by Doug Miller

President’s notebook:
Even December is Birding Season!

— by John Besser

As the days get shorter and the weather gets colder, many birds have moved on to warmer climes to spend winters with their tropical relatives and many Missouri birders have moved back inside to get re-acquainted with their families. But even in this ‘SAD’ time of the year, there are plenty of opportunities to spend quality time with the birds, and with the Audubon family:

On Saturday, December 15th, CAS holds our biggest birding event of the year, the Christmas Bird Count. The CBC has been an Audubon tradition for more than a century and a CAS tradition for about half of that time. Columbia usually produces the largest pool of CBC volunteers in Missouri, as well as one of the highest species tallies. This event goes forward rain (or freezing rain, or snow, or sleet, or bitter cold, or howling winds…) or shine. Results of decades of Christmas counts from hundreds of count circles has proven to be a treasure trove of ‘citizen-science’ data for scientists tracking changes in abundance and distribution of North American birds.

But it is really the camaraderie of birding with old friends in a familiar piece of the count circle that makes it so popular. To top off a day of bird-counting, we will gather for a pot-luck chili dinner (6 PM, at the Community of Christ Church on Fairview Road) to share stories of the day’s sightings and to merge counts into the official totals for the Columbia CBC circle.

Birders of all levels of ability are welcome to join the Christmas count — in the field, in your car, or at home watching the backyard feeders with hot cocoa in hand! If you haven’t already signed up for this year’s count, contact CBC organizer Laura Hillman (

After the CBC, most of us will really head indoors for the holidays, but come New Year’s Day, the urge to start the 2019 year-list will be strong, and Rock Bridge State Park is organizing four ‘First Day’ hikes for January 1. For more details visit

CAS will be leading the First Day bird walk on the Karst Trail. I hope I see you there — and at the Christmas Count!

John Besser
CAS President

Christmas Bird Count

The Christmas Bird Count will be held on Saturday, December 15 this year. The 13 areas that make up a circle surrounding Columbia will be surveyed by members of CAS and other interested birders. The teams will spend most of the day out in the field, some starting before day break. In the evening everyone will converge upon the annual Chili Supper where — one by one — each team will call off the number of each species they found and the computer will tally the number of robins, the number of blue birds, etc. — leading to a final total of all birds found. The data is then sent to the National Audubon Society where it’s compared with nearly 60 years of data previously collected by CAS. The data can also be compared to other areas of the US. However, the competition between the 13 areas the night of the Chili Supper may be the most exciting. The count is open to all interested birders. To potentially get a spot on a team email your name and phone number to Laura Hillan at so she can match you up with a team needing more members. The Chili Supper — open to everybody — begins at 6 p.m. at Fairview Road Community of Christ Church, 1111 S. Fairview Road in Columbia. Table service and hot and cold drinks will be provided.

November board meeting unofficial summary

Official meeting minutes will be posted to the website after approval at each subsequent board meeting, meaning they are delayed from immediate publication. Below is an unofficial summary of business discussed on November 14, 2018.  Please contact a board member with any questions.

November 2018 Board Meeting Unofficial Summary

Official meeting minutes will be posted to the website after approval at each subsequent board meeting, meaning they are delayed from immediate publication. Below is an unofficial summary of business discussed on Nov. 14, 2018. Please contact a board member if you have questions.

Treasurer’s Report

Board members discussed management of existing funds.

CoMoGives Report

The annual CoMoGives fund drive for area nonprofits will begin on Giving Tuesday, Nov. 27, and continue through Dec. 31. The CAS goal this year is $8,000. Copies of the “Giving Guide” booklet and are available to distribute to friends and neighbors. A postcard appeal will be mailed to Audubon members and past supporters in early December.

CAS 60th Anniversary Celebration

The celebration committee has reserved space at the Boone County Historical Society for a gathering on Friday, April 26, John James Audubon’s birthday, and confirmed the appearance of Audubon “enactor” Brian Fox at educational events on Saturday. Fox will present a program for children at the Columbia Public Library on Saturday afternoon, April 27; the program is co-sponsored by CAS and the library. He will also provide a program at Fairview School that morning, and perhaps lead a nature walk at Columbia Audubon Nature Sanctuary (CANS) for Audubon members. CAS and the library will each pay half of his $1,000 fee. The celebration committee is working to find additional sponsors for the events. John Besser and Bill Mees are reviewing files of CAS historical information.

Christmas Bird Count (CBC)

Laura Hillman reported that she has contacted area coordinators for the Dec. 15 Christmas Bird Count but hasn’t had much response. She believes most coordinators are continuing. Board members discussed potential count coordinator vacancies and replacements. Board members discussed the possibility of using E-Bird lists to input the count data, but Laura said the data needs to remain in the standard CBC format. John Besser has discussed arrangements for the CBC chili dinner with Lori Hagglund, who coordinated the event in the past. He will circulate the food signup sheet.

CHAT & Membership

Doug Miller will compile the December Chat for Eric Reuter. Submit articles to Doug by Nov. 25. Doug provided CAS information cards and encouraged board members to continue distributing them.


John Besser suggested deferring this topic until there is adequate time for discussion.

  • Board members discussed whether or not CAS should have a formal process for awarding grants to young birders to attend educational programs and how to make it known that CAS is interested in supporting young birders, noting that it is difficult for CAS to identify students with need. It was suggested that CAS try to connect students with bird and nature programs and consider listing summer education opportunities on the CAS website. Doug Miller suggested spending most of CAS’ education funds to support students with need, but also setting aside an amount for students who approach the organization for a grant to attend a program.
  • Lottie Bushmann reported that no teachers have applied for the Hog Island Audubon Camp scholarship. She recommended extending the application period through January. She has sent information about the scholarship to all schools in the CAS membership area.
  • Bill Mees reported attending a meeting where Mike Szydlowski, Columbia Public Schools science coordinator, and teachers, including all Fairview School teachers, discussed “place-based education” and the “nature school” concept. Fairview teachers and teachers involved in the Teton Science School program have taken a field trip together at CANS and discussed the educational opportunities it offers. The place-based focus will start with fourth and fifth graders this spring and then expand to other grades in the next school year.
  • Bill Mees provided a summary of expenses for the 2018 Band with Nature program and reported the program cost $1.72 per student. Missouri River Bird Observatory waived most of their usual fee.
Nature Areas-CANS:
  • John Besser and Bill Mees reported that the Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) is working with local police and fire departments to establish common understanding and practices for prescribed burns. MDC is asked to do prescribed burns, but because timing and conditions are critical, the agency isn’t able to manage all needed burns. MDC is trying to train more people, so more fires are done.
  • John and Bill have conducted a site inspection at CANS with MDC staff Ann Koenig (forester) and Ryan Leuchenhoff (private land specialist) and prepared a written report. The MDC staff provided good advice about managing the nature area and were complimentary about what CAS has done on the site. They emphasized the need for prescribed fire on the prairie acreage but acknowledged that fire management will be difficult. Because smoke and public health would be concerns with fire management, they suggested that periodic mowing be considered as an alternative, or supplement, to burning. John said that MDC’s current efforts to facilitate managed burns and work with local police and fire departments might make fire management easier for CAS.
  • Bill will work with John and Allison Vaughn to prepare a Missouri Bird Conservation Initiative grant to start preparing additional ground for prairie seeding. CAS will partner with Columbia Public Schools on this project. Plans are to have students collect seed on the existing prairie and spread it on the new ground. Bill said the effort would require about $3,000 of the $5,000 remaining in the original prairie restoration donation; he will have more specific budget information at the next meeting.
  • Field Trips: Eric W reviewed the upcoming field trip locations and leaders.
  • National Audubon Conservation Ranching Program: John Besser has met with National Audubon representative Roger Still to discuss the organization’s efforts to promote bird-friendly beef production on grasslands in the Great Plains. Beef raised on ranches that participate in program has an Audubon certification label. Missouri has one participating ranch, and certified beef is available locally at the Root Cellar. John said at present CAS doesn’t have an event that could feature the program or the product.

Get ready for the January book discussion

In January, CAS will be leading a public book discussion about Seattle-based author and researcher John M. Marzluff’s 2014 book Welcome to Subirdia. Now is a great time to buy or borrow a copy (the library has two) and get started on this interesting book about biodiversity in urban areas. We hope you’ll join us in January prepared with questions, comments, and ideas inspired by the book.

Supporting CAS

Carrying out our mission through education, conservation, and outreach takes a wide variety of resources, from the valued time of dedicated volunteers to the financial support of members and donors. We welcome and appreciate all participants and supporters of our work through their generous donations of time, money, or other resources.

Submitting material to The Chat

The Chat is published online on the first of every month from September through May. Submissions are welcome, including photographs, stories, and suggestions for content; please contact News Editor Eric Reuter. The submission deadline is the evening of the 25th of each month.