Tuesday, April 10, 2018

A Trip to Missouri - "Birdier" Than Expected!

I recently returned from a road trip to Missouri (the St. Louis area, specifically).

Why Missouri, you ask?

Well, my mom and sister, Madeline, go on short road trips during my sister's spring breaks (she's a senior in high school now). This year, Madeline wanted to go somewhere west of the Mississippi. So if they were driving, it had to be somewhere relatively close, and Missouri was farther south than some of the other options (aka slightly warmer). I try to join them when my schedule allows, and this year I am so glad I was able to come along for the adventure!

Heading to the arch

We arrived on a Wednesday and came home Saturday, so it was a quick trip. Still, we managed to do a lot of sight seeing and bird watching! We actually spent way more time outside than I had expected, and I'm grateful my family seemed to be willing to go on various 'wild goose chases' at my direction. Whenever we saw something unusual or beautiful, I felt a bit of relief, like, okay, this is worth it for them too

Overall, we saw 80 species (listed at the bottom of this page). My best bird of the trip was a Bewick's Wren, a complete surprise and new bird for me, and one of only about 4 reported records of this bird in St. Louis County! In those few days, we visited the following parks (in addition to some other sightseeing):

  • Creve Coeur Lake
  • Columbia Bottom Conservation Area

  • Forest Park in St. Louis (like the St. Louis version of Central Park, only it's way bigger)
Forest Park Healing Garden, near where we found the Bewick's Wren

  • Lone Elk Park (loveddd this park!)

  • Riverlands Migratory Bird Sanctuary
LIFER! Eurasian Tree Sparrow (R) seen at the visitor center at Riverlands
This one is next to a White-crowned Sparrow (L). Thanks for all the tips from Missouri birders!

We also did some non-birdy stuff - visited Gateway Arch, walked parts of downtown St. Louis and through Delmar Loop, walked through the National Blues Museum, saw Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery, ate at a few cool restaurants, and drove around in circles quite a bit (🤣). It was a really fun time and I'm so happy we went! And now I will probably always call pigeons "Picciones". Enjoy some of my fav pics from the trip!

Piccione Pastry in Delmar Loop
Our plates matched our personalities:
Me - Rose
Madeline - Pear
Mom - Wildflowers


American Kestrel outside the hotel
Mourning Dove through the hotel window

He and his mate

American White Pelicans in flight - there were TONS!

An American White Pelican at Riverlands Migratory Bird Sanctuary
(kind of like a Pte. Mouillee type of place)
Greater White-fronted Geese at Riverlands - thanks to the gentleman who pointed us in the right direction!

An even better view of a Greater White-fronted Goose,
And probably my fav photo of the trip - taken at Creve Coeur Lake

Elk at Lone Elk Park. What a beautiful place!

Mockingbird at Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery

And another on the beach at Creve Coeur Lake

Pileated Woodpecker feasting on something tasty, on the ground,
just to the side of the trail at Creve Coeur

One of many Red-headed Woodpeckers at Lone Elk
And another

Raptors galore - even in the city! Red-tailed Hawk scoping Delmar alleys

Snowy Egret found by my mom at Forest Park (*bravo!*)
My most exciting find of the trip! LIFER and rarity -
Bewick's Wren in Forest Park (image extracted from a video)

Eastern Phoebe on the beach at Creve Coeur Lake,
Mingling with the Yellow-rumped Warblers

So cool to see these warblers all over the beach!
Yellow-rumped Warbler, Creve Coeur Lake

Species List (and where I saw them, if not abundant)

  1. Greater White-fronted Goose (Riverlands / Creve Coeur)
  2. Canada Goose
  3. Blue-winged Teal
  4. Northern Shoveler
  5. Gadwall (Columbia Bottom)
  6. Mallard
  7. Lesser Scaup (Lone Elk)
  8. Bufflehead
  9. Hooded Merganser (Riverlands)
  10. Red-breasted Merganser
  11. Ruddy Duck
  12. Common Loon (Creve Coeur)
  13. Pied-billed Grebe (Forest Park)
  14. Horned Grebe (Creve Coeur)
  15. Double-crested Cormorant
  16. American White Pelican (sooo many!)
  17. Great Blue Heron
  18. Great Egret
  19. Snowy Egret (Forest Park - Healing Garden)
  20. Turkey Vulture
  21. Northern Harrier (Old Chain of Rocks Bridge / Riverlands Ellis Island)
  22. Cooper's Hawk (somewhere along a highway...)
  23. Bald Eagle
  24. Red-shouldered Hawk
  25. Red-tailed Hawk
  26. American Coot
  27. Killdeer
  28. Lesser Yellowlegs (in a field somewhere!)
  29. Bonaparte's Gull
  30. Ring-billed Gull
  31. Caspian Tern (Riverlands)
  32. Rock Pigeon
  33. Mourning Dove
  34. Belted Kingfisher (Forest Park - Healing Garden / Creve Coeur)
  35. Red-headed Woodpecker (Lone Elk)
  36. Red-bellied Woodpecker
  37. Downy Woodpecker
  38. Hairy Woodpecker (Creve Coeur)
  39. Pileated Woodpecker (Creve Coeur)
  40. American Kestrel
  41. Eastern Phoebe
  42. Blue Jay
  43. American Crow
  44. Purple Martin
  45. Tree Swallow
  46. Bank Swallow (Creve Coeur)
  47. Barn Swallow (Forest Park)
  48. Cliff Swallow (Creve Coeur)
  49. Carolina Chickadee (Lone Elk)
  50. Black-capped Chickadee
  51. Tufted Titmouse
  52. White-breasted Nuthatch
  53. Brown Creeper
  54. Bewick's Wren (LIFER! Forest Park - Healing Garden)
  55. Carolina Wren
  56. Golden-crowned Kinglet
  57. Eastern Bluebird
  58. American Robin
  59. Brown Thrasher (Riverlands Ellis Island)
  60. Northern Mockingbird
  61. European Starling
  62. Cedar Waxwing (Creve Coeur)
  63. Yellow-rumped Warbler
  64. Field Sparrow
  65. Dark-eyed Junco
  66. American Tree Sparrow
  67. White-crowned Sparrow
  68. White-throated Sparrow
  69. Savannah Sparrow (Riverlands)
  70. Song Sparrow
  71. Swamp Sparrow
  72. Northern Cardinal
  73. Eastern Meadowlark (Riverlands / Gateway Arch)
  74. Red-winged Blackbird
  75. Brown-headed Cowbird
  76. Common Grackle
  77. House Finch
  78. American Goldfinch
  79. Eurasian Tree Sparrow (Riverlands / Columbia Bottom [both at feeders])
  80. House Sparrow

Friday, March 30, 2018

Origins and Stories

It's been a while since I've posted (a while being a bit of an understatement), and for that I apologize. I'm also kind of apologizing to myself, for while I always find time to attend to my professional writing endeavors, this project, my personal project, falls to the side.

I spent quite a while (like way too long) considering what my next topic should be:

  • End-of-year recap for 2017?
  • New birds seen in 2018?
  • Birder interview?
  • Update on my nature photo journal?

I tossed ideas back and forth, even starting a few drafts, but would inevitably sidetrack and abandon each attempt. After a whole bunch of this, I realized I was spending way too much time worrying about what to write instead of just writing (which seems to be a classic writers' problem, doesn't it🤣).

When I loosened my grip on the outcome, the topic finally came.

When, why and how did I become a birder?

I've always appreciated birds, but until a few years ago I didn't know much about them: how many species we have locally, what they're named, how they sound - you get the gist. I was a nature lover but not yet a bona fide bird nerd.

That all began to change the first time I saw a Cedar Waxwing, a Rose-breasted Grosbeak, then other birds I'd never seen before. I wondered,

    How could I coexist with such beautiful creatures and not even know they're there?

    Is it possible to find them again? 

    And, What else is out there for me to discover?

Cedar Waxwing (Bombycilla cedrorum)
Rose-breasted Grosbeak (Pheucticus ludovicianus)
Don't judge the lack of rosy breast; this is a female and she's beautiful in her own right😁

After seeing these birds and asking these questions, I embarked on a mission to pay more attention. I searched more so I found more; noticed more, so I discovered more. I bought my first field guide (a Peterson if you're curious) and started making little check marks next to the birds I saw - my first official Life List.

I took the next step in my birding journey during summer of 2014; but not without help. You see, there's this magical thing about my partner, Jason, where he seems to always lead me toward the things I cherish most. It's never in a forced way but more like a soft nudge in the right direction. It's like he sees sparks in me that I don't see, and helps me find substance upon which to ignite my inner fire.

In this case, we found that substance at Red Oaks Nature Center during a seminar on how to use eBird. Jason was the one who discovered the event and suggested we go. I remember that night vividly, sitting at Red Oaks learning about eBird; savoring corny "birder jokes" I didn't yet understand, because I knew someday I would. I was excited and intrigued to learn about this new way to track my sightings and learn more about the birds around me. In case you don't know, eBird is an online birding community created by Cornell Lab of Ornithology to collect sightings from birders all across the globe. Anyone can use it to record sightings, search for birds nearby, look at historical data, and access articles and other resources (click here to set up your own eBird account!).

♥ Jason hand-feeding a White-breasted Nuthatch (Sitta carolinensis) ♥

I opened my eBird account that summer and haven't stopped birding since (and I mean that pretty literally. I'm basically always birding except when I'm inside with no windows, thinking about birds 🤣). This passion of mine is so pervasive and persistent, it's hard to believe it started just a few years back - but it's true. What was once a vague inkling now has life of its own, and guides me through my days.

Black-capped Chickadee (Poecile atricapillus) on Jason's hand. Life is good.

This seems like a good time to mention one last thing. I recently uncovered stacks and stacks of my old diaries. While reading through them, I was surprised to find so many references to birds. I'd forgotten how long ago my appreciation for them started, stretching way back into childhood. Those days, I didn't know the science nor specifics of birds, but the Love was clearly there. I wrote about birds with a sense of admiration and awe I still feel today. It was within a loving space those early seeds took hold; then much later, and again fueled by Love, my passion for birds would blossom.

Here's a few photos of those old diary pages, in order from oldest to most recent:

Age 6
Age 6 (I'm thinking this is a Cardinal and a
Canada Goose but can't be certain)

Age 13 (I'm impressed with this one, and some day need to figure out what birds these were)

Age 13

Age 14
Age 21

Age 23 (Okay, so this one isn't very accurate
in terms of  bird migration timing, but hey, you get the point 🤣)

And one year after this last note, I sat inside Red Oaks Nature Center, becoming a bona fide birder.

Happy birding!! (')< ♫
Little Bird Nerd