Six hardy birders braved temperatures in the teens and wind chills in the single digits to go on the first Saturday WGNSS trip of the year.  We started birding on the Illinois side of the Alton dam.  There were relatively few gulls sitting on the dam, but one of them was the immature Glaucous Gull.  In the ditch along the highway going north was a large flock of Mallards with a fair number of Gadwall.  Mixed in we found one Black Duck and four Green-winged Teal which were new for the year for the whole group.  The Teal Pond area produced large numbers of Common Goldeneye with Common Mergansers and a few other things mixed in such as Canvasback and Redhead.  There was also a Thayer's Gull sitting on the ice.  Unfortunately ice conditions were not conducive to the gulls sitting where they could be easily seen and the large number of Bald Eagles present kept things moving.  There was the usual large flock of Mallards sitting near the island, but they were so packed together it was difficult to see if there was anything else mixed in.  There were also a few Trumpeter Swans.  The Confluence Road was quiet with a small flock of Eastern Meadowlarks and a few Horned Larks near the entrance and a Northern Harrier further down.  The small birds all seemed to be sheltering from the wind and were not sitting out.  There was a hunting course being taught at Columbia Bottom so we ate in the cars there.  We were treated to a close visit by a flock of at least eight bluebirds as we ate.  There were the usual birds at the feeder and the dark morph Red-tailed Hawk flew by several times.  The back road is now open, but the birding was slow as at REDA.  We had one good flock of American Tree Sparrows and that is about all.  Near where the road rejoins and the backwater overlook area was a Murder of Crows (to keep with odd collects line).  Or maybe several Murders (someone suggested a Massacre) as there were well over a hundred.  It is good to see them recovering.  The trip out produced a distant flock of about 30 swans, another Harrier, and a Cooper's Hawk.  Some of us then drove to Church and Dwyer in Saint Charles Co.  One car found a Rusty Blackbird among the Starlings, but there was no sign of Great-tailed Grackles.  One the way home the leader made a quick stop at Bryan Island Stables in Saint Louis Co.  There I had a brief glimpse of three or four Great-tails flying away in the distance.
The next WGNSS Saturday trip is in two weeks (1/22/2010) at Des Peres Park.  As always everyone is welcome.
David Becher
Saint Louis
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