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Spent most of this evening birding Smithville Lake (Clay County, MO). Starting behind the Litton Visitor Center about 2pm, it became quickly apparent that the overall composition of waterfowl had changed somewhat. Virtually no puddle ducks were seen from this vantage point and there were more gulls out on the main body of the lake. I counted 12 Bonaparte's Gulls, 150+ Ring-Billed Gulls, and 4 Herring Gulls. Only 15 Ruddy Ducks were visible, Horned Grebe count was only 6, and 18 Pied Billed Grebe were the only diving ducks that I found here. Of course, all the Loons way off to the west (towards Little Platte pavilion) made it hard to stay behind the Litton Center for very long. I made quick estimates of Coots (250) and Cormorants (125), then drove to the north end of the dam.
The first bird I got glass on was the juvenile RED-THROATED LOON (props to Kristi!). There were 6 Common Loons nearby in various stages of molt. These birds were easily viewable from the parking lot at the N. end of the dam, looking towards the pavilion at the Little Platte Rec. Area.
I checked the gulls at Little Platte Marina and also at Camp Branch Marina. Nothing out of the ordinary at these locales, so I decided to check the "Wildcat Holler" Trail (Trailhead located on the east side of the Camp Branch bridge. I walked about 1 1/2 miles down this trail and found ample opportunity to refine my "pishing" techniques (good thread, Laura and nothing but love for Bob Fisher!). Stopping at every brushpile at the woodland edge, I found: 30 White-Throated Sparrows, 3 White-Crowned Sparrows, 2 Song Sparrows, 2 Lincoln's Sparrows, 1 Fox Sparrow, 1 Swamp Sparrow, and 1 Harris Sparrow. Other pished-off birds included: 3 Winter Wren, 1 Eastern Towhee, 1 Eastern Phoebe, 15 Yellow-Rumped Warblers, 2 Orange-Crowned Warblers, 6 Ruby-Crowned Kinglets, 2 Golden-Crowned Kinglets, and 1 Brown Creeper. A dozen Dark-Eyed Junco also fell victim to my pishing prowess. *Warning to potential pishers: Be prepared to get some really queer looks from people who see and hear you do this!!
Also observed on this trail were 3 Flickers showing red underneath. One appeared to be an adult female Red-Shafted (Red on underside of wings and tail, Plain grey face). I failed to note the details of the crown, giving myself a reason to go back. Another appeared to be a hybrid male (red "shafts", black malar, red nape crescent). The other one appeared to be a hybrid female (red "shafts", red nape crescent, plain brown face). Many "Yellow-Shafted Flickers were also observed around the snags viewable from the trail.
Spent more time than I had planned studying the flickers, so I made a mad dash for the dam to see if anything new had flown in. The Franklin's Gulls had gathered way out on the lake (about 1,200), about 350 Ring-Billed Gulls were scattered about, 8 Herring Gulls, 6 Bonaparte's Gulls, 4 Common Loons (did not relocate the Red Throated Loon), and a small raft of diving ducks (Redhead, Scaup, and Ring Necked Duck) were observed. Didn't stay long enough for the roost to grow exponentially at dusk, but an interesting afternoon of birding Smithville Lake nonetheless!
Good Birding,
Doug Willis
Kansas City, MO
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