Veteran birders know that high winds and heavy rain are the least favorable weather conditions for productive birding since most birds will take cover until conditions improve. Then again, if you plan to observe aquatic species from the comfort of your car, rainy weather can have its advantages. Waterfowl and waders could care less about the presence of rain and some birds, such as rails, are best seen on dark, cloudy, rainy days.
With such positive thoughts in mind, I headed down to Eagle Bluffs Conservation Area this morning, a superb wetland refuge on the floodplain of the Missouri River. To my surprise, I was greeted on the entry road by a scissor-tailed flycatcher, the first I had ever encountered in central Missouri. As expected in mid April, the waterfowl were abundant, dominated by northern shovelers, blue-winged teal and American coot; some wintering species were also present, including lesser scaup, ring-necked ducks and a few canvasbacks. Other aquatic birds included a large number of double-crested cormorants, a fair number of pied-billed grebes and a lone white pelican. Shorebirds were scattered about the mudflats and flooded fields, dominated by lesser yellowlegs, and, as if to support my rationale for visiting, a pair of soras foraged along the edge of the cattails, dipping in and out of cover.
Otherwise, muskrats went about the morning chores, great blue herons and great egrets stalked the shallows and northern harriers hunted low across the fields. Summer birds may have returned to the bottomland woods but, due of the intermittent lightening, I was reluctant to leave my pickup and they were likely waiting out the storm. Not a bad morning on the floodplain, despite the weather!