Across the state, Missouri had 30 active count circles—the most ever. The Dade County circle was the newest addition. This year saw increased participation, and 152 species were recorded. Three counts recorded over one hundred species: Four Rivers (108 sp.), Dade County (107 sp.), and Clarence Cannon NWR (102 sp.).
While a few counts experienced heavy rains, the season was relatively mild and dry, possibly influencing the high numbers of certain taxa. Black Vulture and Red-shouldered Hawk continued their trend of being recorded further north than they had historically.
Big Oak Tree SP recorded the state’s high count of Killdeer (884 birds) and the state’s third record of Rose-breasted Grosbeak. Clarence Cannon NWR saw two Plegadis ibis, a first for Missouri, and a Gray Catbird, a first for the count. Cole Camp Prairies saw 779 White-crowned Sparrow, the state high count. Dade County reported the state’s second record of Pacific Loon, as well as the eighth record of Smith’s Longspur. Dade also set the state high count of Common Loon with 50 birds. Four Rivers had an impressive year with its first record of Sora, its second records of Long-billed Dowitcher and Dunlin, and the state high count of Least Sandpiper and Lapland Longspur. Jefferson City located the third state Say’s Phoebe and an Eared Grebe. Kansas City had a Long‑tailed Duck and the state high count for Bufflehead. Loess Bluffs NWR also recorded its first Sora, as well as state high counts of Trumpeter Swan (3967 birds) and Ring-necked Duck (9250 birds). Loess Bluffs also had 3 Plegadis ibis, one of which could be identified as White-faced Ibis, a state first. Mingo NWR set the state high count for Greater White‑fronted Goose, and it recorded the second state record of Northern Parula. St. Joseph had a Prairie Falcon, as well as its first Yellow-headed Blackbird. Taney County reported Virginia Rail for the second time. Trimble also had Yellow-headed Blackbird, in addition to Northern Shrike and Spotted Towhee. Weldon Spring located the state’s first Varied Thrush, which happened to be only 12 miles from a second bird outside the count circle.
Notable count week birds included Lesser Black-backed and Glaucous gulls at Confluence, and Snowy Owl at Dade County.
In February 2021, the entire state experienced a hard, extended freeze with temperatures routinely dipping below 0°F in many areas. I personally noticed my local Carolina Wrens were absent and many of the usual Eastern Bluebird nest boxes were left unattended the next spring. Comparing the current season (Dec 2021 - Jan 2022) to the 10-year average, the data show declines of Carolina Wren, Northern Mockingbird, Eastern Bluebird, Hermit Thrush, and Eastern Phoebe by around 50%. For this group of species, Missouri represents part of the northern extent of their winter range, and so they would presumably be less adapted to the extreme cold. It is important to recognize that while a 50% reduction is eye-opening, this year’s count data occurred after a complete breeding season for these species, and the number of CBC participants out looking for them was above average this year. These two facts help highlight the real mortality of the winter event in early 2021. Saddening as it may be, the strongest individuals have survived to reproduce, strengthening the population for the future. Now that it is spring of 2022, as I write this, I am pleased to hear the calls of a pair of Carolina Wren outside my window once again. As the old adage says, “Life finds a way.”