Bird Watching in Farmington Missouri
Farmington, Missouri is such an excellent place for bird watching that the East Ozarks Audubon Society has located its headquarters there. More than 400 species of birds are known to frequent Missouri, which draws from both eastern and western populations. Some species remain all year. Over 200 species of neotropical migrants travel through the area when migrating from their wintering grounds in Central America, South America, Mexico and the Caribbean. While some of them are only passing through, others nest here for the summer. After they leave, their place here is taken by birds from the far North, for which Missouri is their wintering grounds.
Many birds can be seen at backyard bird feeders and even in city streets. The birder who wants to see a wider selection of birds, or to look for species in a specific type of habitat, doesn’t have far to go. Saint Joe State Park, just northwest of the city, may be known for its off-road vehicle areas, but the park’s forests, native grasslands, streams and wetlands make it also an excellent place for bird watching. Another very good birding area is Hawn State Park’s Whispering Pine Wild Area, 14 miles northeast of Farmington. Within the city itself, try the Dr. F. R. Crouch Nature Sanctuary. This sanctuary is on the west side of Engler City Park. The East Ozarks Audubon Society maintains the park’s trails, bird feeding stations, and a bird viewing blind.
Birding is suitable for people of all ages and physical conditions, and little equipment is needed. If you’re going to be hiking along trails, good hiking shoes and clothing suitable to the weather are necessary. Many people like to bring a camera. A pair of binoculars and a field guide can be very helpful. There are a number of excellent paper field guides available. Most cover eastern or western bird species in separate guides, and Missouri gets many representatives of both; Stan Tekiela has written a field guide specifically focusing on the birds of Missouri, which is well recommended. The Missouri Department of Conservation has an excellent online guide at http://mdc.mo.gov/discover-nature/field-guide/types/birds. You can either begin by studying the guides, deciding which birds you most want to see, and going to their likely habitat; or by noticing the birds you see in your given location, and then looking for them in the guides. Guides are also very useful in learning what to look for when attempting to distinguish species.
You’ll see many birds common in the area, such as the American robin, Carolina chickadee, northern bobwhite, wild turkey, and the eastern bluebird, which is the Missouri state bird. The lucky and persistent birder may also see many species rare in the area, such as Bachman’s sparrow, Mississippi kite, black-necked stilt, osprey, American bittern. The warm winter of 2011 to 2012 even brought snowy owls into Missouri.
Enjoy your birding, but be careful not to disturb the birds. They have busy lives, and need to be able to feed and nest peacefully so that they can continue to benefit the overall ecology, as well as delighting the eyes of birders.