Fall Migration Grassland Bird Surveys


Storm Over Wah’Kon-Tah Prairie

By Katie Leonard and Veronica Mecko

November 9th, 2016 marked the end of our grassland fall migration surveys. Beginning September 1st, we had been surveying Linscomb and Wah’kon-tah Prairie Conservation Areas, which are both located near El Dorado Springs, Missouri. We visited different areas of these prairies daily, walking transect lines and recording the species observed by sight and sound. During fall the majority of the birds aren’t singing, so we detected them by call. It was amazing to survey the prairies repeatedly throughout the season and not only witness the change in bird species that occurred through migration, but get to observe the change in vegetation, as well.

Dickcissels were one of the first breeding bird species to go, as we no longer detected them early in the fall. Common Yellowthroats stuck around for a while, but left around the middle of October. During the last week of our surveys, we noticed that we were no longer detecting Turkey Vultures on our surveys. There were still Henslow’s Sparrows and Sedge Wrens even in November, but in very small numbers. All of these species are heading to various locations in southern North America, Central America and South America.


Vesper Sparrow at Wah’Kon-Tah CA


American White Pelicans were seen flying over in large numbers in the early months of our surveys. We had large numbers of Red-headed Woodpeckers in wooded areas that were diminishing in numbers towards November. Other species that were detected and are migrating through or have arrived for winter are Ruby-crowned Kinglets, Golden-crowned Kinglets, Orange-crowned Warblers, Myrtle Warblers, Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers, Brown Creepers, and Red-breasted Nuthatch! Early arriving sparrows include Savannah, Vesper, Le Conte’s, Swamp, Song, White-crowned, and White-throated Sparrows. By late October Fox Sparrows and Dark-eyed Juncos were arriving. On November 7th, we detected a Harris’ Sparrow! Although we had not yet detected American Tree Sparrows on the properties, we expect that they will be arriving soon, as they have been observed in other locations throughout the state (observed in eBird).


Le Conte’s Sparrow at Linscomb


Among raptor species observed were Merlin, American Kestrel, Sharp-shinned Hawk, Cooper’s Hawk, Broad-winged Hawk, Red-shouldered Hawk, Red-tailed Hawk, Short-eared Owl and Bald Eagle. Sightings of Northern Harriers increased during the last few weeks.

Sharp-shinned Hawk

Sharp-shinned Hawk perched at Wah’Kon-Tah

That is the end of the surveys for 2016! It’s been a great year—we’ve had many exciting sightings and enjoyable experiences during our surveys. Spring migration surveys will pick back up in April 2017. We will be bird banding the first weekend of every month, so keep your eyes open for events near you! Enjoy the birds this winter, as it is a great opportunity to see species that you don’t get to see year round! Happy holidays and happy birding!

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