Spring Ephemerals at Beckemeier C.A. – 2021

In my 15 or so years of paying attention to important things like this, I have never seen spring ephemerals having a better year than this one. Places within the St. Louis metro area, such as Englemann Woods Natural area and Beckemeier Conservation Area are loaded with wildflowers right now. Whether this is because of the cool and mild spring we have been having so far, or some other reasons, I don’t know. Here are a few photos taken this week at Beckemeier C.A. I hope you get out to enjoy these yourself.

Snow Trillium (Trillium nivale)

Many thanks to Casey Galvin for showing me these little guys. Snow trillium are the first trillium to bloom in Missouri and one of the first blooming wildflowers in the state. Potentially being found in bloom with snow on the ground, snow trillium begins blooming in mid-March. Photographed at Battle of Athens State Historic Site on 20, March, 2021.

Frosty St. Francois Mountains

A bluff face covered in ice along the the Little St. Francis

A few images from our recent deep freeze. Casey and I visited the St. Francois Mountains and collected some images along the Little St. Francis River and Little Rock Creek.

Nice shelf ice formed along the river. Hip boots and metal cleats, along with thinking about where you step, are all recommended.

Looking down river

Looking upstream, the ice-shrouded bluffs (~125 feet tall) can be seen through the trees.

A close up look at the frosted bluff face of this rugged river bed.

Finally, a small, ice-crowned shut-in along Little Rock Creek. More interesting shut-ins are found further upstream but those will have to wait for another day.

-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