Back in Missouri, I decided to visit the Eagle Bluffs Conservation Area, southwest of Columbia, this morning. Purple henbit blazed on the open fields and kestrels clung to the wires, trying to balance in the gusty south wind. Out on the lakes, coot and blue-winged teal were the dominant waterfowl though northern shovelers were also common. Double-crested cormorants lounged in the dead trees and several large flocks of American white pelicans rested on sandbars and mudflats. Overhead, groups of turkey vultures soared in the morning breeze and a single bald eagle flapped above the wetlands, spooking the teal into frenzied flight.
While killdeer and a few spotted sandpipers fed along the shorelines, the variety of shorebirds was rather lackluster this morning. Likewise, the bottomland woods were still winter-like, no doubt subdued from the recent cold spell. And though woodpeckers, chickadees and white-throated sparrows called from the woodland, only the insistent chatter of a house wren foretold the onset of a new season.
By mid morning, the pelicans began to depart, the flocks rising in sequence, circling over the refuge and then drifting northward up the Missouri River Valley. Within a few more weeks, most of the migrants will have passed through the refuge and Eagle Bluffs will settle into its rich, verdant season.