Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Along Grindstone Creek

Grindstone Creek Nature Area, in Columbia, Missouri, is another excellent area for birding.  Riparian woodlands line the stream and limestone bluffs rise along the valley walls; enveloped by the creek's broad loop are open woodlands, cedar groves and a restored prairie, offering a diverse habitat for avian residents and visitors.

Yesterday morning, before encountering my first bird, I came across a male five-linked skink, sunning himself on the wooden planks of a bridge; his bright orange face, contrasting with a light brown body, indicated that breeding season is well underway.  Numerous bird species were seen along the winding path; indigo buntings, northern cardinals, eastern bluebirds, gray catbirds, American goldfinches and red-bellied woodpeckers were among the more common residents.  Warblers were represented by yellow, prothonotary, cerulean, Nashville and yellow-rumped warblers, common yellowthroats and yellow-breasted chats.  Other sightings included warbling and white-eyed vireos, brown thrashers, blue-gray gnatcatchers and house wrens; of special interest was a flock or a dozen or more white-crowned sparrows, gorging themselves on dandelion seeds at the edge of the graveled path (and fueling up for their journey to northern Canada).

In addition to the many colorful birds, the refuge was adorned with a beautiful mix of woodland wildflowers, including yellow flower panicles on the buckeye trees.  A lone box turtle plodded across the trail, oblivious to my presence, and the silky chambers of tent caterpillars festooned many of the small trees.  As is usually the case, yesterday's birding walk led to many expected sightings but some chance discoveries as well; the latter are what keep us enthused and engaged.