Our goal on this annual trip to Baldwin Lake is to see the 5 species of geese regular to our area.  Yesterday we saw 4 of the 5, missing Ross's Goose.  We had hundreds of Snow Geese that were close enough to scan through but could not find one.  We saw some small groups of Greater White-fronted Geese mixed in with Canada Geese, and 3 Cackling Geese standing next to Canada for an easy ID and striking comparison.   The amount of Snow Geese in this area is unbelievable and quite a site when they are stirred up by the numerous Bald Eagles.  We had some ducks and grebes at the south end of the lake including Northern Shoveler, Ruddy, Coot, Common Goldeneye, Canvasback, and Common Merganser.  There was a small group of Horned Grebe (maybe 8) and numerous Pied-billed.  It was amazing how few gulls we saw, there were a few Ring-billed and Herring, compared to the numbers seen in previous years.  We saw a Hermit Thrush in that area as well as many Am. Tree Sparrows, Song Sparrows, and a few Swamp Sparrows.
Our target birds at Peabody Coal are shrikes and Short-eared Owls.  We searched without luck for a shrike but did see numerous Northern Harriers and Red-tailed Hawks throughout the area.  Almost all of the lakes are frozen so we saw little waterfowl except for the ducks in the air.  Thousands of Snow Geese and a few flocks of Greater White-fronted Geese were landing in the fields east of the main road.  As we waited for the short-eared Owls to appear, we saw six harriers disappear in the long grass to roost.  The sunset was worth the trip and the wait.  As we were leaving the area a little after 6 pm, we saw 3 Short-eared Owls from the road close to the cross road at the park entrance. (A sign at the entrance to Peabody Coal says that it now closes at 9 pm.)
What a wonderful way to spend the first day of "the big thaw", hopefully!
Pat Lueders, Trip Leader
The Audubon Society of Missouri's Wild Bird Discussion Forum
ASM Fall Meeting: September 24-26 at Camp Clover Point