by Eric Reuter

From the President

– by Laura Hillman, CAS President

At four o’clock on the Friday before the February book discussion, we got the email: a copy of The Genius of Birds had returned to the library! Although it was raining, we jumped in the car and headed off to get it. The e-book had only given me 50 pages so I had 300 more to read before the discussion Sunday afternoon. I diligently spent Saturday reading, then as you all know the icing started and the library closed, so no book discussion after all. The good news was that I had all Sunday to finish a very interesting book on bird behavior. The discussion has been rescheduled at the library for March 21, the day I fly to Ecuador for a birding trip! I think that a group book discussion will be a first for Columbia Audubon and I’m sorry to miss it, but I know that CAS will come up with many new ways to enjoy birds and the rest of nature. Give us more good ideas!

March meeting will be held at the Daniel Boone Regional Library

Please note that the book discussion/membership meeting will be held at the Friend’s Room of the Daniel Boone Regional Library in Columbia rather than at the usual location, though the time and date are standard: the 3rd Wednesday of the month, March 21, at 7 p.m. The board will meet at 6 p.m. the same day in the library’s conference room A.

Successful feeder crawl field trip

– by Eric Wood

The CAS GBBC Feeder Crawl started off snowy and slick and was almost cancelled. I decided to continue with the trip and see who showed up for it. I’m glad I did. We had a large turnout of 16 people with lots of regulars and a few new faces. The day stayed overcast but the roads got better quickly. We met at Songbird Station and carpooled from there to eight different houses. The birds were quite active and we had views of lots of typical yard birds as well as Pine Siskins and Purple Finches at four houses and a Yellow-bellied Sapsucker at one house. The best bird of the day was the Evening Grosbeak that has been hanging out in Columbia. A life bird for quite a few of the people in the group. There was dancing. All in all a wonderful morning with good birds and good company.

Comments on future state parks support keeping them

Back in December, The Chat reminded readers that the Missouri Department of Natural Resources was soliciting public comments on the future of three recently-acquired state park properties, as some lawmakers have supported keeping these lands closed or selling them. The results of this process are now available, and as reported by the Springfield News-Leader, are clear:

Missouri State Parks collected more than 3,200 comments about what to do with three new state parks that remain closed to the public. The message couldn’t be clearer: Don’t sell the parks. Open them to the public. And if they can’t be opened soon, preserve the land for future generations to eventually enjoy….

Of the 3,251 comments received  — from three public meetings, online surveys and other sources — 97 percent voiced strong support for keeping the land in public ownership.

You can review all comments on the DNR website.

Common southern ornamental plant can be toxic to birds

Editor’s note: Thanks to Becky Erickson and Paul McKenzie for passing along this important information.

The Arkansas Natural Heritage Commission recently reported on a a non-native species that is a growing threat to certain birds, primarily in the southern US:

As the weather begins to warm in late winter, berry-eating birds gorge on berries that are currently plentiful in order to fuel up before migrating north for the summer. As the weather begins to increase closer to the beginning of spring, the berries heat up too. The sugars in the berries ferment and the birds, having consumed large amounts of the berries, become intoxicated.

Scientists call this “fermentation toxicity” and it is common in cedar waxwings, robins (Turdus migratorius), and other berry-consuming birds. Birds under the influence may lie on the ground, smash into windows, or fly into other objects. Unfortunately, not all is merry with birds eating these berries.

The most common form of intoxication in birds in urban areas during this time of year is cyanogenesis, where berries of certain plants produce more concentrated amounts of hydrogen cyanide, which can be fatal to birds and even larger animals like dogs. Cyanogenesis is more common in urban areas due to a higher frequency of non-native ornamentals that produce more toxic berries, with the biggest culprit being nandina (Nandina domestica). Nandina is a prevalent urban ornamental evergreen plant, commonly called sacred bamboo or heavenly bamboo. This native to Japan, China, and India is often planted in the southern and southeastern U.S. because it can tolerate a wide range of soil and light conditions. Nandinas produce large quantities of bright red, showy berries in the fall that last throughout the winter.

Read the full story (linked above) for more information on this plant and its effect on bird life this time of year. For a more scientific treatment of the same subject, see the following 2010 study in the journal Veterinary Medicine International: Feeding Behavior-Related Toxicity due to Nandina domestica in Cedar Waxwings (Bombycilla cedrorum).

Heavenly bamboo is of particular concern because it has escaped cultivation in southern Missouri, raising concern that it could join the club of bush honeysuckle, multiflora rose, autumn olive, wintercreeper, Asiatic bittersweet, and a variety of other invasive plants that have vastly outgrown their welcome. Please consider the ecological consequences of landscaping choices and avoid planting heavenly bamboo.

February 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 February 21, 2018. Please contact a board member with any questions.

  • Minutes from the January 17, 2018 meeting were approved.
  • More vandalism occurred at Wild Haven Nature Area. Discussion of ways to raise this area’s profile. The May 2018 picnic will be held here and a workday scheduled in advance for cleanup.
  • CAS is obtaining bids for the planned removal of cedars from the Columbia Audubon Nature Sanctuary.
  • The February book discussion meeting was rescheduled for March 21st due to inclement weather; it will serve as the March general meeting. The April meeting may involve a presentation from the Prairie Garden Trust followed by a field trip to that location. CAS may also organize a beginning birder event this spring.
  • The positions of President, Vice-President, Secretary, and one Board Member at Large will be vacated in May 2018. Nominations for potential replacements are now open to all members.
  • CAS is offering sponsorships for young people to attend the spring Audubon Society of Missouri meeting in Arrow Rock.
  • A local Boy Scout troop is interested in working with CAS to earn Bird Study merit badges; this will be pursued.

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.