Swan Lake National Wildlife Refuge hosted its first Bird ID Workshop of two for this year on March 15 and 16 after the snowstorms in February caused it to be rescheduled from its original dates in February.
Swan Lake National Wildlife Refuge hosted its first Bird ID Workshop of two for this year on March 15 and 16 after the snowstorms in February caused it to be rescheduled from its original dates in February. This workshop focused on raptor and sparrow species that winter at the refuge, but also took the opportunity to observe some of the waterfowl migrating through. The workshop started on Friday the 15th with an afternoon field trip around the refuge. The field trip was optional, but most of the workshop participants showed up for it, and it was a perfect spring day for birding. The classroom identification portion of the workshop started at 5pm and was led by Audubon volunteers Paul McKenzie and Brad Jacobs. Paul started off teaching about raptors, covering the basics such as flight patterns and more advanced material such as raptor morphs. The group took a brief break to grab some dinner provided by the Friends of Swan Lake NWR, and then it was back to the books to learn about wintering sparrows and their characteristics from Brad. It was a long night filled with in-depth information, but everyone agreed that they learned a lot from wonderful teachers. JoAnn Eldridge, attending the workshop from Kearney, MO, commented “the workshop hand wonderful instructors and handouts and it was a great setup with great food. The small groups on the field trips were nice.” Saturday morning March 16th dawned cold and windy, but that didn't stop the group from meeting bright and early at the refuge visitor center. Everyone was bundled up in hats, gloves, and winter coats, carrying binoculars around their necks and bird guides in their hands ready to try out the new identification tips they had learned in the classroom the evening before. The morning started out quietly walking around the refuge barns looking for a Barn owl that had been spotted earlier that week. Sadly, the owl wasn't to be found. However, there were plenty of winter sparrows at some bird feeders the refuge had set up earlier that year. Everyone stood a distance away on the road looking at the sparrows and songbirds visiting the feeders for seeds. After that, the group divided up into cars and went to different portions of the refuge to look for raptors, sparrows, ducks, songbirds, and any other species they could find. Around noon, everyone returned to the office to discuss the bird list and what other species they found. Participants in the workshop traveled from all over the state of Missouri and observed raptors including different morphs of Red-tailed Hawk, including an unusual immature rufous or intermediate morph, Red-shouldered Hawk, Rough-legged Hawk, Accipiter sp., American Kestrel, Northern Harrier, and adult and immature Bald Eagles. Sparrows observed included: White-throated, White-crowned, Harris's, Fox, Song, Swamp, Dark-eyed Junco, Lincoln's, and E. Towhee. In addition to these species they observed many species of waterfowl and other birds. Ev Lueke of Troy, Mo., participated in the workshop and said, “I enjoyed the whole experience and learned a lot”. Swan Lake NWR will be hosting the second Bird ID workshop of the year on May 17 and 18 that will focus on Shorebirds and Marshbirds. Space is limited in the workshop, to pre-register, email the refuge biotech at email@example.com or calls the refuge at 660-856-3323 ext 16. Swan Lake NWR is located one mile south of Sumner, MO and managed by the US Fish and Wildlife Service as a unit of the National Wildlife Refuge System. The USFWS is the principal federal agency responsible for conserving, protecting and enhancing fish, wildlife and plants and their habitats for continuing benefit of the American people.