Newsletter of the Columbia Audubon Society | October 2020 | Volume 63, Number 2
I hope you got out and birded during the beautiful September weather. Fall can be difficult time for me to identify species. A lot of birds are quiet and have a different color than in the spring. I’ve trained myself to look for motion in trees, but the falling leaves can distract me from finding birds. We’re fortunate to have a lot of different habitats in the area to find birds.
Please welcome Shelby Thomas as our new membership chair. Shelby takes over from Doug Miller who is now the board secretary. Thanks to Doug for his many years of service as membership chair.
Another big thank you to the eight people who cleaned out the old workshop building and removed the red shed at Wild Haven on September 19th.
Save the date: National Audubon Society rules mandate that we wait until at least November 15th before choosing the option of having a Christmas Bird Count . I just wanted to give you a heads up that if we do decide participate this year, the date is Saturday, December 19th.
There are some interesting articles in the 2020 MoBCI newsletter which you can download from https://mobci.net/. You may also want to take a look at the Missouri Bird Conservation Plan. There are two parts, the technical section: https://mdc.mo.gov/sites/default/files/downloads/MOBirdConservationPlanTech.pdf and the outreach section: https://mdc.mo.gov/sites/default/files/downloads/MOBirdConservationPlanOutreach.pdf
Tricia Burkhardt, interim director of Missouri Conservation Heritage Foundation, asked that I share an on-line bird print auction with CAS members. The proceeds go to migratory bird projects. To participate, go to https://www.igavelauctions.com/auctions/missouri-conservation-foundation-bird-prints-auction. The auction ends on October 8th.
If you missed Pete Monacell’s talk on using eBird, you can watch it at https://youtu.be/JtlzHT2eJ8w.
As a follow up to my comment during the question and answer period of Pete’s talk on using eBird for your personal sightings, use the Explore My Sightings List feature on the website. This feature allows you to sort by location, date and species. For example, if you want to create an Eagle Bluffs lifelist, you would click on Sightings list, then click on the World tab (it’s at the top of the page and is the default). Under the Your Location field, enter Eagle Bluffs CA and it will create the list for you. In addition to creating lists for personal locations, this feature is also used for making country, state and county lists.
If you want a list for Eagle Bluffs for just 2020, follow the steps above for choosing a location and then click on the All years tab and change the year to 2020. Be sure to click on the Set custom time period button. You would also use the All Years tab to create list of birds you’ve seen on a specific date such as Christmas—just choose December 25th as the date.
You can also use the Sightings List feature to find where you’ve seen a specific species. Click on the All species tab and enter the name of the species.
You can use any combination of location, date and species to create the checklists you want. If you have questions, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
My name is Brady Lichtenberg and I am a wildlife biologist for MDC, and the area manager of Eagle Bluffs Conservation Area. I earned my BS in fisheries and wildlife sciences in 2016. I have been an employee of MDC since 2012, and have been at Eagle Bluffs since 2016. As many of you know, in the late spring of 2019 most of the Missouri River floodplain was impacted my extreme flooding. While river levels did not reach that of the 1993 flood, the duration of the flooding was unprecedented. We began taking on water over top of our river protection levees on May 23 and were not able to drive down the main gravel road again until July 7. The flood caused a fair amount of infrastructure damage across the area. We had to re-grade, fill and gravel many washed out roads, one levee along Perche Creek sloughed off into the creek that will require realignment of that whole section of levee, and one section of levee breeched which will also require extensive repairs. The flood also caused a major change in the native plant communities across the area. The parts of the area that are at a lower elevation that used to be host to mainly perennial emergent marsh plant species (cattails, bulrush, buttonbush, etc.) were replaced with annual plants. The areas that typically grow a diverse mix of annual grasses and broadleafs were replaced by a sea of grasses and sedges. In a nutshell, the flood gave us a “blank canvas” and the opportunity to manipulate areas in different ways to encourage the most diversity possible across the area.
Because of the changes the flood caused, we noticed some interesting changes in the ways waterfowl were using certain parts of the area relative to the typical year. One major driver of this change was the complete lack of production agriculture across the area. On normal years, portions of the area are cash rented to permittee farmers who grow corn and soybeans for a living. While they do harvest most of the crops they grow, we work with them very closely and have them leave patches of crops standing in locations that we can later flood to provide additional food for wildlife. Corn in particular is a very attractive food source to migrating ducks and geese, so on years where we are able to grow and flood corn it almost acts as a giant magnet, pulling waterfowl in from all across the area. Because there was not flooded corn on Eagle Bluffs last year, birds were much more spread out across the area spending a lot of their time feeding on the much more nutritionally beneficial native moist soil plant seeds, tubers, and the insects those plants attract.
Once spring waterfowl migration came to an end we found ourselves in a cool, wet spring. Rains every few days and high river levels causing higher than average water levels across the area made for a nicely set stage for the upcoming shorebird migration. As the early spring wore on we did our best to monitor water levels very closely and allow them to very slowly recede, opening up many acres of mudflats for northbound shorebirds. The large amount of habitat and cooperative weather fronts made for a diverse and long-lasting spring shorebird migration.
As I’m sure many of you know, we have two bald eagle nests on Eagle Bluffs. While the southern-most nest successfully raised one eaglet (who has now fledged and seems to be doing well), the centrally located nest was unsuccessful this year. There has been a lot of speculation as to the cause of the nesting failure, but we do not have any concrete evidence of what actually caused it. In the future, our staff will post signs in hopes that it will keep visitors from causing disturbance around the nests and hope for the best.
One interesting series of projects that we do on Eagle Bluffs every year is trapping and banding Canada geese, mourning doves, and wood ducks. In the case of the Canada geese, we wait until they are molting their flight feathers in early Summer, then set up a large corral net style trap and coax them into it. For wood ducks we bait them onto dry land in the late summer then use a rocket propelled net to catch them. Doves are a little easier, as we use sunflower seed as bait and set a trap made of wire mesh with funnel shaped doors over top the pile of seed in mid-Summer. The doves walk into the trap following the trail of seed, then can’t get back out the door. In all instances, we gather age and sex data on each individual, crimp a loose-fitting aluminum band with a unique number sequence on their leg, and let them go. Each band also has information on how to report a recovered band. This data is used to estimate survival, reproduction rates, population sex ratios, dispersal distances, and to set harvest limits and season dates for hunting.
As of now, the upcoming fall and spring waterfowl migration looks promising. As a whole, the reproductive grounds in the north-central US and central Canada are wetter than average, meaning more quality habitat for brood rearing. Unfortunately, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, along with most states had to cancel their survey flights this spring where most of the data for yearly population estimates is collected; it’s fairly safe to connect the dots between abundant quality habitat and increased reproductive success. Our habitat on Eagle Bluffs is in good shape with plenty of food that will be available to migrants when they arrive. These factors, coupled with Canada’s currently closed border to U.S. visitors will greatly decrease the number of waterfowl harvested in early Fall before they have a chance to make their way down to Missouri.
If you ever have questions, comments, or concerns about anything Eagle Bluffs-related, please feel free to call my office at 573-445-3882 or send me an email at Brady.Lichtenberg@mdc.mo.gov
On 3 Sep. 2020, following the advice and directions from CAS member John Besser, I went to Wild Haven Nature Area to look for birds and butterflies. It was a very pleasant morning when I arrived at 9:30 and mostly quiet except for the calls of a few local permanent resident bird species. I was able to spot two spot mixed-species flocks of birds: One had a basic plumaged adult male Golden-winged Warbler (GWWA) and a Red-eyed Vireo. I was lucky enough to get a photo of the GWWA but not the vireo. Later I found another small flock with a basic plumaged female
Chestnut-sided Warbler (CSWA) and a Yellow-bellied Flycatcher (YBFL). I was able to get a photo of the CSWA but not the flycatcher despite getting good enough looks to identify to species. As typical for the species, YBFL are almost always observed high up in a shaded understory and just below the tree canopy so getting a good photo of one in the fall has been an exceptional challenge for me. Later, I found a juvenile Cedar Waxwing following two adults so I was confident that the species bred somewhere on the preserve.
Just as interesting to me were the butterflies. I did see very common species such as Eastern-tailed Blue, Red-spotted Purple, Common Buckeye, Spicebush Swallowtail, and Pear Crescent. The highlight for me, however, was observing and photographing (much less challenging than photographing birds!) two of my favorite butterflies: Northern Pearly-eye and Gemmed Satyr. The Pearly-eye is a gorgeous, common species observed late summer and early fall and almost always in dappled sunlight in shaded woods. Once they flush, they fly off in a rather jerky, skippy movement but soon settle down where it is usually east to get a photograph. They get their name from the spots on the underside of their wings that makes it look like 10-12 eyes are looking at you! Unlike many butterflies that obtain nectar from flowers, the favorite foods of the adults are oozing tree sap, rotting fruit, carrion, and dung.
The most interesting find was most definitely the Gemmed Satyr. This gorgeous, medium-sized butterfly occupies the same habitat as the Northern Pearly-eye but it is noticeably smaller and takes much shorter, fluid flights once flushed. This is a species that continues to expand its range north, possibly due to climate change. The species is now found in a line from St. Louis to Kansas City. In now occurs in the Columbia area and Wild Haven is the 3rd spot I have photographed the species in Boone County (the other two being Rockbridge State Park and a private residence SSE of Deer Park). This species gets its name from the ovoid, purplish gray and cream-colored patch that contains two small, metallic blue and silver spots- these little “gems” are iridescent in sunlight. Its food sources are identical to those of the Northern Pearly-eye.
So when birding is slow, spend a little time glassing the butterflies that flutter past your position. It is a world that once you enter, it is hard to leave!
The fall migration is amazing for birdwatching, but can be deadly to many birds. Millions of avian deaths occur each year due to birds colliding with windows and other reflective surfaces during their migration. To help ensure a safe journey, the Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) encourages people to make small changes at their home or office to prevent window strikes.
“Birds are a marvel. Each year, some migrate thousands of miles to warmer climes and back again in the spring,” said MDC State Ornithologist Sarah Kendrick. “It is always a pity to see that a window, of all things, is the sad end to millions of birds each year, whether migratory or resident.”
Kendrick explained that if a bird has struck a window at a home or office, it is a problem window that reflects either sky or vegetation that a bird believes is a pass-through. Breaking up that reflection can help the bird see it better and know it is an obstacle.
People can place stickers to the exterior side of windows to break up the reflection. Silhouettes placed indoors may be obstructed during certain times of day by glare or outdoor reflections, so breaking up the reflection on the outside of the window is key.
“Many believe that to make their windows bird-safe, they have to completely obstruct their view, but that’s just not the case anymore,” Kendrick explained. “There are many solutions out there today that break up the reflection for our birds in a muted way that still allows for a great view.”
There are numerous products available to prevent bird strikes. The American Bird Conservancy’s Bird-Friendly Windows page offers suggestions at https://abcbirds.org/program/glass-collisions/bird-friendly-window-solutions/.
If a bird has struck a window and is disoriented or stunned, it could need a moment to recover. While the bird is especially vulnerable, bringing pets indoors while it can recover undisturbed is recommended.
Missouri’s conservation partners are doing their part to prevent window strikes in the state’s urban areas. Missouri River Bird Observatory’s Director Dana Ripper is coordinating the BirdSafeKC project with Burroughs Audubon Society.
“Certainly no one designs structures to needlessly kill birds and there are a number of cost-effective options for significantly reducing these accidents,” Ripper noted. “In addition to saving many migrants, this is a great opportunity for owners and management companies to inspire others by showing their concern for our native Missouri songbirds.”
Those who have problem windows at home or at a business are encouraged to contact email@example.com to discuss solutions.
“Many of our birds are in steep decline across North America,” Kendrick commented. “Preventing window strikes is just one small change that we can make in our daily lives right now – cheaply – that will collectively make a huge impact for birds over the long-term.”
To learn more ways to help bird populations, visit 3billionbirds.org.
The Conservation Federation of Missouri (CFM) has been the “Voice for Missouri Outdoors” for the last 85 years. They house the newly redesigned Legislative Action Center (LAC) where Missourians can make an account to learn who their legislators are, stay up to date on conservation-related legislation, and have the opportunity to easily contact their elected officials about the legislation.
An issue that has been on CFM’s radar for many years is the selling of the new Eleven Point State Park. An Oregon County judge recently ordered that 625 acres of the park must be sold or transferred. Read more here. CFM has been actively tracking and responding to legislation on the issue, testifying at hearings, and encouraging citizens to stay engaged and write to their representatives. Sign up for the LAC to stay informed, and consider participating in their upcoming Legislative Discussion on October 8th to learn how you can become more involved. Another way to learn more about being an active citizen advocate is attending Missouri River Bird Observatory’s upcoming workshop on October 15th and 17th.
‘Tis the season to be an informed voter and make sure you have your plan to vote on, or by November 3rd! There are many great resources to learn about candidates and issues in your area, one being CFM’s candidate list. They sent a questionnaire about current conservation topics to all candidates on Missouri ballots, and the ones that responded are included on their site.
In summary: what can YOU do?
– Sign up for the Legislative Action Center at http://confedmo.org/lac
– Register to vote by October 7th here and learn about your voting options and make your plant to vote on, or by, November 3rd
– Learn more about engagement by signing up for CFM’s Legislative Discussion webinar and MRBO’s Citizen Advocacy workshop
Saturday, October 17
October 17 | 2:00pm-4:00pm
Wednesday, November 18 | 7pm