More fog! Gee whiz. And the temp was only 37F. Randy Korotev joined John and me for a morning of birding in the area of the confluence of the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers. Our target bird was the exotic Eurasion Tree Sparrow which was introduced into the St. Louis area along with other European birds sometime during the late 19th century by the local German community hoping to create an atmosphere like "back home." The sparrow was the only one of that introduced group of birds that made it, but they haven't expanded a whole lot further than the area around St. Louis. We tried several weedy areas before we heard a note that sounded like our House Sparrow. Indeed there were two Eurasian Tree Sparrows perched atop a bush where a good look was had by all (web photo). After the pressure for the big bird was off, we went to some areas near one of the lock and dams of the Mississippi River where we saw many Trumpeter Swans, one Mute Swan, Common Mergansers, Common Goldeneyes, plenty of Bald Eagles on the ice, and a lot of Ring-billed Gulls. Near the end of our stay a flock of Canada Geese flew over. The flock contained one very obvious Cackling Goose.
Around noon we took Randy back to his house and thnaked him for his help and hospitality and headed for Illinois. The area to which we were going was the Prairie Ridge conservation area near Newton, Illinois where they have one of the largest remaining groups of Greater Prairie Chickens. I learned about the site from checking the Christmas Bird Count results over the past decade. Last year the count recorded nearly a hundred chickens. We arrived at the site and checked out the viewing area. Almost immediately Short-eared Owls began popping up. We tallied eight in all. In addition there were several flocks of American Tree Sparrows (photo), which are not related to the Eurasian Tree Sparrows, and a couple of Lapland Longspurs flew overr giving their ticky-tik-tiu calls. As expected for our late afternoon viewing, the chickens didn't show. We drove to Newton and settled in at the River Park Motel. Having a motel in Newton saved us the extra drive back to Effingham and makes an early start tomorrow a better possibility and enhances our chicken sighting chances. Total number of species is now 262.