Ding Darling of the Midwest

In December, 1974, I visited Sanibel Island, Florida, with my wife's family.  During that vacation we toured Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge, world famous for its fabulous diversity of subtropical, aquatic wildlife.  Since that time, I have visited many other wildlife refuges across this magnificent country, including a conservation area near Columbia, Missouri, that has always reminded me of Ding Darling.

Like its famous counterpart, Eagle Bluffs Conservation Area protects wetland habitat and is accessed by a network of graveled roads and levees that permit close viewing of its resident and migrant wildlife.  A late summer visit is especially reminiscent of Ding Darling NWR, as a large number of herons, egrets, shorebirds, cormorants, white pelicans, rails and other aquatic birds visit this Missouri floodplain refuge, stopping to rest and feed on their journey to the south.

In reality, lying as it does within the seasonal diversity of the Temperate Zone, Eagle Bluffs attracts a greater variety of birds in the course of a year than does Ding Darling.  While it may not host many of the subtropical species that are found in South Florida, it sits on a major avian flyway, attracting a large variety of waterfowl and songbirds that breed to our north.  Furthermore, the avian population of Eagle Bluffs changes through the seasons as summer and winter residents mingle with permanent residents and with those cherished vagrant and irruptive species.  And, finally, since Eagle Bluffs does not enjoy the international fame of Ding Darling NWR, one can often explore its varied wetland habitats in relative solitude.