Big Day (Bird Race)
05 September 2000
by Tom Schooley
Big Day Statistics:
Being a contributor and reader of the Big Day lists, I could not help but notice the voids in the Missouri Big Days. My wife and I were planning a trip to MO, so we decided to fill in one of those gaps. As we were traveling with our nine month old son we had no choice but to include Arthur as a "non-participating infant (npi)". He was quite the trooper throughout our travels, including this day.
Arthur barely stirred as we bundled him into the car at 0600. A calling Common Nighthawk was a nice first bird and we took that as a good omen. Mingo greeted us with overcast skies and a cool wind. A Worm-eating Warbler popped out of the brush giving us a great look. We parked in the main lot, but the baby was still asleep so we could not stray far. But that was ok, the trees were hopping. Red-eyed Vireo, Summer Tanager, Downy and Red-bellied Woodpeckers, N. Parula and Prothonotary Warblers, all made appearances and it was great fun seeing them well. Overhead the air was filled with hundreds of Chimney Swifts, when suddenly they focused on a raptor passing by, and pushed a Mississippi Kite our way. Arthur was now awake and Sheila began feeding him his breakfast. We watched the kite circling around and noticed it carried a snake. Soon it decided we were not a threat and took the prey to its young sitting in a nearby tree. Our families enjoyed our breakfasts keeping watchful eyes on each other.
We took off on a walk down the steep trail behind the visitor center, a treacherous venture with a baby stroller. The boardwalk was nice, but not very birdy. An Acadian Flycatcher did let us study it long enough for an ID. The drive around the refuge brought us to different habitats and birds; an Indigo Bunting and goldfinches in the fields, Turkey Vultures wheeling about, a pair of Red-shouldered Hawks, a flock of Cattle Egrets. The dried ponds produced some ducks and shorebirds; Green-wing Teal, Solitary, Baird's, Pectoral, Western, and Semipalmated Sandpipers. Further back a Fish Crow "unh-unh" caught our attention. A Little Blue Heron slipped away, but not before we noticed it.
Lunch at the Puxico Café was an adventure in classic American cuisine. We swung through town finding a feeder with a few House Finches and House Sparrows. Back at Mingo we searched the lakes coming up with Wood Ducks and a muddy field with 178 Killdeer, but no other plovers. By now we needed more variety and headed towards Otter Slough. Along the way we picked up both Eastern and Western Kingbirds. The baby started fussing as the afternoon grew hotter. We found an entrance to this wildlife area, rounded up a Pied-billed Grebe, a Coopers Hawk, and a Dickcissel at one pond, circled another for a few Northern Pintail and a Northern Harrier. At a final stop we happened on a group of Black-necked Stilts, Lesser Yellowlegs and a Blue-winged Teal. Arthur was now fed up with sitting in his carseat and insisted on getting home. So we did.
This big day with a baby was not a rush of fast driving and faster ears. But it was a fine day in the field. Arthur did not stymie our species list much, but making sure we both saw everything was difficult. The list's paucity is mainly due to our lack of familiarity with eastern birds. Our list of 59 species does represent a genuine effort, and as such is not one of the infamous "Chaffin" days.
Little Blue Heron
Great Blue Heron
Species seen - 59
Tom Schooley & Sheila McCartan