Pat Lueders and I led this weekend's St. Louis Audubon Society field trip to Riverlands in St. Charles. It was cold and windy, with cloud cover that gradually broke up and gave us some sunshine later in the morning. Plenty of waterfowl were around, although viewing and identifying them was sometimes tricky, with choppy water and a shaky scope.
In the first half hour of light, I checked the area by myself and found 200+ Trumpeter Swans, most of which were up and out of Riverlands by 7:00, leaving a much smaller number to feed sedately in Heron Pond. With them were 4 Tundra Swans, also absent the rest of the morning. On the river, the big gull roost (5000 may be a serious underestimate) rose and dispersed within 45 minutes; among them was one adult Lesser Black-backed Gull.
Between 7:00 and 8:00, a few early-arriving stalwarts and I re-covered the area, finding the Lesser Black-back again (though very distant), several American Black Ducks, a sizable flock of Greater White-fronted Geese taking off from Heron Pond, and about 70 Hooded Mergansers on Teal Pond along with a flock of Lesser Scaup, some Common Goldeneye, and a lot of Bonaparte's Gulls.
At 8:00 other participants arrived, bringing the total to 19. With them, we located the Black Ducks again, had good looks at some remaining White-fronted Geese, and added a number of other waterfowl species including good numbers of Bufflehead. Green-winged Teal seemed much reduced in numbers from earlier weeks. Raptors included 3+ Bald Eagles, 3 Northern Harriers, one Red-tail, and one American Kestrel. Passerines are hardly on the list at all, due to wind and little effort to find them. The Riverlands portion of the trip is listed here:
After a pleasant break at the Audubon Center, we went out to Confluence State Park for a little while, adding Mourning Dove, Hairy Woodpecker, Horned Lark, Carolina Wren, and White-throated and American Tree Sparrows to the above list. After that, a quick further look around Riverlands concluded the trip. Pat later reported that she had a sizable group of Lapland Longspurs on Red School Road, just outside Riverlands, bring the trip total to 45 species.
In the afternoon, visiting birders from the Springfield, MO, area (Steve and Debbie Martin, Jill Hays, and Beth Perine) and I went to the IL side of the dam, where quite a few Herring Gulls were perched on the lock walls along with one very likely candidate for a first-cycle Thayer's Gull. Unfortunately, this bird's primaries, both at rest and in flight, were not seen well enough to "nail it." We also visited Columbia Bottom for a while and found a pair of Red-breasted Mergansers on the river.
Thanks to all participants for braving the elements!