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Today, I chose to bird alone, although there was WGNSS Thursday group going out and a new CBC at the Confluence area.  When I began watching birds 4 years ago, I pictured that I would be camping in some lovely place and enjoy the animals and birds around me. I have done that since then, but today's birding is more common in the St. Louis area. 
    I first went to a nearby private country club to search for a recently seen Merlin ( dipped on that).  So, then I drove a couple of miles to a retail business that sells plants to seek out the Eastern Screech owl there (dipped again the first time,DID see on the way home).  
    I then drove over to Horseshoe Lake (Illinois site within the "sacred circle").  I went to a sand dredging site adjacent to a huge waste "mound" where gulls usually swirl.  There is a small body of water at the dredge (it is not that scenic). I saw about 4 ring-billed gulls plus mostly Canada geese, a few scaup (greater-lesser, not sure), and a common goldeneye.
    I then went over to Bend Road side of Horseshoe Lake which is diverse in that there is the lake on one side (with many "no trespassing" signs and foliage that prevent clear vision) and plowed ground on the other.I stopped short of the end of the road due to icy,slushy water over the road.  Actually, it is a diverse birding area, but not so populated today.   I saw a bald eagle, red-tail hawk, many  northern shovelers,some  common goldeneye, a fair amount of scattered ring-billed gulls, a few unidentified small birds in the bushes,.. well you get the drift..  Where are the loons, the majestic pelicans, the grebes of various sorts?  What about the glaucous wing gull? or the peregrine falcon seen there? 
    Now these two areas make a triangle with a large raceway surrounded by ground being groomed for much parking , I think.  Some junk areas have been removed. 
    So, I left the area to drive over to Riverlands to see all those wonderfully interesting gulls Bill Rudden always promises with his pictures.  On the way, I drove through Brooklyn, IL, well known for the "chicks" on view there into the wee hours.. All those areas were empty of patrons.  This is all far from that scenic fantasy of birding in paradise. 
    Once at Riverlands, there is some lovely scenery at the sanctuary with recently constructed wetlands and waving grasses.  There were nicely close clusters of gulls of mostly ring-billed sort. I think there were some thayer's gulls and maybe herring gull or two.  I'm sure the Malones will sign in with those details as I passed them perusing every bird.  I saw no bald eagles (isn't this the cold season that brought 100's of them last year?)
    I did see a northern harrier that almost landed on my car.  There were several american kestrals doing their property management behavior and a few swans left, mostly Trumpeters out on the Cora Island road.  There were no large flocks of horned larks, although I may have scattered a few on a sharp turn.  The light was not good for me to inspect the waterfowl on Heron pond, others can attest to that. 
   I know as I read of the sewage lagoons across the state that not all areas of good birding habitat are places one would set up camp for the weekend. 
   I'm looking forward this year to getting outside the sacred circle and see some other Missouri areas. 
   Good birding to us all.
   Jane Allen
   St. Louis County
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The Audubon Society of Missouri's Wild Bird Discussion Forum
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