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It was cold starting out along the Illinois River at the Grafton Ferry
crossing in Calhoun County (Illinois) this morning with Paul Bauer
leading me on his annual circuit.  We parked near the ferry landing and
walked south along the river accompanied by the sound of duck calls and
shotguns.  There actually were few shotgun blasts, indicating that the
hunters were having as poor a time as we did finding ducks.  Seven hours
of birding Calhoun County and the only ducks a flyby trio of Pintails.
We walked this road down to the parking lot, which had a bulldozer, boom
crane and coffer damn steel, moved Paul's Explorer and walked more.  The
birds seen were a flock of Cowbirds, numerous Ring-billed Gulls, a few
common woodpeckers, Cardinals, Carolina Wrens and crows.  One Bald Eagle
soared close enough to the shore to get counted.  Not a single sparrow.

We then drove inland to the first road and closer to the slough.
Walking the road along the club houses we picked up Titmice, Juncos, WB
Nuthatch, Blue Jays, Red-headed WP, Pileated WP, more Red-bellied WPs,
Great Blue Heron, and an immature Eagle.  Still not a single sparrow.

We then drove the Pohlmann Slough roads, no ducks, no sparrows, no
nothing.

We parked at Royal Landing and ate lunch watching the Mississippi River.
A few eagles soared by across the river, no ducks flew by.  One single
American Goldfinch visited a bush near us.

After lunch, we walked the road into the woods behind Royal Landing.
The road was very muddy, having been pulverized by heavy construction
equipment.  The slowly melting ice mixed with the top layer of silt to
make a very slick yet remarkably gummy mixture that stuck to our boots,
which got heavier with each step.  Piles of coffer damn steel were at
the start of the road, as were all the birds.  Many titmice, juncos,
cardinals and our first sparrows, a half dozen Song Sparrows played
around the edges.  We walked about 45 minutes more past these birds, and
netted one unknown large owl flying away as fast as it could, and a
couple more Carolina Wrens and woodpeckers.  By the time we turned
around and walked back, it had warmed up and we shed a few layers.

The only really interesting bird of the day appeared as we neared the
end (or start) of this boot tread clogging mud fest.  Paul and I had
stopped to listen (or maybe clean mud from our boots again) and I saw a
small, white bird very close.  As I got Paul to look, it moved farther
into the undergrowth and started to hide.  We gave chase, and after
about ten minutes Paul was able to get his 12 power bins on it and
pronounced it to be a Carolina Wren.  It was entirely white (or very
light gray), was foraging like the other CAWRs, had a short cocked tail
and an even whiter eyeline.  It moved way to fast in too much
undergrowth for me to get a picture, but it sure was a neat bird.

Driving a few roads we picked up 6 turkeys, a Red-tailed Hawk, a couple
of Northern Mockingbirds, a couple of Kestrels.

After ending the official count we went to Riverlands for the gull
roost.  Dave Rogles found us the California Gull.

Even with no zooties on our count and not many birds period, it was
great to be out and birding with Paul Bauer.

Mike Grant
Chesterfield, MO

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