Iowa & Missouri: Winter 2019–2020

Winter 2019-2020: 1 Dec 2019–29 Feb 2020

Francis L. Moore

Moore, F. 2021. Winter 2019–2020: Iowa & Missouri. <> North American Birds.

Average temperatures for December were unseasonably warm statewide in Iowa with the warmest conditions across eastern Iowa: up to eight degrees above normal. December’s statewide average maximum temperature was 38.1, 6.4 above normal, while the minimum temperature was 19.6, 5.5 above normal. Much of the southeastern two-thirds of Iowa experienced near to below average precipitation during December, with east central Iowa reporting up to one inch deficits. Measurable snowfall was also below average statewide: the average snowfall was 2.4 inches, 5.9 inches below average. Statewide average temperatures in January were unseasonably warm. Eastern Iowa experienced the warmest conditions, where monthly average temperatures were up to six degrees above normal. A majority of cities in Iowa reported above-average precipitation, with the largest positive increases of one to two inches across southern portions of the state. Snow totals across much of the state were in the three to six inch range, with higher totals in northern Iowa.

Average temperature increases varied across Iowa during February. Western Iowa and parts of the southeastern quadrant experienced the warmest conditions, where monthly average increases of one to two degrees were reported. For the month of February, much of Iowa also experienced below-normal snowfall, with the average statewide total of 3.3 inches, 3.5 inches below average. Iowa temperatures for the three winter months of December, January, and February averaged 25.5 or 3.4 above normal, while precipitation totaled 2.98 inches, 0.33 inch less than normal.

Goose numbers were below average in Iowa, with puddle duck numbers a little above average. Most gallinaceous bird numbers were higher compared to last year with almost all showing above average, and numbers increasing from last year. There were three times the number of Northern Shrikes this year compared to last year. Gull reports were about the same as last year, with most reports coming from December and early January. There were good numbers of wintering sparrows throughout the period. Blackbirds made a good showing throughout the period with a Yellow-headed Blackbird reported again this year. Winter finch numbers this winter were down again from last year, with reports of both crossbills this year.

This past winter in Missouri was warm; in fact, the December 2019-January 2020 average temperatures became the second warmest on record. At the beginning of February, several locations around the state broke record highs when temperatures climbed into the seventies. The mild weather no doubt contributed to the diversity of lingering passerines in the state, including nine reports of Summer Tanagers in December, six reports of Indigo Buntings in central and northern regions (where the species is considered casual), and multiple reports of additional wrens, vireos, warblers, and sparrows that are generally gone from the state by this season. To break up the comparatively mild weather, January did contain a number of harsh cold fronts and precipitation events that affected gull numbers and diversity, just as similar weather phenomena had done in November 2019.

At last in mid-February, a lasting arctic winter pattern arrived. Bill Rowe noted that the number of dabbling ducks was down at Riverlands Migratory Bird Sanctuary, likely because flooding that occurred earlier in 2019 had decreased the food supply in pond and marsh areas. This same flooding also opened up large mudflats in the fall and may have contributed to the continuation of a number of shorebird species into December. An assortment of rare gulls drew Missouri birders to Riverlands, Long Branch Lake, Longview Lake, and Smithville Lake. In these and other ways, the season made Missouri birding history.

Contributors (state compilers in boldface): IOWA: Aaron Anhalt (ALA), John Bissell (JB), Brian Blevens (BLB), Corey Blevens (CTB), Fawn Bowdin (FB), Jayden Bowen (JB0), Aaron Brees (AB), Mark Brown (MHB), Bruce Burroughs (BDB), Brandon Caswell (BCC), Parker Coulter (PC), Raymond L Cummins (RLC), Carla Delucchi (CD), Stephen J Dinsmore (SJD), Tom Dougherty (TJD), Seth Dudley (SD), David Eastman (DGE), Chris Edwards (CRE), Tom Ellsworth (TE), Katrina Fernald (KF), James Forde (JF), Sydney Foster (SF), Steven Freed (SMF), Jim L Fuller (JLF), Jay Gilliam (JG), Rita Goranson (RGo), Mike Grochal (MG), Jocelyn Harrison (JH), Kaydnn Hatfield (KH), Corbin Hemphill (CH), Riley Henry (RH), Paul Hertzel (PH), Dean Hester (DH), Mary Hodak (MH), Bob Houwdeshell (BH), Bill Huser (BFH), James Isaac (JI), Jack Johnson (JJ), Joe Jungers (JDJ), Joseph Kamstra (JK), Jim Kettlekamp (JKe), Craig Kruse (CK), Connor Langan (CPL), Corey Lange (CJL), Hannah Leabhart (HL), Tammy Loussaert (TL), Berry Lucas (BVL), James McCoy (JMc), Jason McCurdy (JDM), Kelly J McKay (KJM), Tony Moline (TM), Francis L Moore (FLM), Justin Nooker (JN), Wolfgang Oesterreich (WO), Eric Ollie (EEO), Dylan Osterhaus (DyO), Cindy Owsley (CO), Shane Patterson (SSP), Erica Place (EP), Mark Proescholdt (MP), Larry Reis (LR), Billy Reiter-Marolf (BRM), Paul Roisen (POR), Linda G Rudolf (LGR), Rex Rundquist (RWR), John Rutenbeck (JWR), Matsunuri Sato (MSa), Richard Sayles (RAS), Matthew Schenck (MS), Susan Schenck (SS), Lee A Schoenewe (LAS), David Shealer (DAS), Dana Siefer (DSi), Andy Spellman (ASp), Dennis Thompson (DTh), R J Thompson (RJT), Rob Towler (RTo), Wendy Vanderwall (WV), Gerald L Von Ehwegen (GLV), Bob Walton (BW), Torin Waters (TW), J Wawashkeshi (JW), Mark Welford (MWe), Ben West (BMW), Warren Wicks (WWi), Grant Wieggert (GW), Dan Winkler (DW), Bobby Wilcox (BWi), Clayton Will (CW). MISSOURI: Joe Alburty (JA), Cliff Amos (CA), Goeff Anderson (GA), Don Avery (DA), Sarah Avetta (SaA), Scott Avetta (ScA), Eric B (EB), Chris Barrigar (CBa), Lisa Berger (LB), Steve Bingham (SB), Barbara Blevins (BB), David Blevins (DB), John Bollin (JB), Leon Book (LB), Diane Bricmont (DBr), Charles Burwick (CB), Rachel Caballero (RC), Bill Clark (BC), Jared Cole (JC), Dan Cowell (DC), Sarah Curry (SC), Jacob Decker (JD), Joanne Dial (JDi), Reva Dow (RD), Randy Dunning (RDu), Bill Eddleman (BE), Tony Eddleman (TE), Jane Epstein (JE), Jack Foreman (JF), Shirley Foreman (SF), Rob Francis (RF), Kent Freeman (KF), Mitch Gorstang (MGa), Jim Gast (JG), Allen Gathman (AG), Malcolm Gold (MGo), Tommy Goodman (TG), Henry Gorski (HG), Oliver Gorski (OG), Mike Grant (MG), Dave Haenni (DHa), Zack Haring (ZH), Jerry Hemmersmeyer (JHe), Austin Hess (AH), Mark Hess (MH), Doug Hommert (DHo), Lyndon Hostettler (LH), Rick Hostettler (RH), Janet Hoyne (JH), Brad Jacobs (BJ), Josephine Jacobsmeyer (JJ), Russ Jacobsmeyer (RJ), Taylor Jones (TaJ), Thomas Jones (TJo), Tim Jones (TJ), Steve Kinder (SK), Jean Leonatti (JL), Ann Liles (AL), Mitchell Linz (ML), Stephanie Loberg (SL), Abigail Loyd (AL), Kendell Loyd (KL), Pat Lueders (PL), Becky Lutz (BL), Jim Malone (JMa), Debbie Martin (DM), Steve Martin (SM), Chrissy McClarren (CMc), Lisa McClendon (LM), Patty McLean (PaM), Paul McKenzie (PMc), Terry McNeely (TM), Bill Mees (BM), Jason Monson (JaM), Pete Monacell (PM), John Mooneyham (JM), Joseph Mosley (JMo), Don Mullison (DM), Markey Mutchler (MM), Tom Nagel (TN), Mary Namecek (MN), Eric Ost (EO), Tom Parmeter (TP), Steve Phillips (SP), Michelle Randecker (MRa), Andy Reago (AR), Mark Robbins (MR), Cheryl Rosenberg (CR), Bill Rowe (BR), Dennis Rush (DR), Matt Schamberger (MS), Robert Schreiber (RS), Amy Skeans (AS), Mike Stokes (MSt), Karen Sullivan (KS), Greg Swick (GS), Annette Talbot (AT), John Talbot (JT), Mike Thelen (MT), Josh Uffman (JU), Dianne Van Dien (DVD), Amy Watts (AW), Kyle Wells (KW), Rad Widmer (RW), Eric Wilhoit (EW), Linda Williams (LW), Doug Willis (DW).

Abbreviations: CBC (Christmas Bird Count); * (documentation accepted); m.ob. (many observers); NWR (National Wildlife Refuge); ph (photograph); SP (State Park).

Geese through Mergansers

A seasonal high count for Snow Goose was 35,000 on 29 Feb near Sioux City, Woodbury, IA (GLV). Ross’s Goose numbers included a high of 15–40 on 5–7 Feb near Burlington, Des Moines, IA (BW). The highest number for Greater White-fronted Goose was 3000 on 26 Feb at Cone Marsh WILDLIFE AREA,, Louisa, IA (SD). A Snow x Greater White-fronted Goose hybrid was photographed on 23 Dec at Arcola Pond, Dade, MO (KL). Conservation Area,ckling Goose reports included a high of 200 on 29 Feb at Dordt Prairie, Sioux, IA (KVZ); the highest number reported in Missouri was 26 on 27 Dec at 370 Lakeside Park, St. Charles (TG). The highest concentration of Conservation Area,nada Goose in Iowa was 11,500 on 20 Dec at Lake Panorama, Guthrie (RLC). In Missouri, numbers were oddly erratic where a relatively low high count for Trumpeter Swan of 750 on 21 Jan at Riverlands Migratory Bird Sanctuary, St. Charles (TG) and a high count of 1850 on 27 Dec at Loess Bluffs NWR, Holt (MR). In Iowa there were 337 Trumpeters on 19 Dec at Brushy Creek State Recreation Area, Webster (SJD) and 500+ on 26 Jan again at Brushy Creek, Webster (WO). High count for Tundra Swan was 42 on 16 Dec at Lock & Dam 10, Clayton, IA (BR), with a high in Missouri of 30 on 18 Dec at Riverlands Migratory Bird Sanctuary, St. Charles (PL).

Wood Ducks occurred in 21 different counties in Missouri with a high of 50 on 17 Dec at Forest Park, St. Louis City St. Louis (MS). There were eight or nine Blue-winged Teal at Otter Slough Conservation Area on 21 Dec, Stoddard, MO (LB, RF). One alternate plumaged male Cinnamon Teal was found on 14 Dec at Iowa River, Coralville, Johnson, IA (MHB, JDM, BCC, JMc, FB, DH, JBo). In Iowa Gadwall was reported throughout the period, with high counts of 15 on 31 Jan at Montrose, Lee (CO) and 17 on 8 Feb at Lansing, Allamakee (DW, JN). Highest count for Northern Pintail was 200 on 29 Dec at Hawkeye Wildlife Area, Johnson, IA (JMc). Participants on a St. Louis Audubon field trip recorded a notable count of 8000 Northern Pintail on 22 Feb at Clarence Cannon NWR, Pike, MO (BR-ph ,MG, m.ob.) There was a high of 45 Green-winged Teal on 8 Dec at Red Rock Reservoir, Marion, IA (AB). The highest count of Canvasbacks in Iowa was 200 on 23 Dec at Bulger’s Hollow, Clinton (EEO). High count for Redhead was 40 on 5 Dec at West Okoboji Lake, Dickinson, IA (JDJ). Highest count for Ring-necked Duck was 25 on 5 Dec at West Okoboji Lake, Dickinson, IA (JDJ). The highest number of Greater Scaup was nine on 22 Feb at Stolley Gravel Pit Park, Clay, IA (LAS), and the highest number of Lesser Scaup was 30 on 18 Dec at Davenport, Clinton, IA (RAS). A first year male Harlequin Duck was at Briarstone Lake, Mason City, Cerro Gordo , IA (*RGo, *PH-ph, *WV-ph, MH, *CW-ph, *BCC-ph, *POR, MP, JK) on 3–6 Dec. There were three White-winged Scoters found in Iowa: one female/juvenile on 1 Dec at Big Spirit Lake, Dickinson (SJD), one female/juvenile on 7–15 Dec at Big Creek SP, Polk (SJD-ph, JB-ph, TJD-ph, JG-ph, BMW, RJT-ph, KF, CW-ph, DyO), one ad male on 24 Dec at Mississippi River, Scott (*BLB, CTB). One Black Scoter was observed in Iowa on 9 Jan at Lock & Dam 19, Lee (JLF), with an additional single female-type found in Missouri on 13 Dec at Macon City Lake, Macon (PM-ph, BJ-ph, PMc). The season’s only Long-tailed Duck in Missouri was photographed on 1 Feb at Truman Reservoir, Benton (ZH-ph), while there were ten reports from Iowa, most found along the Mississippi River. Highest numbers were two on 16 Dec at Lock & Dam 19, Lee, IA (SJD) and two on 9 Jan at Ft. Madison, Lee, IA (JLF). The rest of the records were of single birds. Highest number of Bufflehead was 70 on 5 Dec at West Okoboji Lake, Dickinson, IA (JDJ). High counts for the season for Common Goldeneye was 440 on 4 Dec at Red Rock Reservoir, Marion, IA (JG). Highest count for Hooded Mergansers numbered seven on 3 Dec at Lily Pond, Amana Iowa, IA (BCC) and seven on 12 Jan at Desoto NWR Harrison, IA (JH). A high count of 5000-11,800 Common Merganser occurred on 8–15 Dec at Red Rock Reservoir, Marion, IA (AB, DyO). In Missouri, Red-breasted Mergansers were observed in ten counties (m.ob.) with a high of 14 on 20 Dec at Holden City L Johnson (DC).

Grouse through Rails

There were nine reports of Northern Bobwhite in Iowa, with a high of six on 17 Dec near Creston, Union (JG). This year there were 20 reports of Gray Partridge from Iowa with 13–14 on 18–30 Jan near Nevada, Story (EEO), and 14 on 28 Jan, Hardin (RLC, DTh). Ring-necked Pheasant was reported from 244 locations, with a high of 120 on 1 Jan, Woodbury, IA (GLV) and 85 on 4 Jan near Ida Grove, Ida, IA (POR). Two reports of Horned Grebes came from Iowa, one on 5 Dec at West Okoboji Lake, Dickinson (JDJ), with another one on 13 Dec at Sunset Pond, Des Moines (JWR). Red-necked Grebes appeared on 5–21 Jan at Stockton Lake, Cedar, MO (*RH, *SM, DM-ph, PMc-ph, BJ-ph, KL-ph, TE, m.ob.; first two individuals together, then a single individual). A single Eared Grebe continued from the fall until 2 Dec at Binder Lake, Cole, MO (JF-ph, SF, BL-ph). The season saw the appearance of one Western Grebe on 10 Dec at Stockton Lake, Cedar, MO (SM, DM). In addition, an Aechmophorus Grebe was a good find at this same location 18–20 Jan (*JD, *TE, EO). A single Inca Dove continued until 3 Dec at a residence in Holt, Clay, MO (*SL). Three reports of White-winged Doves, casual in winter in Missouri, occurred at residences, one on 11–12 Jan in Republic, Greene (*AS, AL, *KL-ph), one on 21 Jan in Kennett, Dunklin (*KF-ph), and one on 7 Feb in Columbia, Boone (*CR-ph). A juvenile male Anna’s Hummingbird, the ninth state record, lingered until 10 Dec on Chatham Avenue in Columbia, Boone, MO (*PMc-ph, JL-ph, m.ob.). Outside the species’ annual wintering ground at wetlands in Boone, MO, two Virginia Rails were observed on 5–8 Jan at Shepherd of the Hills Fish Hatchery, Taney, MO (*ML-ph,aud, PaM, RD, AH, DB); this sighting marks the first winter record of the species away from the known wintering sites.

Cranes through Woodpeckers

There were 13 reports of Sandhill Cranes in Iowa this year, with high counts of six on 1 Dec at Green Island Wildlife Area, Jackson (TM), and 14 on 1 Dec at Cone Marsh Wildlife Area, Louisa (FB). In Missouri they appeared in five counties with a high of 28 on 19 Dec at Loess Bluffs NWR, Holt (PMc, LW). One Dunlin was photographed during the Horton-Four Rivers Conservation Area CBC, Vernon, MO on 17 Dec (JB, KL-ph, MR), establishing the third winter record of this species outside of the extreme southeastern part of the state. In addition, 95 Dunlin were recorded on 28 Dec at the South Dunklin Rice fields, Dunklin, MO (TJ). There were two Baird’s Sandpipers discovered at Riverlands Migratory Bird Sanctuary, St. Charles, MO on 3 Dec (PL-ph, JH). Least Sandpipers occurred at four locations in Missouri: four during the Horton-Four Rivers Conservation Area CBC, Vernon on 17 Dec (JB, KL, MR), unspecified numbers on 1 and 21 Dec in the South Dunklin Rice fields, Dunklin (TJ), and singles on 22 Feb at both Hedeman Lake/England Pond, Dade (DB-ph, BB) and Schell-Osage Conservation Area, Vernon (DB-ph, BB). Long-billed Dowitchers lingered in Dunklin, MO 1 Dec–15 Jan, with a notable high of 120 occurring 2 Jan (TJ). Wilson’s Snipe occurred in eight counties in Missouri, primarily in the Bootheel counties of Dunklin and Pemiscot with a high count of 200 on 20 Dec off of State Highway 164 Dunklin (TJ). The only Lesser Yellowlegs outside of the bootheel region of Missouri was a single bird on 25 Feb at Hedeman Lake/England Pond, Dade (DF-ph). Greater Yellowlegs were observed in Pemiscot and Dunklin, with a high of 25 on 3 Jan off of Treasure Island Road, Dunklin, MO (TJ). Two observers worked at length to count 2748 Bonaparte’s Gulls on 8 Feb at Truman Reservoir, Benton, MO (PMc-ph, PM).

Observations of Franklin’s Gulls were all of single individuals in February in Missouri: Eagle Bluffs Conservation Area, Boone on 3 and 10 Feb (EW-ph, JM, JG), on 4 Feb at Smithville Lake, Clay (DW), on 17–26 Feb at Longview Lake, Jackson (DHa, DHo-ph, m.obs.), and on 18 Feb at Fairfield Access, Benton (EO-ph). There were also three single Franklin’s Gulls in Iowa with one alternate adult on 1 Dec at Spirit Lake landfill, Dickinson (SJD), one alternate adult on 24–26 Dec at Ottumwa Park, Wapello (JF, POR) and one alternate adult on 1 Jan at Red Rock Reservoir, Marion (SJD). Two reports of California Gull in Missouri included a single adult at Smithville Lake, Clay on 17–25 Feb (*DW-ph, MN, SB-ph, *BJ-ph, PMc, PM) and an adult seen along with a first-cycle bird on 18 Feb again at Smithville Lake, Clay (*DW-ph, JD). Iowa had also had one record of this species, one adult on 8 Dec and again on 3–4 Jan at Red Rock Reservoir, Marion (*AB-ph, *JF-ph, EEO). There were a total of 109 reports of Iceland Gull in Iowa this period, widely distributed in gull flocks at various large water impoundments and river dams around the state. Highest numbers: 8–11 on 24–26 Dec at Ottumwa, Wapello (JF, POR) and 16 on 3 Jan at Red Rock Reservoir, Marion (JF), with nine reports from five counties in Missouri having two kumlieni, and seven thayeri reported, and two not specifying a subspecies. There were reports from eight counties of Lesser Black-backed Gull in Missouri, with most reports of single birds and two reports of two birds, with an additional 52 reports from Iowa with the species being widely reported in gull flocks in central and eastern Iowa. For Glaucous Gull, there were reports from four locations from Missouri and a total of 57 reports from Iowa. There was one first-cycle Great Black-backed Gull on 24–28 Dec at Ottumwa, Wapello, IA (*JF-ph, SJD, MP, POR, RJT) and another first-cycle bird on 1–5 Jan at Red Rock Reservoir, Marion, IA (SJD-ph, *AB-ph, MP, JG-ph); these reports were almost certainly the same individual. Bill Rowe found the season’s only record of this species in Missouri, with a first-cycle bird on 1 Jan at Riverlands Migratory Bird Sanctuary, St. Charles, seen intermittently at that location through 13 Jan (BR-ph, m.ob.).

Observers in Missouri reported single Pacific Loons on three dates at Stockton Lake, Dade on 10 Dec (DM, SM), 9 Jan (*KL-ph), and 14 Jan (*GS-ph). There was also a Pacific Loon found in Iowa on 8–14 Dec at Red Rock Reservoir, Marion (SJD-ph). One Common Loon was reported on 8 Dec at Comanche quarry, Clinton, IA (JF) and one on 4 Dec at Red Rock Reservoir, Marion IA (JG). Observers recorded a high count of 230 Common Loons while positioned within Cedar Ridge Campground on 9 Jan at Stockton Lake, Dade, MO (KL); this count surpasses the previous statewide high for this species in any season. There were 10 reports of Double-crested Cormorant in Iowa with numbers ranging from one to eight individuals. In Iowa there were 147 reports of American White Pelican throughout the period, most below the dams at Saylorville Reservoir, Polk and Red Rock Reservoir, Marion. High counts were 175 on 5 Jan (AB) and 250 on 2 Feb, all at Red Rock Reservoir, Marion (ASp). In Missouri a total of 939 American White Pelicans, notable in winter, occurred during the Horton-Four Rivers Conservation Area CBC on 17 Dec, Vernon (BJ, TE, MM).

American Bitterns remained in two locations in the bootheel: one in a wetland off of County Road 322 on 6 Dec, New Madrid, MO (TJ-ph), and one in a rice field within Hornersville Swamp Conservation Area on 6 Jan, Dunklin, MO (*TJ-ph). Great Egrets, rare in winter, lingered in 12 counties throughout December, with a high of 29 on 1 Dec at Eagle Bluffs Conservation Area, Boone, MO (MP-ph), and a new winter high of 15 on 29 Dec in the Buck and Katy Pools, Boone, MO (MP-ph). From 1 Dec–14 Feb, up to four Black-crowned Night-Herons continued in their usual wintering spot at Forest Park, St. Louis City, MO (MS, m.ob.). An outing on 29 Jan turned up a highly unexpected dark ibis at Grand Pass Conservation Area, Saline, MO (*BM, *RS, BC). There was a notable count of 650 Black Vultures on 14 Dec at Shepherd of the Hills Fish Hatchery, Taney, MO (GS); a kettle of 33 were counted on 30 Dec over Highway C near Altenburg, Perry (AG), and 20 were counted on 3 Feb near Defiance, St. Charles (TP, BR). There were ten reports of Turkey Vultures in Iowa this year, an unusually high number, with a high of 15 on 29 Feb at McBride Nature Recreation Area, Johnson (SF). There were 13 reports of Golden Eagle scattered across Iowa this year, with four from the eastern part of the state, five from the central part of the state, and four from the western part of the state. In Missouri the season featured two reports of Golden Eagles, both immature, on 27 Dec: one at Loess Bluffs NWR, Holt (MR) and another in Worth (EB-ph). In Iowa high counts of Bald Eagle included 200 on 17 Dec at Red Rock Reservoir, Marion (JaJ) and 245 on 22 Jan at Iowa River, Power Company Dam, Johnson (MHB). In Missouri the high count of Bald Eagles was 216 on 1 Jan on the Swan Lake NWR, Chariton (SK). It was another great winter for Rough-legged Hawks in Iowa, with 263 reports totaling 341 individuals during the season, with 16 dark morph individuals reported. A juvenile light-morph Ferruginous Hawk was photographed on 26 Jan west of Farley, Platte, MO (RDu-ph).

This season there was only one report of Snowy Owl in Iowa on 27 Dec, Chickasaw (CJL). Single Long-eared Owls were found at three locations in northwest Missouri: 21 Dec Clinton (CA), 20 Feb Andrew (DW), and 27 Feb on the campus of Northwest Missouri State University, Nodaway (DM, SM-ph). Northern Saw-whet Owls made themselves known at two locations in Missouri: One on 6 and 11 Dec at Houff Ranch, Callaway (PMc, PM), and one on 19 Dec at Loess Bluffs NWR, Holt (MR). There were 56 reports of Northern Saw-whet Owl in Iowa during the season, which were scattered throughout the state with a high of three on 21 Dec at Lime Creek Conservation Area, Cerro Gordo (PH). There was a notable count of 189 Red-headed Woodpeckers during the Horton-Four Rivers Conservation Area CBC, Vernon, MO on 17 Dec (PMc, PM, LW).

Falcons through Thrashers

There were a total of 93 Merlin reported from 32 counties in Iowa, with a high of three on 29 Feb at Glendale Cemetery, Polk (WWi). These reports included five of the columbarius race and three of the richardsonii race. In Missouri, Merlin appeared in counts of 1–2 in 18 counties widely placed around the state. Iowa had four reports of Peregrine Falcons from the central and eastern areas of the state. There were five sightings of Prairie Falcon in the central and western parts of Iowa. Prairie Falcon was reported in two counties in central and eastern Missouri, where they are rare, and five were reported from the southwestern part of the state, where they are still rare but more expected. A single Western Kingbird was found on the record-late date of 8 Dec, Pemiscot, MO (*TJ-ph). In Missouri, Eastern Phoebe was found in 19 counties, primarily in the south, where it is now commonly found in the winter. Three locations, a remarkable number, hosted Say’s Phoebes: one on 31 Dec along the Mississippi River Levee Rd, Dunklin, MO (TJ-ph), one on 14 Dec at Hedeman Lake/England Pond, Dade, MO (GS, CB), and one on 22 Feb at Wah’Kon-Tah Prairie, St. Clair, MO (DM, SM-ph). In Missouri the season included sightings of two adult male Vermilion Flycatchers, one lingering from the fall until 8 Dec at Independence Jackson (*KL-ph, *PMc-ph, *SP-ph, m.ob.) and another on 7 Dec at the Epstein residence in Farmington, St. Francois (*JE). There were 148 reports of 156 individuals of Northern Shrikes this winter in Iowa, with them scattered mostly over the northern two-thirds of the state, except three from the southern third: two on 24 Dec near Woodburn, Clark (JG), two on 2 Jan at Little River Lake Campground, Decatur (LW), and one on 11 Jan near Glenwood, Mills (KH). All observations of Northern Shrikes were of single birds in Missouri, with a total of eight reports. Missouri’s second winter record of White-eyed Vireo was found on 5 Jan at Busch Conservation Area, St. Charles (*JU). Accidental in winter, single Blue-headed Vireos were found on 25 Jan at Otter Slough Conservation Area, Stoddard, MO (*MRa) and on 8 Feb off of Levee Road, Dunklin, MO (*TJ-ph). Fish Crows occurred in five counties in the southeastern portion of Missouri, with the first recorded migrant arriving 28 Jan on the River Campus of Southwest Missouri State University in Springfield Greene (MH) and a high of nine on 29 Feb, Cape Girardeau (MH). The only observation of Tree Swallow, usually reported on multiple occasions in small numbers in winter, was of three birds on 29 Feb at Grand Tower Island, Perry, MO (DM). In leap years this date may also be considered the beginning of the spring season.

After an invasion year last year in Iowa, this year’s totals indicate more normal numbers for Red-breasted Nuthatch, with 40 reports compared to 476 last year. In Missouri they were detected with much less frequency this winter than last, in numbers of one or two in nine counties and most often at Ashland Cemetery, Buchanan (ph. m.ob.). A House Wren turned up on 13 Dec at Busch Conservation Area, St. Charles, MO (TP), a remarkably late record for St. Louis. Still rare but more expected in the bootheel, single birds of this species was found on 4 Dec in the South Pemiscot Farmlands Pemiscot, MO (TJ) and 8 Feb off of Levee Road, Dunklin, MO (TJ). There were 22 reports of Winter Wren in Iowa from throughout the period, with a high of three on 20 Dec, Jackson (KJM) and three on 5 Jan, Clayton (KJM). In Missouri they appeared in 37 counties (ph-m.ob.), with a high of six recorded on two occasions: during the Mingo NWR CBC on 14 Dec, Stoddard (BE), and on 25 Dec off of Wire Road, Stone (BB, DB). A single Sedge Wren, casual in Missouri in the north, was at Lake Contrary, Buchanan on 1 Jan (*TJ); another of this species appeared on 7 Dec at Loess Bluffs NWR, Holt (AT, JT). In Iowa there was one report of one Sedge Wren on 15 Dec near La Porte City, Black Hawk (WV). Marsh Wrens occurred in numbers of one or two in six counties (m.ob.), with the exception of two separate reports of four and five individuals respectively during the Loess Bluffs NWR CBC on 19 Dec, Holt, MO (TJ, MR). There were 10 reports of Ruby-crowned Kinglet in Iowa, with a high of one adult male and one female on 20 Dec, Jackson (*KJM, *TL, GW). There were two separate records of Mountain Bluebird in Iowa: First record was of two birds, apparently an immature male and a female, first found on 13 Dec and continued until 28 Jan at Deere Dike, Dubuque (*DAS-ph, *TM-ph, *CW-ph, *BCC-ph, *CRE, *MHB-ph, *WV-ph, *ML-ph, *MG-ph, m.ob.). A second record was of one bird on 5 Jan at Hitchcock Nature Center, Pottawattamie (*MG-ph). A Townsend’s Solitaire continued from 26 Dec through the end of the winter season at a residence in southeast Lafayette, MO (DVD). There were two records of this species this year in Iowa: one on 21–26 Dec, continuing from the fall at Lime Creek Conservation Area, Cerro Gordo (PH, RGo, BVL, KH-ph), and on 24 Feb at Oak Grove County Park, Sioux (LAS). There were seven reports of Hermit Thrush this year in Iowa, with highest number of two on 15 Dec at Camp Dodge, Polk (JG), and two on 9 Jan at Smith Wildlife Refuge, Pottawattamie (KH). A male Varied Thrush was found dead on 13 Dec at a residence in Gladstone, Clay, MO (SC, *LW-ph), while in Iowa there were two records with one adult male on 10–14 Jan at Mental Health Institute, Buchanan (*WV-ph, CPL-ph, MWe-ph, DGE, TM-ph, DAS, CKr), and one adult male 29 Dec–1 Feb at New Hartford, Butler (DTh-ph, RLC, *CPL-ph, RH-ph, HL-ph, PC-ph). Three Gray Catbirds were found in Missouri, with one on 15 Dec at Forest Park, St. Louis City (RW), one on 23 Dec at Parkville Nature Sanctuary, Platte (JC) and one on 24–25 Dec at the Loyd Farm in Redford, Reynolds (KL-ph). There were six Brown Thrashers found in Iowa this season, surprisingly mostly in the northern half of the state.

Old World Sparrows through Finches

Eurasian Tree Sparrows were widely reported in Iowa along the Mississippi River and in southeastern Iowa, where high counts included 97 on 17 Dec, Clinton (KJM), 81 on 26 Dec, Muscatine (KJM), and 70 on 31 Jan at Fairmont Cemetery, Scott (SMF). In addition to the southeastern Iowa reports were one on 8 Dec–2 Feb at Lake Meyer Park, Winneshiek (LR), one or two on 17 Jan–12 Feb at Greene, Butler (BDB), and three on 5–24 Feb at Earlville, Delaware (CKr, TM). There was also a report of two hybrid birds on 9 Feb at Red Rock Reservoir, Marion, IA (AB-ph). In Missouri they were discovered away from their expected locales on two occasions: three on 25 Jan west of Thomas Hill Reservoir, Randolph (*PMc-ph, *PM-ph), and one individual on 8 Feb at Mora Prairie, Benton (*PMc, *PM). In Missouri American Pipits occurred in numbers ranging from one to 15 (ph m.ob.), with by far the highest count of 85 logged on 17 Dec on the Horton-Four Rivers Conservation Area CBC, Vernon (JB, KL, MR); there was also one report of one on 6 Jan at Gray’s Lake Park, Polk, IA (JB).

Noted to be scarce this season in Missouri by multiple observers, Purple Finches were sighted in numbers of one to 10 in 26 counties, with a high of only 13 recorded on 10 Dec at the Hass’s residence in Cape Girardeau (MH). There were a total of 85 reports in Iowa after 250 reports last year; high counts were 10 on 17 Dec at Joy Hollow, Plymouth (RWR), 10 on 5 Jan at Hitchcock Nature Center, Pottawattamie (MG), and 10 on 16 Feb at DeSoto, Dallas (EP). In Iowa there was one report this year after 23 reports of Common Redpoll last year: one was found on 29 Feb at Saylorville Reservoir, Polk (SJD). Red Crossbills continued throughout the winter in Missouri with a high of 18 on 15–25 Feb at Ashland Cemetery, St. Joseph, Buchanan (PMc-ph, PM-ph); there were also 25 reports this year from Iowa from six locations. High counts were eight to 30 on 2 Dec–7 Feb at Graceland Park Cemetery in Sioux City, Woodbury (ALA, BFH, RTo, MS, SS, JI, POR), and 16–23 on 16–20 Feb at East Lawn Cemetery in Sheldon, O’Brien (JDJ, RLC). There was also a White-winged Crossbill with the Red Crossbills on 14 Feb at the Ashland Cemetery in St. Joseph, Buchanan, MO on 14 Feb (MGo-ph); one individual of this species was ultimately seen by m.ob.-ph, and two individuals were reported at the same location on 23–25 Feb (AL, BJ-ph, PMc-ph, PM-ph). There was one record of White-winged Crossbill in Iowa this year with one male and two females on 29 Jan at Sutherland Cemetery, O’Brien (LAS). There were 66 reports of Pine Siskin this year after 354 last year, with a high count of 68 on 15 Dec at Davenport, Scott, IA (KLM). Pine Siskins were also relatively scarce this season in Missouri and were reported in just a dozen counties, with the large majority of those reports coming from Ashland Cemetery, Buchanan (ph-m.ob.), and a high of 30 on 15 Feb at Mt. Mora Cemetery, Buchanan (PMc-ph, PM-ph). Highest numbers for Lapland Longspurs in Iowa were 375 on 29 Dec in Sioux (JDJ) and 160 on 14 Jan near Slater, Story (JG). Smith’s Longspurs appeared in three counties in the western part of Missouri, with a high being nine birds on 11 Dec off of SW 400th Rd, Johnson (DC). There were 47 reports of Snow Buntings this season in Iowa, with the highest number of 92 on 25 Jan near Oxford, Johnson (BWi). The only report of Snow Buntings in Missouri was of two birds together on 12 Dec near the Mississippi River, Clark (KJM, JaM).

There were eight reports of Chipping Sparrow in Iowa, representing an unusually high six records this winter. A Chipping Sparrow was found in northern Missouri, where it is casual, at a residence in St. Joseph, Buchanan on 19 Jan (TN-ph). In locations south of this part of the state the species has become more regularly detected during the winter months and was observed this season in eight counties, usually as singles, with highs of five recorded on 8 Dec at a residence in Cape Girardeau, MO (MH-ph) and five on 4 Feb at Columbia Bottom Conservation Area, St. Louis, MO (MT-ph). Missouri’s fourth winter record of Clay-colored Sparrow, accidental in winter, was discovered on 1 Jan during the Confluence CBC at Riverlands Migratory Bird Sanctuary, St. Charles (*JM, *BR-ph); this bird remained throughout the season and was seen by many. There were 18 reports of Fox Sparrow in Iowa with high counts of three on 27 Jan at Coralville Lake, Johnson (BH) and two on 23 Feb at Wilson Lake Park, Lee (TE). There were 18 Oregon race Dark-eyed Junco individuals reported in Iowa this season. The only report of Vesper Sparrow in Iowa was one on 31 Dec–7 Jan at Errington Marsh Wildlife Area, Polk (RLC, good details). A single record of Vesper Sparrow in Missouri on 27 Dec was off of Elm Branch Road, Pettis (TE). A new seasonal high count of 53 LeConte’s Sparrow occurred at Busch-Wheeler Prairie during the Horton-Four Rivers Conservation Area CBC on 17 Dec, Vernon, MO (LH, RH, PMc-ph, PM-ph, LW, m.ob.). There were two reports of Savannah Sparrows in Iowa this season, with one on 8 Dec–26 Jan at Tedesco Environmental Learning Corridor, Story (SSP) and one on 15 Dec at University of Iowa, Johnson (TW, JW, MSa). There were two reports for Lincoln’s Sparrow in Iowa, with one on 6 Dec at Hawkeye Wildlife Area, Johnson (JKe) and one on 7 Jan at Bays Branch Wildlife Area, Guthrie (CW). Single Spotted Towhees, rare outside of the western part of the state, appeared in three locations: one on 13 Dec at Helton Wildlife Area, Harrison, MO (JU-ph), one on 27 Dec along County Road B115, Randolph, MO (AM), and a male on 13 Jan at Busch Conservation Area, St. Charles, MO (TP, BR) was subsequently seen and photographed by many through 1 Feb. There were seven records of Spotted Towhees in Iowa this winter, a very good year to find this species compared to previous years. There were also 10 records of Eastern Towhee in Iowa this season.

There was one Yellow-headed Blackbird on 1 Dec at a private residence in Harrison, IA (CD). There were three reports of Eastern Meadowlark from Iowa this winter with vocalizations. There were also two reports of Western Meadowlark this winter from Iowa noting vocalizations. The highest counts of Red-winged Blackbird in Iowa were 45,000+ on 1 Jan at Water Works Park, Polk (JG), and 100,000+ on 11 Feb near Iowa City, Johnson (BWi). There were a total of 23 reports of Rusty Blackbirds with 74 individuals from 14 counties in Iowa, with a high count of 30 on 15 Dec at Granger, Dallas (WO); in Missouri they were noted in 27 counties with a high of 300 on 10 Feb, occurring off of Dalbow Road, St. Charles (TP, BR). Brewer’s Blackbirds showed up in 10 counties in the west and south areas in Missouri, with a high of 165 birds on 20 Feb off of County Road 199 at Lockwood, Dade (MR). There were three reports of Brewer’s Blackbird in Iowa, four on 1 Dec in Poweshiek (CPL), one on 25 Dec at Kellerton, Ringgold (CH) and one on 15 Feb near Wall Lake, Crawford (DSi). Iowa had four reports of Great-tailed Grackles this winter period, with high counts of 462 on 28 Dec west of Ottumwa, Wapello (SJD). In Missouri no observers reported Great-tailed Grackles at the feedlot on Church and Seeburger Roads, St. Louis (BR) this year, and the only occurrence of this species east of Springfield occurred in unspecified numbers flying over a residence in Russellville, Cole on leap day, 29 Feb (CBa).

A Northern Waterthrush was at Turkey Creek Nature Preserve, Johnson, IA on 6 Jan (*LGR-ph). A female Black-and-white Warbler was photographed on 2 Feb at Big Oak Tree SP, Mississippi, MO (*LM). *TN photographed an Orange-crowned Warbler, casual in the north in Missouri, at the Voltz residence at St. Joseph, Buchanan on 30 Jan. Observers of single birds of this species occurred in five other counties in Missouri. A report of one Orange-crowned Warbler in Iowa on 22 Dec–26 Jan came from Three Mile Lake, Union (SJD-ph). An immature male American Redstart established a second Missouri record for Dec at a residence in Lincoln on 1–7 Dec (OG-ph, *HG, *JH). Two Cape May Warblers, casual in winter, were present at residential feeders: one on 10–11 Dec at the Rush residence in Farley, Platte, MO (*DR-ph) and a male on 18–21 Jan in Labadie, Franklin, MO (JJ, RJ-ph, *JU-ph, MT-ph). A Pine Warbler, notably rare outside of the south in winter, appeared on 2–23 Feb at Tower Grove Park, St. Louis City, MO (RC, KW-ph, DHa). Five counties in Missouri hosted Common Yellowthroats, with a high of four on 24 Jan at Eagle Bluffs Conservation Area, Boone (MP-ph), constituting a new seasonal high count. There were 15 reports of Yellow-rumped Warblers in Iowa with the highest number reported of 18–36 on 18–21 Dec at Johnston gravel pits, Polk (RLC). There was also a report of one Audubon’s Yellow-rumped Warbler on 23 Dec at Lake Icaria, Adams, IA (*CJL).

Observations of Summer Tanagers comprised a remarkable nine records of single birds, with seven of these records occurring after 13 Dec, when the species becomes accidental in Missouri: a male on 1 Dec at a residence in St. Charles (MGa), a female-type on 3 Dec at the Burger/Burwick residence in Springfield, Greene (LB-ph), a female-type on 3 Dec–4 Feb at a residence in St. Louis (*DBr-ph), a female-type on 30 Nov–17 Feb at the Norma Staples residence in Nixa, Christian (*LB-ph), a male on 13 Dec in Jasper (*AW-ph), a female-type on 14 Dec at a residence in St. Louis (*GA), a female-type on 16 Dec at a residence in Camdenton, Camden (*KS), a female-type on 29 Dec at Lakeside Nature Center, Jackson (*DA-ph, *JA-ph), and a female-type on Jan 2 at a residence in Raytown, Jackson (*JMo-ph). The season’s only Lazuli Bunting was discovered on 21 Dec off of Short Road in Plattsburg, Clinton, MO (*MM-ph, LW). Indigo Buntings turned up at a remarkable number of locations in the central and northern parts of Missouri, where the species is casual in winter. Records of single birds were on 10 Dec at Columbia Bottom Conservation Area, St. Louis (*MT), on 19 Dec in Holt (*TM), on 20 Dec off of 70 Road, Buchanan (*JDi-ph), on 21–29 Dec at Burroughs Audubon Nature Center, Jackson (*MSt-ph, m.ob.), and 1–20 Feb at the Lutz residence in Washington, Franklin, MO (*BL-ph). Three individuals of this species were discovered together off of Short Road on 21 Dec in Plattsburg, Clinton, MO (*MM-ph). In Iowa one immature male Indigo Bunting was located on 1 Jan–20 Feb at Davenport, Scott (*BLB, CTB). Single Dickcissels occurred at four locations in Missouri: on 3–5 Dec at Rutledge-Wilson Farm Community Park, Greene (KL-ph), on 16–18 Dec at a residence in Fenton St. Louis (ScA, SaA), on 26 Jan–2 Feb at Busch Conservation Area, St. Charles (CMc-ph, AR-ph, m.ob.-ph), and on 8 Feb at Mora Conservation Area, Benton (PM-ph, PMc-ph).

Report reviewed by Randi Minetor, 27 Mar 2021.

Photos–Iowa & Missouri: Winter 2019–2020

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