Journey to Swan Lake

Swan Lake National Wildlife Refuge spreads across the Glaciated Plain of north-central Missouri, just east of the Grand River Valley.Its mosaic of lakes, ponds, fields, riparian woods and interconnected wetlands is a magnet for migrant waterfowl and today's visit turned up an excellent variety.

Restless flocks of snow geese moved about the preserve while numerous ducks, coot, grebes and Canada geese gathered in the wetlands. A flotilla of white pelicans lined the northern shore of Silver Lake and wood ducks zigzagged through flooded timber at the south edge of the refuge. Northern harriers were especially common, hunting low across the grasslands, and a pair of bald eagles soared high overhead. Other sightings included red-tailed hawks, red-headed woodpeckers, killdeer, horned larks, meadowlarks and those ever-present red-winged blackbirds.

As is true with most field trips, the journey to and from Swan Lake was also of interest. Avoiding major highways, one gets a feel for the regional topography and develops an appreciation for the human culture of agricultural areas. If nothing else, pleasant countryside, old barns, placid livestock and rural wildlife extend the natural experience.