by Joanna Reuter

The “Sightings” column is a new addition to The Chat, and one that I plan to make a regular feature. It will highlight a sampling of interesting bird observations made since the prior newsletter, with emphasis on the six-county region (Audrain, Boone, Cooper, Howard, Monroe, Randolph) served by the Columbia Audubon Society. If you see an interesting behavior, encounter an unusual species, notice unusually high or low populations of a species, get a great photo or audio recording, or otherwise have something interesting to share, please send an email to me (Joanna Reuter). Reports can (and preferably should) be brief; alternatively, simply send me a link to an eBird list if it contains comments explaining the observation.

  • Swainson’s Warbler, Grindstone Park, May 4-27. Originally found by CAS President John Besser, this bird represented the first record for this species in Boone County. Its normal Missouri habitat is along Ozark rivers with stands of cane, but this individual’s migration took it to a non-standard location where the probability of attracting a mate was near zero. Many birders, however, flocked to the site (and some of us wondered why this bird had to choose a park full of rambunctious off-leash dogs). eBird list
  • Ruff, Eagle Bluffs, May 21. Unrelated to the canine vocalizations encountered by birders seeking the Swainson’s Warbler, this is actually a shorebird primarily associated with Eurasia–so much so that it cannot be found in Cornell’s Birds of North America, which restricts its coverage to North American breeding birds. Ruffs visit North America now and then, but infrequently enough to be cause for excitement. This individual, very probably a female (but it is not possible to be certain: Ruff biology is fantastically bizarre), was found by Pete Monacell and Diane Bricmont. Thanks to their rapid communication of information to the birding community, quite a few others were able to see this bird, as well. For a full account of the find, see the latest issue of The Bluebird. eBird list
  • Eastern Phoebe bill click, Chert Hollow Farm, May 13. When I think of bird sounds, I mostly think of vocalizations, but mechanical sounds are also possible (think woodpecker drumming). One I wasn’t aware of until this summer was the Eastern Phoebe’s bill click, in which the bird creates a harsh warning sound by rapidly and repeatedly snapping its bill shut. A parent of recently fledged young used a bill-click and dive-bomb combination as a scare tactic when Eric or I inadvertently walked too close to the recent fledglings. I made this recording, in which the bill clicks show up as a series of vertical lines within the first second of the recording:

  • Mississippi Kites, Columbia, summer. Record numbers of Mississippi Kites were seen in Columbia this summer. These birds now nest here, a result of range expansion over the past couple of decades. Read more about Mississippi Kites in an article by Mary Nemecek on p. 32-33 of the magazine of the Conservation Federation of Missouri (an organizaion of which CAS is a member).
  • Shorebird migration, Missouri River bottomland mud flats, late summer. Early summer flooding gave way to late summer mud flats, and late summer mud flats are good for shorebirds. The MOBIRDS listserv has been full of chatter about shorebirds at Eagle Bluffs and the Hartsburg bottoms, among other locations.
  • Interaction between swallows and Eastern Wood-Pewee, Chert Hollow Farm, August 24. On a lovely, cool August morning (!), a group of presumably migrating swallows appeared over our house and orchard around 9:10 a.m. and continued to hunt for well over an hour. Whether it was a single group that stayed here for that duration or a conveyor belt of swallows that slowly moved over, I couldn’t tell. Numbers ebbed and flowed, with peak one-time counts of around 30 swallows (mostly Barn, a few Cliff, perhaps others?). One thing that was clear: An Eastern Wood-Pewee who had claim to this territory was none-too-pleased about the pass-through swarm of aerial bug eaters. Eric and I saw it fly at and squabble with various swallows, at times appearing to “lock talons” with individual swallows that flew too close to the Pewee’s perch. At one point, as the Pewee took a perch more central to the orchard, I heard a bill click similar to that made by an agitated Eastern Phoebe. The swallows finally moved along, and I went on with my day, curious about the short-term effects on the Pewee’s food supply. eBird list