Return to Riverlands

Yesterday, a friend and fellow birder invited me to visit the Riverlands Preserve, north of St. Louis; he was hoping to find Thayer's and Iceland gulls that had recently been observed along the Mississippi.  Though our search for those gulls was in vain, we did encounter a fabulous diversity of birdlife.

On that sunny but cold and windy morning, at least thirty tundra swans were feeding in the riverside lakes, joined by American white pelicans and a wide variety of diving ducks; among the latter, common goldeneyes, common mergansers and hooded mergansers were most numerous but a solitary, male white-winged scoter proved to be the highlight of our visit.  Several flocks of greater white-fronted geese flew over the refuge or stopped to feed along the levees.  Surveying the lakes were more than fifty bald eagles while, out on the grasslands, northern harriers, American kestrels and red-tailed hawks hunted for their morning meals.  Other sightings included a pair of ruddy ducks, a few red-breasted mergansers, several pair of canvasbacks, small groups of buffleheads and the usual abundance of Canada geese, mallards, northern shovelers, gadwalls and ring-billed and herring gulls; though we saw flocks of snow geese on our way to and from Riverlands, none were observed on the refuge itself.

An excellent destination for birders in all seasons, the Riverlands Preserve is especially interesting from late fall to early spring, when winter vagrants regularly turn up along the Mississippi.  The refuge stretches along the Missouri (west) side of the river, across from Alton, Illinois and is best reached from I-270, north of St. Louis, by taking Missouri 367 north and then US 67 northeast; the preserve extends southward from US 67, just west of the Mississippi River bridge.