Eagle Bluffs in Snow

After an overnight snowfall of about 4 inches, I arrived at Eagle Bluffs Conservation Area, southwest of Columbia, at eight-fifteen this morning under bright sunshine and enveloped in frigid air; it was 11 degrees F.  A herd of white-tailed deer raced across a snow-covered meadow and a lone coyote loped across the road ahead of my pickup.

Almost all of the ponds and channels were frozen on that floodplain refuge and even the Missouri River was nearly covered by a puzzle of ice floes.  A few mallards and gadwalls were the sole waterfowl representatives, a single kingfisher moved among the limited sites of open water and a lone red-tailed hawk was the only raptor that I encountered.  On the other hand, winter sparrows were abundant in the roadside thickets and a mix of winter avian residents moved among the riparian woodlands.

Despite the limited variety of wildlife, my visit was rewarded by beautiful scenery and near solitude; indeed, only one other vehicle entered the refuge during my one-hour tour.  Since I was the first to arrive, my pickup plowed the only human trail along the snow-covered levee roads though numerous wildlife footprints broke the even surface of the bright, powdery snow.  Of course, true to its name, snow-covered bluffs shimmered along both sides of the Missouri River floodplain, providing a scenic backdrop to the winter landscape of the refuge.