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Hi MOBirders:

I birded the Riverlands area Sunday from 8:30 to about 3:30, including stops
in Missouri and Illinois, and ended with a good, productive day.  I know
Bill Rowe was also birding the area so apologies if this duplicates any
information he posts on his own.

I entered the area on Red School Rd. and there was a surprising variety of
small birds hugging, and feeding along, the narrow strip of open ground
along the road edge.  I had 2 LAPLAND LONGSPUR, 5 SAVANNAH SPARROW, 85
HORNED LARK, 6 SONG SPARROW, 1 SWAMP SPARROW and a dozen meadowlarks.  At
least 6 of the meadowlarks stayed close together along the road edge and
were a mixed bag of very drab, low-contrast individuals plus some
breeding-type birds.  I had the best scope studies of 3 of the yellowy birds
which displayed the characteristics of WESTERN MEADOWLARK including yellow
malar reaching right up to the gape flange, white flanks with broken
streaking formed by blackish spots, low-contrast crowns and uncolorful upper
parts.

I drove Confluence Rd. out to the point.  The road is snow- and ice-packed
and there are 3 stretches with deep ruts which might be problematic for
low-clearance cars.  At the point there were several hundred gulls
congregating below the Columbia Bottom CA overlook.  I got there midday
which wasn't a very good time and all the birds were backlit by bright
sunlight and just plain blurry, like it was July.  I gave up rather quick.

Back along the road there was a flock of 600 Mallard in the place which used
to be a big puddle at the bottom of the levee across the road from the duck
club.  They seemed to be resting on the snow.  Some geese were mixed in with
the ducks but I didn't ID them.  There were also well over a 100 more Horned
Larks along the road.

I ended the day with 15 species of waterfowl, including 4 each of CACKLING
GOOSE and TUNDRA SWAN.  All the birds were crowded into the few remaining
patches of open water.  1 Canada appeared to be a very good candidate for
LESSER as it was clearly intermediate in size between the Cacklings and the
rest.  There were also 50 AMERICAN TREE SPARROW along Wise Rd. and 8
AMERICAN WHITE PELICAN in the spillway area.

I left Riverlands with 5 gulls, including a big variety of immature Herring
Gulls to look through.

-- Thayer's Gull, 1 ad.  Seen in flight over the spillway.  Even while
moving about in the air the bill was noticeably smaller than the nearby
Herrings.  Separated from Iceland by much dark coloration on the wingtips;
very close to the wingtip pattern picture # 13 in the Olsen-Larsson gull
book.

--  Iceland Gull, 1 1st-cyc.  Overall a white gull with subtle, very pale
brown marbling; rounded, dove-like head; small, all-black bill, wingtips
same color as rest of bird.  Standing then lying on the lock wall and seen
from the dam V.C. parking lot after lunch.  Photo here:

http://smu.gs/1B95TQL

-- Glaucous Gull, 1 1st-cyc.  Also on the lock wall from the parking lot
about same time as the Iceland.  A very large, white-winged gull with fleshy
pink bill with black spot near the tip.  Howell and Dunn say the tip can
become finely pale by midwinter, except on this individual the pale tip was
bigger than just "fine."

-- Thayer's/Iceland, 1 1st-cyc.  Only a brief look at this immature bird
with very pale brown primaries and tertial centers; dove-like head and
all-black bill.  But the bird flew away before I could study it more
carefully.

I did not see a solid, clear-cut 1st-cyc Thayer's today nor any black-backed
gulls.  The young Herrings were so variable that many of them caught my eye
but I couldn't pass any of them off as black-backed.

Hawks were Bald Eagle, Northern Harrier (all 3 types), Cooper's Hawk,
Red-tailed Hawk and American Kestrel.  For a surprise, when I was nearly
home in urban University City, I spotted a Bald Eagle at Olive and
North-and-South Rds!  Unusual for this neck-of-the-woods.  The bird stopped
to perch in a massive tree and was eating something I couldn't see, let
alone identify.  Photo here:

http://smu.gs/1Lso83g

45 species total for the day.

Mike Thelen
Univ City, StL Cnty, MO
[log in to unmask]

P.S.  On Jan 11 I returned home from a long trip and I've posted some of my
photos in this gallery.  There are lots of bird pictures.

http://smu.gs/1D7gFpF

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