A trip to Riverlands Migratory Bird Sanctuary last weekend paid off. I crossed paths with this juvenile Merlin, my first of this season, three different times. In this instance I had my camera prepared. He kindly perched long enough that I could swap for the 2X teleconverter. I think the 2X performed pretty well in this perfect light, but heat distortion was a major problem on this cool but sunny day.
Just a few of my favorite Goldeneye shots from RMBS this season.
Until next time…
With everyone on Facebook posting their great photos of our Thanksgiving Snipe, I thought I would go ahead and process and share before they got lost and forgotten for months. The photo above is, in my opinion, the most pleasing way of capturing a shore bird. The back of most shore birds are often their most colorful and patterned side. I like to try and capture the from behind with their head turned so to see their eye and the length/shape of their bill.
I did not bring a wider lens on this morning, but I wish that I had. I counted 17 Snipe within a pretty close distance of each other in a section of sweet and soft mud.
In the image above one can imagine the depth they can get with those lance-like bills as they probe the mud for invertebrates. Check out the video below to get an idea of how these guys feed.
Typically found in warmer coastal waters of the Americas, St. Louis birders were in for a treat by the visit of this Brown Pelican that arrived about a month ago.
The bird has been seen consistently and may stick around at RMBS for the rest of the summer.
Unfortunately, these photos were strongly affected by heat wave distortion that was prominant on this clear day.
Thanks for stopping by.
Missouri is home to three giant white swan species that can be difficult to distinguish without a bit of training or education. All three swans belong to the genus Cygnus and rank among the largest waterfowl on the planet. The first species we will consider is the Trumpeter Swan (C. buccinator). Ranked as both the largest waterfowl species in the world and the largest flying bird of North America, the Trumpeter Swan is considered a conservation success. Beginning in the 1600s the birds were collected for their meat, skins and feathers. This unregulated slaughter lasted until the passage of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, which provided the species some protection. Their population rebounded from a level as low as 32 birds documented in 1932 to 15,000 – 20,000 estimated today. Trumpeter Swans only winter in Missouri, spending their summer nesting season from the upper great plains up to Alaska. As many as 600 birds have been counted at Riverlands Migratory Bird Sanctuary during a winter season.
The Tundra Swan (C. columbianus) are more widespread across North America compared to its larger relative, the Trumpeter. And, although they far outnumber the Trumpeter in total population, the Trumpeter is actually the more abundant winter resident in Missouri. For reasons unknown, this winter we have seen an unusually high number of the comparatively rare Tundra, giving birders something to be excited about.
In single species groups, especially at a distance, the two species can be challenging to tell apart. However, when seen up close and spaced closely together, the differences are more easily identified. On average, the Tundra is 1/3 to 1/2 the size of the Trumpeter. In addition the border of the black color surrounding the bill is different in the two species and the Tundra usually has a yellow spot on the lores, near the base of the bill. I’ll guide you to your favorite field guide for more specifics. With this information, can you spot the four Tundras in the image below?
Here is a closeup of the two species in flight. Easy to spot the Tundra here. Right?
It was such a treat being able to watch a group of Tundras carrying on…
Finally, our last (and quietest) of Missouri’s Cygnus – the Mute Swan (C. olor). The Mute is native to the old world and exists in North America as a naturalized resident. Still raised and sold on the captive market, the Mute is typically a year-round resident in these parts, moving only to find open water in the dead of winter. These birds are easily recognized by the large, orange-collored bills, often with a bulge at its base. I photographed this pair at Binder Lake S.P.
There you are, a quick overview of the Missouri’s white giants.
Thanks for the visit.
I was able to catch this male Kestrel hovering along a patch of grass at RMBS, hunting for insects and small rodents. Kestrels don’t always hover-hunt, but will do so when they have a good source of wind to work with, as is often the case at Riverlands.
The Goldfinch have really taken a liking to the Silphium in my garden this year. Every time I’m out there I observe at least a couple picking the seeds. The two images of this post show them with their more famous plant source, the thistle, taken this summer at RMBS.
But you can’t take the tundra out of the Pec.
On the first day of August I found myself sitting next to one of the larger field puddles in the RMBS area watching the groups of migrating Pectoral Sandpipers. These guys were probably less than a week or two outside of their nesting grounds on the arctic tundra and their hormones were still raging. I was pretty surprised by their level of territoriality on their migratory route. Maybe this is how they behave year-round, but I have not been able to confirm this in any source I can find.
Hanging around, nothing left to do but frown…