I spent the better part of today birding Smithville Lake (Clay County, MO). Waterfowl numbers were down from last week. Highlights:
Common Loon-35 (including one raft of 22 north of Sailboat Cove)
PACIFIC LOON-1 (in front of the Little Platte Pavilion)
Bonaparte's Gull-175
Franklin's Gull-1
Ring Billed Gull-500+
Herring Gull-4
The gulls were mobbing Cormorants and Loons on the main body of the lake. Nice group of RBGU's sitting on the fescue near the spillway. Lots of activity on the Camp Branch arm of the lake, north of the Camp Branch bridge (near the marina). North of the Camp Branch bridge, there were over 100 Bonaparte's and over 300 Ring-Billed (RBGU) Gulls. These birds were feeding, vocalizing, and generally running amock. Perhaps the near miss/oddity of the day was a small, light-mantled gull showing white on the upperwing, underwing appeared dingy. Viewed briefly and at a great distance, in good light this bird presented an unmistakeably pinkish chest and belly. I spent an hour picking through the BOGU's, without refinding the bird. Could have been a pink-bellied Bonie...could have been a...nevermind, I'm not even gonna go there...Only about 400 ducks on the lake, that I saw. Mainly Scaup, with some Redheads, Red-Breasted Merganser, Ring-Necked, and Ruddy. More Cormorants today.
SNOW BUNTING-1 (flushed from the gravel parking lot near the Little Platte pavilion; associating with Horned Larks and a few Savannah Sparrows)
American Pipit-8 (working the shoreline in front of Little Platte pavilion)
Rough-Legged Hawk-1 light morph (near the Hwy. W and Hwy. F intersection, working the stubble fields)
Had some fishermen approach me with that "nonbirder to birder" greeting..."seen any eagles?!" at the Hwy. W boat ramp. I replied "sure, got one in my scope!" A nice teaching session followed, as I tried to convince them that immature Bald Eagles are not Golden Eagles, Ospreys are not immature Bald Eagles, and Red Tailed Hawks won't eat your chickens....well, most of the time, anyway.
Drove out to McComas Road and watched a flock of Red-Winged Blackbirds, Common Grackles, European Starlings, and a few Brown Headed Cowbirds work the stubble that used to hold Short-Eared Owls.
Good Birding,
Doug Willis
Liberty, MO
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P.S. The Snow Bunting was my 300th annual bird in MO for 2008...good thing I don't do big years anymore...  

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