South of Town

North of Columbia, the landscape soon gives way to the relatively flat terrain of the Glacial Plain that covers much of the Midwest, from central Ohio to the eastern Dakotas. But south of town, one encounters the rolling hills, bluffs and floodplain of the Missouri River Valley; it is a landscape of wooded slopes, hilltop meadows and valley farms, all sloping toward a broad, flat swath of cropfields, wetlands, bottomland woods and the River itself.

On this bright, cloudless morning, I journeyed through this landscape, winding along graveled roads and stopping now and then to observe the changing scenery. Mourning doves and eastern bluebirds huddled on the powerlines, blue jays, mockingbirds and cardinals flashed across the roadways and mixed flocks of juncos and winter sparrows scattered from the roadside thickets. Red-tailed hawks circled above the frosted fields and an occasional red-shouldered hawk patrolled from a barren tree. Though common in this habitat, wild turkeys had not yet left their forest retreats, leaving the meadows and corn stubble to herds of livestock and flocks of Canada geese.

Down on the floodplain, noisy killdeer raced along the mudflats, crows foraged in the crop fields and a lone bald eagle surveyed the scene from a riverside grove. A steady south wind negated my opportunity to observe migrant snow geese but distant, high clouds, off to the northwest, foretold of an approaching storm. That front, due tomorrow, will reinforce the winter season and another wave of snow geese will ride its northerly wind across the Heartland.