Winter Wren – March-2021

Winter Wren photographed at Creve Coeur Lake Park.

Winter Wren, Creve Coeur Lake Park, St. Louis Co, MO.

Winter Wren, Creve Coeur Lake Park, St. Louis Co, MO.

-OZB

 

Clarksville MO, Lock & Dam #24 – Bald Eagle – 2021

A juvenile bald eagle coming in for its prey.

We actually had a couple weeks of a deep freeze, old-fashioned winter during the 2020/2021 season. It was enough to get a lot of ice on our rivers and lakes but it didn’t seem to be quite long enough to bring the eagles into Lock and Dam #24 in big numbers. A couple friends and I tried during the last couple days of the deep freeze and although we had fewer than 12 birds, there were opportunities that made it worth our time. Here are a couple photos of a juvenile eagle (a 1.5 to 2.5 year old bird) that I captured as it came to the water to catch a fish that was stunned following its passage through the dam.

A catch!

Check back soon as I will be posting more photos of eagles and other birds that were making their living in the open waters beneath Lock and Damn #24.

-OZB

Brewer’s Duck

The Brewer’s Duck is a hybrid between a Mallard and a Gadwall

Although I cannot count it as a new species on my lists, I do believe this bird is worthy of a little attention. The “Brewer’s Duck” has been noticed for centuries, even being painted by J. J. Audubon himself. But, he called it the “Bemaculated Duck”, an apparent misspelling of the descriptor, bimaculated, meaning “marked with two spots.” The Brewer’s Duck is an intergeneric hybrid between a Mallard (Anas platyrhynchos) and a Gadwall (Mareca strepera).

This bird was originally spotted at Bush Conservation Area on February 23rd by Michelle Davis and reported via eBird and MOBIRDS. These photos were taken on February 24th.

The Brewer’s Duck is a true blending of its two-species heritage and they apparently are quite variable in appearance.

In the above photo, the blue speculum patch can be seen, coming from the Mallard. The fine lines of the Gadwall can be seen on the breast and sides. The head is a mixture of both species. Some green can be seen towards the back of the head, although this could only be seen at just the right angle to the sun. The bill is also a mix of the yellow Mallard’s and the all black Gadwall. In my opinion, the feet are more reminiscent of the color of the Gadwall’s feet.

A nice comparison of Mallard, Brewer’s and Gadwall drakes.

So far I have been unable to find out much about the Brewer’s Duck from books or internet sources and I have lots of questions. This bird seemed to mostly associate with Gadwalls. Is this common, or does it depend on which species was the mother? Does the parentage have to be directional? Are they fertile? How common are they?

Thanks for the visit!
-OZB

Missouri Bird #290

White-winged Crossbill – a northern invader

I haven’t been much focused on chasing down new birds to photograph lately, so my count for “Missouri and Contiguous States” hasn’t grown very rapidly during the past few years. With the news that a White-winged Crossbill, a bird with only a handful of records in the state, was visiting a feeder at the offices of the Missouri River Bird Observatory in Arrow Rock, MO, Sarah and I thought it worth going after.

A White-winged Crossbill taking a break between visits to the feeder.

A very cooperative bird, indeed. We stayed on the patio and watched as it came to feed underneath the feeders along with great winter species like Red-breasted Nuthatch and Purple Finches.

The remarkable White-winged Crossbill.

Hopefully this winter continues to bring the winter “invasion” even if we don’t wind up with much of a winter at all.

-OZB

Another Grafton Eastern Screech Owl

A gray morph Eastern Screech Owl examines its surroundings from the entrance to its roost tree.

This year it looks like the popular roosting tree at the Grafton, IL Visitor’s Center is playing host to this gray morph Eastern Screech Owl. I have photographed red morph individuals in previous years that were using this same cavity. You can find a few photos of those here and here. There have been reports of brown or “chocolate” morphs being found here or in another nearby location over the past couple of years, but as of yet, I have not been able to photograph that color morph.

My friend Dave and I made this visit and were fortunate to find this bird somewhat active. For a Screech Owl in the daytime, this is fortunate indeed. By “active” I simply mean it would move in and out of its tree cavity and open its eyes to have a look around once in a while.

An Eastern Screech Owl giving us a lookover.

We were told by a local constable that the name they have given the bird was “Winky,” which I find to be pretty apt for an owl. One thing we noticed during this visit is that the unobstructed viewing lanes are becoming harder to find due to the encroachment of the bush honeysuckle growth. Dave and I could only find two lanes that worked well for photography purposes. If I can confirm they do not use this cavity in the summer, I would like to return to do a little landscaping.

While we waited for the owl to return from its hiding inside the tree, we had a nice opportunity to photograph a Pileated Woodpecker that had flown in to forage among the dogwood berries.

Pileated Woodpecker eating a dogwood (Cornus sp.) berry.

Thanks for the visit and take care.
-OZB

A few nesting Missouri birds from 2020

As usual, I am woefully behind on processing images this year, probably worse than usual actually. I’ve also not put much work into birds this year, a general trend over the past few years. Too much I’m interested in and not enough time. Anyway, here is some avian miscellany from 2020 so far.

Cerulean Warbler photographed at Weldon Spring C.A.

My quest is to get the perfect Cerulean Warbler shot. These are not it, but getting closer. Better luck next year.

Cerulean Warbler photographed at Weldon Spring C.A.
Cerulean Warbler photographed at Weldon Spring C.A.

This pair of Blue-grey Gnatcatchers were also photographed this spring at Weldon Spring Conservation Area.

Blue-grey Gnatcatcher (female), Weldon Springs CA
Blue-grey Gnatcatcher (male), Weldon Springs CA

A pair of Louisiana Waterthrush were usually easy to find in a territory that the trail ran through.

Louisiana Waterthrush, Weldon Springs C.A.

This Horned Lark was found back in March at Riverlands.

Horned Lark, Riverlands Migratory Bird Sanctuary
Horned Lark, Riverlands Migratory Bird Sanctuary

I was happy to fins this Hairy Woodpecker nest this past spring, but, unfortunately, the parents never got used to my presence so I didn’t spend much time here.

Hairy Woodpecker bringing food to nest, Beckemeier Conservation Area

Back in April, Casey and I visited a hotspot for the small population of Swainson’s Hawks in Greene County. These hawks are rare in Missouri and nesting pairs are limited to the southwestern portion of the state.

Swainson’s Hawk

While waiting for more interesting subjects, Killdeer can sometimes get close enough to make it worthwhile. This one was strutting in some pretty good light.

Killdeer, RMBS

Finally, this Red-winged Blackbird was captured establishing his territory outside the Audubon Center in early spring.

Red-winged Blackbird, RMBS

-OZB

The Ruff

Ruff (Calidris pugnax)
Camera settings: f/8, 1/1000 sec., ISO-640, 1120 mm focal length equivalent.

Never have I worked so hard to get mediocre photos of such an ugly bird. The sky was clear, the air cool and this combination created a terribly turbulent atmosphere over the mud flats the bird was foraging in, making it near impossible to get the sharpness desired in a photograph.

Ruff (Calidris pugnax) Camera settings: f/5.6, 1/1250 sec., ISO-400, 1120 mm focal length equivalent.

The Ruff is a bird that is native to Eurasia, visiting North America somewhat regularly. There have been sightings of this species in Missouri and Illinois in the recent past (at least three during this spring), but this is the first one I’ve been able to track down and photograph. Josh Uffman happened to discover this bird near Riverlands Migratory Bird Sanctuary on April 18th while we were in the area. I want to thank Josh who turned on the St. Louis birding community to this special visitor from overseas.

Ruff (Calidris pugnax) Camera settings: f/8, 1/1000 sec., ISO-640, 1120 mm focal length equivalent.

The Ruff is a member of the Calidris genus of shorebirds. Local members of this group include many of the sandpipers we are familiar with, like the peeps, Dunlin and Red Knot.

Ruff (Calidris pugnax) Camera settings: f/5.6, 1/1000 sec., ISO-200, 1120 mm focal length equivalent.

I know I called this particular bird ugly earlier in the post. However, if you are not familiar, look this bird up on the internet or your favorite bird guide. The birds in breeding plumage are absolutely stunning and their behavior on leks makes them a very special bird.

Ruff (Calidris pugnax) Camera settings: f/5.6, 1/1250 sec., ISO-400, 1120 mm focal length equivalent.

These were just a few of the couple thousand or so photos of this bird taken on that day. Most were boring shots of the bird foraging in the flooded farm field. Perhaps one day I’ll be fortunate enough to see these guys on their leks.

-OZB