Early Autumn Wetland

After a week of chilly nights and cool days, our local wetland reflects the seasonal change. The goldenrod and other late summer wildflowers are beginning to fade while splotches of olive and rust paint the woodlands. A decreasing variety of birds move about the preserve and, aside from the rant of killdeer, they are mostly quiet.

The water of the seasonal lake has retreated significantly and its resident amphibians, sluggish in the cooling environment, were slow to escape our approach. A lone green-backed heron haunted the wooded shoreline while an increasing number of ducks (primarily mallards and blue-winged teal) fed in the shallows; the latter were joined by a trio of pied-billed grebes, common migrants in our region. Though a squadron of swifts strafed the marsh, our resident swallows were noticeably absent, already off to the warm, buggy south. Out on the mudflats, a pair of yellowlegs joined the noisy killdeer, stopping to rest and feed on their way to southern shores.

A red-tailed hawk circled overhead and a flock of vultures, like kites on a breezy day, dipped and tilted above the creekside ridge. In the coming weeks, the foliage of the marsh and grassland will continue to fade as the surrounding woodlands take on their October splendor; by then, winter songbirds will claim the thickets and the cold, quiet season will settle across this Missouri wetland.