Monday, February 24, 2014

Waterfowl Invasion at Eagle Bluffs

As I approached Eagle Bluffs Conservation Area this morning, a large flock of snow geese moved northward through the Missouri River Valley.  Once inside the preserve, I found another massive flock feeding in a field, restlessly swirling about as others arrived from the south.  Joining the snow geese were flocks of greater white-fronted geese and, by my count, 22 trumpeter swans.

Farther south in that fabulous floodplain refuge were sizable numbers of Canada geese, mallards and gadwalls, mingling with smaller flocks of American coot, northern pintails, common mergansers and the largest flock of hooded mergansers that I have ever encountered at Eagle Bluffs.  Other sightings included immature bald eagles, great blue herons, killdeer, red-tailed hawks and northern harriers.  Throughout my visit, more flocks of snows and white-fronts arrived from the south, circling overhead before settling down to rest and forage with their noisy cohorts.

While the migrant geese and swans will soon move on to the north, they are leading a waterfowl invasion that will peak from late March to early April.  Over the next six weeks, the number and variety of ducks will increase dramatically, joined by American white pelicans, double-crested cormorants, horned and pied billed grebes and a spectacular diversity of shorebirds.  For many birders and naturalists, the spring and autumn waterfowl migrations are the highlights of nature's year.