News from the Cole Camp Prairies

By MRBO Grassland Bander Veronica Mecko
The past several weeks of migration on the grasslands site at Hi Lonesome and Mora Conservation Areas have been amazing. The grasslands crew, which includes several Master Naturalists, has been banding birds and also counting the birds that we hear or see at both of our sites.

I am from southern Iowa and am familiar with the general pattern of arrivals of mirgratory birds through April and May where I live. Coming to central Missouri (which is about 3 hours south of the Missouri/Iowa border) I was expecting to see somewhat earlier arrivals for most birds. But with the cold, rainy weather throughout the month of April, we have had to be very patient waiting for the migrants to arrive and we’ve had the pleasure to observe some species that usually would have migrated earlier.
At our site on Hi Lonesome CA we continued to hear and observe Wilson’s Snipe through the entire month of April. These are birds that migrate to Canada and the northern U.S. to breed. On May 1 we captured and banded a White Crowned Sparrow, another bird that spends the winter in central Missouri then migrates to northern Canada. Eastern Kingbirds and Common Yellowthroats were observed or 
Grasshopper Sparrow at Mora CA
heard the last week of April and birds such as Dickcissel and even Gray Catbird were not observed at either site until the last few days of April.
On the site at Mora Conservation Area we have heard the “che bunk” of Henslow’s Sparrows throughout the month of April. Part of this site is predominantly warm-season grasses without much brush and the other part is wetter with mixed grasses with lots of brush and sapling trees. We have observed and captured the Henslow’s Sparrows in both of these habitats.
Field Sparrows are another species that we have observed and captured at both sites throughout the month of April. Other sparrows banded have been Vesper, Savannah, Clay-Colored, Song, Grasshopper and Swamp. Eastern Phoebes were observed throughout the month and one was banded on April 7. Shortly after on April 11 we observed a Scissortail Flycatcher at Mora CA and have seen them fly over both sites occasionally.
Every morning, usually not before 9:30 a.m., the Turkey Vultures catch a thermal and start working 
A Savannah Sparrow at Hi-Lonesome CA
their way north. We have counted 113 vultures at Hi Lonesome CA and 137 at Mora CA flying overhead. We’ve also observed three Broad-winged Hawks and several Sharp-Shinned and Cooper’s Hawks and at both sites have seen a Northern Harrier most mornings throughout the month of April.
In the second week of April, we decided to try opening the nets in the evenings at both of our sites. We had seen Tree Swallows at both of our sites since the first week of April, then Barn Swallows started appearing the second week of April. From our site at Mora CA we could look south across the large warm-season grass field and watch the swallows catching insects over the grasses. On the evening of April 24 we set out to open the nets and could see several dozens of swallows swooping and doing acrobatics over the field. While we waited to check nets and were counting birds, the swallows continued to swarm over the field. We had never captured any of the swallows–they fly around and 
Barn Swallow, part of a small flock captured at
Mora CA during evening operation
over the nets, maneuvering quickly and acrobatically to avoid them–but on this warm, spring evening we had swallows in the nets on our first run. We banded nine Tree Swallows, one Barn Swallow and one Northern Rough-winged Swallow. A storm came through the day after, followed by south winds, and we haven’t observed again as many swallows over the field since that evening.
April 28 we set up at Mora in the morning and in the evening. The temperature had finally warmed up so that we could open nets before sunrise and on this morning we could hear for the first time several Sedge Wrens! 
MRBO Grassland Bird Surveyor Josh Smith
getting a good look at a Sedge Wren
When we returned in the evening we caught two Sedge Wrens and two Swamp Sparrows. Sedge Wrens are very tiny and secretive and very few have been captured and banded anywhere in the US. It wasn’t until after we had caught them that Dana let us know that there had only been 14 of this species ever banded in Missouri! When we returned to the site two mornings later, we didn’t even hear any Sedge Wrens – they had already moved on! 

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