January 07, 2006

Fresh paint, fresh burn

22 eastern bluebird
23 yellow-rumped warbler
24 rock pigeon
25 mourning dove

JAN. 7, TUCKER PRAIRIE, mostly sunny, 45I've ruled that discussion of the weather is too dull to includeotherwise I'd mention how warm it is. This is my first visit to Tucker prairie in more than a year. Tucker is a half-hour east of Columbia, irritatingly positioned next to Interstate-70. Fortunately in the woods and draws and southern half of the prairie it's easy to forget the noise. First birds of the morning are an eastern bluebird pair and flicker. Third observation is that the field station is newly painted to cover up a thorough graffiti job, which included walls, windows, sign, even the utility pole and gatepost.

Not much stirs in the grassland, a large area of which is blackened from a recent controlled burn. Tucker is managed by the university for restoration and research. The ground here was hayed but never plowed or cropped, so prairie was waiting to return with a little help. I head for the pond after a detour into an oak thicket, and see it's iced over. A blue jay burble from the woods leads me there to look for mixed flocks.

The woods contain several fussy red-bellied woodpeckers, white-tailed deer, gray squirrels, and three tree stands for hunters just across the fenceline, but not much else. Back on the grassland, I aim for the plum thickets. With no reason to sing conspicuously, birds are staying down in the grass. I'd hoped for more sparrows, which are difficult IDs for me. At this time of year in Missouri my birding ambitions aren't huge, but I want to see golden-crowned kinglets and cedar waxwings before the month is out.


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