Truman was President, Muddy Waters sang "Rollin' Stone," Lefty Frizzell sang "If You've Got the Money," "Sunset Boulevard" took the Golden Globe, and the Webster Groves Nature Study Society counted birds in the cold December winds at Busch Wildlife Conservation Area near Weldon Spring, Missouri, Dec. 29, 1950.
This year we had 11 participants who counted 2,441 birds of 49 species, including one that has never been recorded on the Weldon Spring count, the Common Ground-Dove. For that matter, it's likely the only individual of its species ever to have been recorded on a Christmas Count in Missouri. It's a bird that's normally found in the extreme southeast and southwestern US and coastal Mexico. Records show that the species has never been recorded in St. Charles County. Thanks to Josh Uffman for making this information available online.
Our little dove--smallest in the US; half the length of the abundant Mourning Dove--was very kind to us, considering all the factors. It had been dallying in the fields of Busch for weeks, putting up with hunters and as well as unruly birders. It was our target bird, but rabbit hunters with their noisy beagles caused it to lie low. Fortunately, some of the group were very patient, including Bob Nieman who snapped this picture just as the sun set. Bob was visiting the area for the holidays--thanks for your help in making this a memorable count!
On my route, I was delighted to witness a behavior I'd never seen before. I paused along the road where fields gave way to forest. American Robins and Cedar Waxwings crossed back and forth, feeding on and the waxy blue berries (really cones) of Eastern Red Cedar and the abundant red berries of invasive bush honeysuckle. Amidst the busy, noisy robins, two sleek waxwings rested on a branch. One passed a berry to the other's beak, who then passed it back. They did this for several minutes. Male and female Cedar Waxwings look identical, but the two were probably a pair engaged in courtship behavior (A Guide to Bird Behavior, Vol. II, by Don and Lillian Stokes, 1983).