by Joanna Reuter, editor

New Year, new events

The Columbia Audubon Society (CAS) event calendar will kick off 2020 with an afternoon First Day Hike on the Grasslands Trail at Rock Bridge Memorial State Park, in coordination with Missouri State Parks.

On January 15, the first CAS meeting of 2020 will feature State Ornithologist Sarah Kendrick. She has exciting news to share about the re-introduction of Brown-headed Nuthatches to Missouri, plus updates on the Motus tracking system and the Missouri Bird Conservation Plan. This meeting is sure to be a good one!

The field trip calendar has nothing currently scheduled for the rest of the month, as the goal is to set up trips with shorter (~5–7 days) notice based on weather forecasts and leader availability/interest. Please feel free to suggest destinations and/or volunteer to lead a trip by contacting Field Trip Chair Eric Reuter. Until decisions about field trip liability insurance can be made, the focus will be on nearby trips that do not require carpools.

Remembering Harold Anderson

by Eric Seaman

Harold Anderson passed away November 26, 2019 at the age of 79. He was the CAS Nature Areas co-leader for 16 years. The active Chimney Swift tower at Wild Haven Nature Area commemorates his contributions. A popular and award-winning chemistry and physics professor at Stephens College, Dr. Anderson was more known to Audubon members as the very hard worker you would encounter on work days. The nature areas benefited from his vigilance. When controversy occurred with tenants or management of nature areas, or angry Tree Swallows attacked him while doing nest box counting, his calm and affable personality helped restore peace.

Harold stepped down from leading the nature areas only after many years of dealing with Parkinson’s Disease. For this, too, Harold was an inspiring and brave leader to us all, showing strength and determination. He is survived by his dedicated wife, partner, and caregiver Kathleen Anderson who has served CAS as a great volunteer and Board Secretary.

Wild Haven Chimney Swift tower. Photo by Eric Seaman.

Christmas Bird Count recap

by Allison Vaughn

On December 14th, CAS hosted its 60th consecutive (and 63rd overall) Christmas Bird Count (CBC). The wind was bitterly cold in the early morning hours, but the bluebird skies allowed for great visibility for over 70 birders who fanned out across the count circle. At the subsequent chili supper, birders and area leaders met at the Fairview Christian Church to pull together all of the day’s data to add to the master spreadsheet that was projected on the screen for all to see (photo below). The total species count was 98, including a count week bird (the Anna’s Hummingbird) that member Jean Leonatti had been taking care of at her warmed feeders for all these cold weeks. In 2018, we tallied 93 species, so while some birders were audibly upset with the low numbers of birds they were seeing, this year’s count yielded more species than 2018. Here are a few summary points:

  • Black Vultures, new to Columbia in 2018, were back in low numbers in 2019 with 2 total hanging out with Turkey Vultures at Capen Park in Area 2N on the cliffs leading to Grindstone Nature Area. Area 2 North also saw 79 Turkey Vultures sunning on the cliff at Capen Park, the high count this year.
  • Missing this year—and everyone’s highlight last year—were the Red-breasted Nuthatches; in 2018 (an irruption year) we tallied 21, and in 2019, 0.
  • Area 5, which includes the KATY Trail, once again recorded the only Eastern Screech Owls on the CBC with a total of 4 (eBird list). In 2018, this area recorded 26 individuals using playback recordings.
  • Area 5 also recorded the highest numbers of Mallards, over 15K (Eagle Bluffs eBird list, Eagle Bluffs–Buck and Katy Pools eBird list), but down from 21K+ in 2018. Area 1 North saw the only Canvasback and Ring-necked Duck on the count this year (eBird list).
  • Looking over the completed spreadsheet and comparing it to 2018’s numbers, it’s nice to see that Blue Jays are really rebounding after the lows in the early 2000s due to West Nile Virus. This year, counters recorded 479 Blue Jays, down only a little from 2018’s 507 individuals.
  • The Bald Eagle numbers were up slightly from 29 in 2018 to 33 in 2019.
  • Area 5 observations set two new eBird species high counts for Boone County: Song Sparrows with a tally of 161 (eBird list) and Northern Cardinals with a tally of 101 (eBird list).

Overall, it was a nice—though naturally cold—day for birding with the high temperature only reaching 30ºF. Most counters attended the chili supper and enjoyed many different kinds of chili, including Chase Darr’s tofu-based vegetarian chili and a rich assortment of desserts.

CBC participants at the chili supper gather around the projector to tally the day’s count. Photo by Allison Vaughn.


Many thanks to our CoMoGives donors!

by Nancy Bedan, CAS CoMoGives Committee

The 2019 CoMoGives fundraiser for area non-profit organizations ended at midnight Dec. 31. Columbia Audubon participated in the fund drive for the fifth year. Although we won’t have final totals for the number of donors and dollars received until January, Columbia Audubon is very grateful to our supporters. As of December 30, we had received over  $8,500 from 85-plus online, and offline, contributors. The dollar amount was bringing us close to our ambitious 2019 goal of $10,000.

The funds received through the CoMoGives drive help support:

  • maintenance and expansion of our nature areas, including the Columbia Audubon Nature Sanctuary on Bray Avenue,
  • the Band with Nature field trip for Columbia-area second-graders, and
  • scholarships for students and teachers to attend science and nature-education programs.

Brief notes

  • Eagle Bluffs access: Hunting season is winding down at Eagle Bluffs, and full-day access will be resuming soon. Here are the details from refuge manger Brady Lichtenberg: “Most of the area roadways and levee top trails will re-open for all day access on Jan 13. The only areas that will still be off limits are the waterfowl refuge pools and the roadways and levee top trails that surround them. Those areas will re-open on Feb 7.”
  • Nature-themed films don’t often seem to be shown in movie theaters, so I was excited to see that a film called Fantastic Fungi will be showing at Ragtag Cinema for one week starting on January 11.

December board meeting unofficial summary

A special board meeting (December 18, 2019) focused on the topic of the Boone County Nature School. Nature School representatives presented information about the school, along with more details about an opportunity for CAS to make a financial contribution that would grant naming rights to a roofed gathering place, either in the style of a pavilion with a concrete floor and electricity or a more rustic “council house” facility. See this article in December’s issue of The Chat for background information, and look for more details in February’s issue of The Chat.  Official meeting minutes for November and December will be posted to the website after approval. Please contact a board member with any questions.

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 brief notes about bird or nature observations. Please contact News Editor Joanna Reuter with submissions, feedback, or suggestions for content. The submission deadline is the 25th of each month.