Rewards of Ugly Weather

This morning dawned cold and gray in central Missouri and the threat of chilly rain or wet snow was beginning to douse our spring fever. Nevertheless, I decided to make my weekly spring visit to Eagle Bluffs Conservation Area, on the Missouri River floodplain, and was rewarded by both solitude and a spectacular diversity of wildlife.

Carpets of purple henbit tried to adorn the landscape but grays and browns still ruled as winter had yet to abandon the valley. Near the entrance to this wetland preserve, two sandhill cranes, stained a tawny brown, foraged on a burned field with a noisy flock of killdeer. Throughout the refuge, coot, Canada geese and ducks gathered on the ponds, early shorebirds fed in the shallows and clouds of red-winged blackbirds moved across the fields. A tardy flock of snow geese weaved overhead, a pair of bald eagles cavorted in the cold, gray sky and white-tailed deer raced among the corn stubble, chasing off the morning chill. Once again, American white pelicans highlighted my visit; at least a thousand of those stately birds were resting along levees toward the south end of the refuge, lifting into the air as my pickup approached.

Too often, nature lovers wait for mild, sunny days to explore the great outdoors; humans, after all, are tropical creatures, not designed to function in cold, wet conditions and prone to wait out bad weather in our modern caves. However, those who do venture into the gloom develop a better appreciation for our natural ecosystems; wild creatures, equipped to deal with inclement weather, are often more active and conspicuous on chilly days. And then there is the solitude...a friend of any true naturalist.