Yesterday morning, Ellen and I along with our boy (Aston, our English Springer Spaniel), went up to Smithville Lake for a half-a-day trip. The air was a little chilly, but the sun was shining and it proved to be a wonderful morning. Although we did not have any rarities or any kind out of the usual, being out was great. Lots and lots of ducks! All were about 2 miles out in the center or a little beyond center of the lake where identification was very difficult at best. Our total species count was around 43 birds, but the highlight of the morning came at Crow's Creek. It was there that we came across a small flock of sparrows that were made up of "both" Le Conte's Sparrow and Nelson's Sparrow. One could not have asked for  more cooperative subjects than the ones we had yesterday morning. Both species were sharing the same brush, small trees, grass stalks, that made it very exciting to do direct comparisons between the two species. We spent about 30 minutes watching and observing the differences in order to become more familiar with these really neat birds.
Other highlights were watching a Great Horned Owl sitting on a branch sunning himself in the early morning sun and taking note of the markings in the breast. Our guy had a central white band down the middle of his/her chest. We had a group of six Horned Grebes swimming around in a very tight group. Very funny to watch as they all moved in the same direction at the same time. Two Osprey, one juvenile Bald Eagle. And finally, we had a very interesting hawk fly in front of us that caught our attention. Large hawk, very dark (chocolate brown), lower chest and belly a tawny brown with heavy dark vertical stripes. Wing beats were slow and powerful. Also wings were very straight horizontally. Haven't got a clue, except that it was probably a very dark phase of the Red-tailed Hawk.
All in all, a great morning to be out watching the birds!
Jim & Ellen Zellmer
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Blue Springs, MO
Jackson County

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