A Travellerspoint blog

Twitch: Swainson’s Warbler

Colombia, MO

sunny 90 °F

Being my one full day in St. Louis, MO, I took advantage of the day to twitch a Swainson’s Warbler with my friend Theo B. This bird has been seen at a place called Grindstone Nature Area in Colombia, MO since at least May and Theo has seen it there once before, when it was HIS lifer! I was hoping that today would be my turn to nab this secretive, ground-dwelling warbler species of the southeast!

Theo picked me up at the hotel by 4:30am and we were on the road for the two-hour trek west to Grindstone. It was a quick ride passed by enjoyable conversation (talking “bird” as my parents would say), and before we knew it, we had arrived!

We got out of the car to a nice dawn chorus including YELLOW-THROATED & KENTUCKY WARBLERS, CAROLINA WREN, & YELLOW-BREASTED CHAT among others — all expected species down here. We hiked in about a half a mile to the spot where Theo had the bird last month. After a bit of searching, no luck, so Theo checked the eBird reports of the bird and we decided to try another path bordering Grindstone Creek where the bird had also been reported. One interesting sighting here was a shy BARRED OWL that flew back into the woods, evading photos. Bird photography gets tough come July.

Then, we heard a clear, high-pitched, downward-slurred song from the woods south of us alongside the trail and I asked Theo, “that it?” Well, it sure as HELL was!!!!! My lifer SWAINSON’S WARBLER, a very very hard-to-find warbler species. This is the only reported one in central Missouri this year, I believe. There has only been a single sighting in Illinois too — they are just so hard to come by. Now, the trick was trying to get a look at this tiny brown bird within a veritable jungle of trees and bushes. Theo headed back to move the car to a closer carpark while I circled the patch of woods from which the bird was singing, trying to get eyes on it. I made a complete circle before, to my great surprise and delight, the bird came out right alongside the path right where I had first heard it. WOW! My shaky hands were barely able to keep the camera still enough for photos — I was that excited!

INCREDIBLE! Our next stop was at Eagle Bluffs Conservation Area along the Missouri River to look for a would-be lifer for Theo: Black-billed Cuckoo. We saw the largest beaver of our entire lives cross the road. This picture can’t do it justice but it was so large it was approaching the size of a golden retriever. Dang!

One nice sighting was a LARK SPARROW:

DICKCISSELS were everywhere:

We gave the Cuckoo a fair shot at the appointed location, but alas, no luck. We frustratingly had 3 YELLOW-BILLED CUCKOOS and 4 cuckoos that went unidentified so it was certainly disappointing, but Black-billed is extremely hard in the summer this far south. I told Theo he should come up and bird Montrose with me during migration one of these years where he would have a much better shot at finding this localized species.

It was still an amazing morning with that Swainson’s Warbler, though! He will be the bird-of-the-day with runner-up to the Barred Owl seen there. It was great birding a new state and thanks so much to Theo for an extremely enjoyable morning of productive birding. Stay tuned: tomorrow morning I am waking up at the crack of dawn to find a lifer: Cave Salamander! Wish me luck.

Happy birding,
World Life List: 1121 Species (1 life bird today: Swainson’s Warbler)

Posted by skwclar 13:12 Archived in USA

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Congratulations! I love your blog.

by Jim Bowhay

really enjoy the pic of Swainson's singing! good luck with the cave salamander.

by Mary Stevens

I love the singing Swainson’s warbler a well! Congrats on your lifer Henry! And what a beak!!!

by Poo

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