by Joanna Reuter
Activity continued at the blackbird roost in northern Boone County where birds numbering in the millions have been congregating each evening to roost for the night in a field of miscanthus (a tall grass that is a biomass crop). Watching the birds come in has been described by others as an “amazing experience” and a “jaw dropping spectacle”. To my knowledge, a roost of this scale has not previously been documented to persist through the full winter in central Missouri. Susan Hazelwood recently contacted the landowner (already known to her) and reported some interesting further context on MOBIRDS.
Where: An excellent viewing location is from the end of Dunbar Lane (spelled “Dun Bar” in Google maps, but “Dunbar” according to Boone County), a dead-end public road that has a good view of the field. Here’s a map link.
When: Peak activity seems to be about an hour in duration starting before sunset and continuing until darkness is setting in. We have not visited in the morning, so we are uncertain about the timing of roost departure. We do not know how long the roost will persist into the spring; birds will eventually disperse to breeding territory.
If you visit, please report what you find through eBird, MOBIRDS, and or by emailing Joanna.
Here are eBird reports that I know of from the site from February:
February was the month of the Great Backyard Birds Count and the annual Feeder Crawl Field Trip. On this year’s trip, eleven people visited seven feeders, with a minimum of 8 and a maximum of 18 species seen per location. Highlights included a great view of a Red-shouldered Hawk and a couple of Bald Eagles (though not at a feeder). One species missing from the collective list was Purple Finch; these have been present in low numbers in the region this winter compared to recent years.
Here are some photos taken in association with bird feeders in the CAS six-county region during the month of February:
This Pileated Woodpecker photo was submitted by Birgit Scherer-Wiedmeyer, who lives in southwest Columbia in an area with wooded land that is home to these impressive birds. This one is visiting her suet feeder.
There were a couple of sightings of Sandhill Cranes in the northern part of the CAS region during February. I like that this photo shows a direct size comparison between Sandhill Cranes and Trumpeter Swans. I know both species are rather large birds, yet I find I struggle to really grasp just how big swans really are. Photographic evidence of a side-by-side comparison helps.
There were a lot of great photos submitted to the Macaulay Library in the CAS six-county region this month, but the detail on this Yellow-bellied Sapsucker from Howard County won me over.
About Sightings: The “Sightings” column has evolved into a summary of the past month’s bird activity as told by photos and audio submitted via eBird lists to the Macaulay Library. Emphasis is on the six-county region (Audrain, Boone, Cooper, Howard, Monroe, Randolph) served by the Columbia Audubon Society. If desired, feel free to make direct submissions to Joanna Reuter by email.