-by Allison Vaughn
December 15th was a chilly but clear and calm day for the 2018 Christmas Bird Count. Over 45 participants fanned out across the 15 mile radius to count birds. Although the birding conditions were mild with little wind, full sun, and bearable temperatures, many participants reported that the birds were not very active. Nevertheless, we tallied 39,925 birds representing 93 species as compared to the 2017 count’s 684,754 birds of 96 species.
This year marks the first documentation of Black Vultures for the count circle with areas 2 North and 2 South each witnessing two and three Black Vultures, respectively. Throughout Missouri, birders are seeing more Red-breasted Nuthatches than in previous years. This irruption was captured in the count with 21 individuals documented, up from 4 in 2017. Area 5, centrally located at Eagle Bluffs, had views of 73 Trumpeter Swans but no White Pelicans.
At the chili supper, the annual tally party at the end of the count, participants remarked on the low numbers of birds that day. Area 1 North worked to get permission to access some new areas this year, so participants in that section were able to bird inside the fence (for the first time) at Jefferson Farms. This eased the finding of Cackling Geese among the many Canada Geese and increased the count of Eastern Meadowlarks. Also in 1 North, the only Eastern Towhee found in the entire count circle occurred at Lake George Assisted Living on Richland Road (last year, only Area 5 picked up a lone Eastern Towhee).
Despite the low overall numbers, the high count of 29 Bald Eagles was an increase from 2017’s 21. White-throated Sparrows were down from last year’s 999 individuals to 2018’s 628. Overall, participants felt that the warm weather had the birds contentedly sitting in place soaking up the sun, making it harder to find them since they were not moving.