January 22, 2007

River of ice

35 American kestrel
36 northern shoveler
37 gadwall
38 green-winged teal
39 American goldfinch
40 northern harrier
41 American tree sparrow
(total on this date in 2006: 34)

JAN. 20, EAGLE BLUFFS, cloudy, 30—A good Midwest saying is that things could be worse, but it is a bleak day for birding. At the Missouri River (photo here) 10-foot saucers of ice roll downstream. The state has been locked in ice for a week, unusual because Missouri usually melts by then. Tonight it will snow and another cold week lies ahead. Almost every day's newspaper has a story involving a dog sliding down a slope and unable to climb back up (see here, here, here, and for a variation with a swan, here ).

Eagle Bluffs seems to have exactly four areas of open water judging by where the mallards are: a couple hundred in the two main pools, another hundred in a distant pocket wetland—all I see are ducks wheeling around it and landing from time to time—and a large, dense group of unknown numbers in a canal. I stop my car before reaching them because they're near the road and I hate the idea of flushing them in this weather (approaching on foot is guaranteed to spook them). A few dozen each of gadwalls and shovelers plus a single green-winged teal round out the duck lineup.

No doubt the cold and ice have killed birds this month—the ice is so hard and extensive you could probably skate across cropfields all the way to the river bluffs—but others manage fine. Goldfinches tear apart sycamore seed balls, song and tree sparrows locate seeds in dense brush and grasses, and flickers fly from tree to ground, finding what they need.

2 Comments:

Blogger Wild Bill said...

Jeff,

Glad to see you on the "Hunt" again in 2007. Ask me to tell you a funny human ice-sliding story next time we run. It probably tops the dog stories.

Bill

1/25/2007  
Blogger Jeff said...

Thanks, Bill. Let's hope our runs don't end up in any ice-sliding stories.

1/25/2007  

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