Newsletter of the Columbia Audubon Society | January 2021 | Volume 63, Number 5

Fri. Jan. 1, 2021

Note from the President

by Jim Gast

Happy New Year and welcome to 2021. One of the things my wife and I have been doing on New Year’s Day is recording the first bird we see of the year. Sometimes it’s a challenge. In 2018,  the temperature was -7° F when we started our feeder count. The first bird we saw was a Mourning Dove.  I wonder what our first bird will be this year.

Speaking of Mourning Doves, I saw a street sign for “Morning Dove Dr.” off South Rolling Hills Road and had to chuckle.

January Meeting Focuses on Grassland Birds 

Join us for the regular CAS monthly meeting—via ZOOM, of course—on Wednesday, January 20th, at 7:00 p.m. Paige Witek, education coordinator with the Missouri River Bird Observatory, will present a program on grassland birds, some of our most vulnerable species. She will talk about MRBO’s Grassland Birds Monitoring Project and why the work is so important, as well as focus on a few species of grassland birds. We’ll send the Zoom meeting link by email to Columbia Audubon members about a week in advance.This is just the first several great “virtual” programs we have planned for 2021—stay tuned and ZOOM in.

CoMoGives Update

We surpassed our goal of raising $10,000 through the annual CoMoGives campaign. A  BIG thank you to the 109 people who donated $12,350. A special thank you to our CoMoGives committee led by Jan Mees and including Bill Mees, Doug Miller, Nancy Bedan and Lori Hagglund. Another thank you to Lottie Bushmann and Allison Vaughn, who in addition to the committee members, wrote information sent in the emails during the campaign. I’d also like to thank Betsy Garrett for providing the bluebird photo that was on the postcard. We need a new chair for the 2021 campaign. If you are interested, please contact me at

Christmas Bird Count

Columbia Audubon held its Christmas Bird Count on Saturday, December 19th. Two of the highlights included over 100 Turkey Vultures at Capen Park and 6 Short-eared Owls at Bradford Farm. Thanks to Laura Hillman, John Besser and Allison Vaughn for organizing and compiling and to all who participated. The full results are included in this month’s The Chat.

Where the Birds Are

There are two easy ways to track where people are seeing birds in Missouri. Sign up on the Missouri Birding Society’s (MBS) MoBirds listserv at and sign up for eBird Alerts.

Members of the listserv also provide identification help and give locations where to bird. The listserv serves as an important avenue to receive information from MBS including upcoming events, CACHE and SPARKS updates and webinars.

To sign up for eBird alerts, log into your account and click on the MANAGE MY Alerts on the left-hand side of the page.  You can choose ABA Rarities, Rare Bird Alerts and Needs Alerts.  The ABA Rarities choice is for the whole ABA area (generally the United and States and Canada with some other places); whereas the other two allow you to specify a particular region. You can also decide whether you want to receive the alerts daily or hourly and if you only want an alert for the current year.  I am subscribed to three alerts: Year Needs Missouri (daily), Year Needs Boone County (daily) and Needs Boone County (hourly).

Fri. Jan. 1, 2021

Columbia’s 2020 Christmas Bird Count is a Success!

by John Besser

Saturday, December 19 dawned clear and sunny, providing a lift for the dozens of birders who rose early to participate in the CAS Christmas Bird Count. Unfortunately, the day soon turned overcast, humid, and cold, making the day difficult  for both birds and birders. Despite the unpleasant weather, eBird checklists rolled in steadily throughout the day and by Sunday evening we had received 122 checklists from our 15-mile count circle (Figure 1).

Our final species list reached 96, with a total of 52,413 birds counted (Table 1). Neither total was exceptionally high for this count. Few rarities were found, a few expected species were missed, and we did not find the enormous flocks of blackbirds that have swollen some previous CBC tallies. Half of our count consisted of over 25,000 Mallards! Numbers of other waterfowl were relatively low, but counts of Snow Geese, Canada Geese, Gadwalls, and Green-winged Teal all exceeded 1,000. Songbirds that exceeded the 1,000 mark were European Starlings, Red-winged Blackbirds, Dark-eyed Juncos, and the reliable Northern Cardinals. This year’s irruption of winter finches was represented  by almost 500 Pine Siskins and greater than usual numbers of  Purple Finches.

The Columbia CBC benefits from our large pool of skilled  birders wiling to bird under unfavorable conditions. The 12 count areas in our count averaged  10 checklists representing over 12 party-hours for each area (Figure 2). All these totals are presumably lower than normal because of the Covid-19 pandemic. The result of all this birder effort is that we got remarkably good coverage of our count circle. Seven of our 12  count areas had between 47-50 species (Figure 3). Of course, not all birding areas are created equal, and no other area came close to  the 73 species and over 25,000 birds reported  for Area 5 (Eagle Bluffs and environs).

As expected, Area 5 also had the longest list of species that were not  found in any other area — 13 species, consisting mainly of waterfowl (Table 2). But several other areas also had unique species, including special finds like six (!) Short-eared Owls at Bradford Farm (1S); less-glamorous finds like Black Vultures (2N) and Brown-headed Cowbirds (1N); and species that are usually present during relatively warm weather, like Eastern Towhee (1S; a ‘count-week’ bird), Brown Thrasher(8), and Marsh Wren (6).

We think the CBC was a big success, despite the limitations posed by the pandemic. Many thanks are  due to the legion of CAS volunteers! We wish everyone a Happy New Year with  good health and good birding!

Fri. Jan. 1, 2021

CAS Board Meeting Highlights for December 16, 2020

by Douglas Miller

Upon review and board approval, final meeting minutes are posted to the Minutes page. Following are highlights of the unapproved minutes from the last meeting:

Motus Tower

  • The Missouri Department of Conservation sign shop will manufacture the memorial plaque for the Brad Jacobs Memorial Motus Tower with funding from the Missouri Conservation Heritage Foundation.

Nature Areas

  • In appreciation for the mowing efforts of Dean Ravenscraft and Riley Nichols at our nature areas, the board approved gift cards to help with their gas expenses.
  • During a recent excursion to Wild Haven, board members voted to approve outlining a small, unpaved parking area near the existing gate closest to the picnic shelter. This vote was reaffirmed.
  • Similarly, during the same excursion board members voted to approve $2000 to remove invasive Autumn olive within a designated area at Wild Haven. This vote was also reaffirmed.
  • Since the Wild Haven excursion, the Autumn olive removal work was completed in the designated area for $1,375, leaving an unspent amount of $625. The board approved spending the remaining amount on additional invasives removal.
  • Jean and David Neely re-sealed and re-hung the old Wild Haven sign underneath the front of the picnic shelter.

Outreach and Education

  • The deadline for the Hog Island scholarships was December 1st. There were seven applicants. The Education Committee awarded two scholarships: to Chris Laine of Madison and Tracy Fuller of Monroe City. An alternate was chosen given the uncertainty of any long-term plans during the COVID crisis. The remaining applicants were encouraged to re-apply next year. Lottie Bushmann will contact the Hog Island program to see if they can accommodate the 3 recipients postponed from last year as well as the 2 new recipients.
  • The Placed-Based Education sticker representing Columbia Audubon was presented for our review. This is a Columbia Public Schools (CPS) program that encourages teachers to incorporate place-based curriculum into their classrooms. CPS has designed a curriculum unit specific to Columbia Audubon Society, completion of which the proposed sticker is an award.


  • Nancy Bedan reports the Missouri River Bird Observatory will present a program on grassland birds for the January program. Filmmaker Tim Barksdale of Birdman Productions will present the February program. The Columbia Public Library will co-sponsor our March webinar with Sarah Kendrick, which is a program for beginning/intermediate birders who want to improve their skills during the pandemic. April will mostly likely be Ethan Duke presenting a bird song acoustics workshop (hopefully with a focus on warblers). We hope to hold the May picnic at Wild Haven.

CoMoGives Campaign

  • Jim Gast and Jan Mees appeared on radio station KFRU for 15 minutes to promote the ongoing CoMoGives fundraiser in which Columbia Audubon Society is participating. At the time of the broadcast, 59 donors had donated $5,990. (As of the conclusion of the fundraiser, CAS raised $12,350 from 109 donors)


  • Edge Wade, author of the 2007 version of the CAS by-laws, spoke with other Audubon chapters around the state and sent a draft of proposed revisions to the By-laws Committee, which includes Eric Seaman, Bill Mees and Jim Gast. The Committee will meet in late January to assemble a new draft which will be submitted to the board for review. The final board-reviewed version will be submitted to the membership for their approval.

Memorial for Garland Russell

  • The board would like to properly memorialize Garland Russell for his strong advocacy of conservation and generosity towards CAS. We will spend the next month thinking of how we might honor his memory; suggestions may be sent to Jim Gast to review at the next meeting.
Fri. Jan. 1, 2021

Activism for Bird Conservation

by Brooke Widmar, Conservation Chair

Golden Plovers pass through Missouri on their way back to the breeding grounds in the Arctic tundra.

Start off the new year speaking up for birds, and take actions to stay informed on state, national, and global issues!

According to the National Audubon Society, the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is home to over 200 bird species. While this refuge is almost 3,000 miles away from us here in Missouri, it’s critical land for a number of birds we get to enjoy during migration. One of my earliest and most favorite field trips with my old chapter was a visit to the prairies of Dade County in southwest Missouri to see American golden-plovers one spring. These small birds have the longest migration of any other species, and fly through the central U.S. on their way to the arctic from South America.

What can you do to protect important habitat for these birds, and many others?

– Through the National Audubon Society Action Center, citizens are being asked to support permanent protection for the wildlife refuge by contacting their senators through their website here.

– Add your name to the growing list of concerned citizens who are against the current administrations rushed attempt at leasing the land for drilling:

Learn more about this here

– Sign up for Audubon’s Action Network to receive alerts for bird-related advocacy opportunities:

Columbia Audubon Society is supported in part by a generous contribution from

2010 Chapel Plaza Court, Suite C • Columbia, MO 65203 • 573-446-5941

Upcoming Events

CAS January Meeting and Program on Grassland Birds with MRBO

January 20, 2021 | 7:00pm