January 30, 2007


43 eastern meadowlark
44 white-throated sparrow
45 northern bobwhite
46 short-eared owl
47 horned lark
(total on this date in 2006: 41)

JAN. 28, BRADFORD FARM, sunny, 15—Time again for the monthly bird survey at the University of Missouri's research farm, scheduled for afternoon so there's a little more life in both birds and observers.

Six of us arrive in wool, fleece, and down. On top the wind chills, but we cross icy fields into a drainage leading to a small woodlot. There the wind is calm and my many layers catch up to the cold. We see more than a hundred tree sparrows move in and out a goldenrod patch, a quail covey fly out of a brush pile, and red-tailed hawks soaring (later we see the nest a hawk pair is building).

Bird of the year so far (and a life bird for me) is a short-eared owl that rises out of rough grass and flaps over a rise. It settles on the ground again, near a harrier—both the owl and owl-like harrier hunt rodents by flying low over grassland, so perhaps they're talking shop. The short-eared owl hunts at night and in daylight, especially on cold winter days when calories mean survival.

In late afternoon we see long, ragged lines of Canada geese approach from the northeast after a day of feeding. Probably they hope for open water, but it's ice all the way to the Missouri River.


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