Few Snows, One Magpie

Traveling back to Missouri yesterday, under clear, blue skies, I hoped to encounter large flocks of snow geese; after all, we are entering the peak period of their annual spring migration.  Discovering a small flock over Park, Kansas, I took it as a sign that many more would appear further east.  Alas, while flocks of Canada geese were numerous, no additional snow geese were encountered before darkness enveloped western Missouri.

On the other hand, I was surprised to observe a black-billed magpie cruising over the Interstate about 10 miles west of Salina, Kansas.  Common throughout the Intermountain West, abundant along the Colorado Front Range and fairly common on the High Plains, these large, flashy corvids are easily identified.  While they, like other birds, may wander about during the winter months, I had never seen a magpie so far east on my numerous trips between Colorado and Missouri.

Yesterday's observations (or lack thereof) highlight the nature of birding.  On any given hike or journey, common, expected sightings may not materialize while a rare or unusual discovery proves to be the highlight of the day.  Indeed, surprises and uncertainty feed the passion of birders.