            Our task was to count birds in region north of town. Local bird student, Ryan Steffens, rode with us with and Missouri Valley College Alum, Stephanie Putnam and partner Kalen Brady (MO Valley student) drove behind us. The bird action started just as we were leaving town. A Barred Owl flew directly at my truck. Slamming on the brakes was just enough to avert disaster as it’s talons clicked across the top of the windshield.
            Rough-legged Hawks, Northern Harriers, and Kestrels dazzled us throughout the day. Numbers on the day were tallied in the evening over warm, home cooked goodness.
            Our second CBC was on New Year’s Day in the area around Swan Lake.  It was a long drive in on icy roads that led into Sumner, MO. Steve Kinder and Larry Lade greeted us and gave us maps for our assigned area. Red-headed Woodpeckers and other birds taunted us in the parking lot at the Refuge Headquarters, making us all eager to get started.
            It was a peaceful, fun-filled day of pleasure as we hiked along Yellow Creek and drove around to agriculture and Wetland Reserve Program lands. Yellow Creek was absolutely packed with Red-headed Woodpeckers. American Tree Sparrows were everywhere along roadsides.
            We enjoyed watching Harriers, Meadow Larks, and Horned Larks throughout the day. At one point, we stumbled upon a large flock of Trumpeter Swans in a cornfield. Towards dusk we watched flocks of geese stream overhead and into the setting sun.
            Thus ended the first day of the Year. Another day and other year… with and for the birds.
           

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