Teal Days

As the tide of spring gains momentum, blue-winged teal have returned to Eagle Bluffs Conservation Area, on the Missouri River floodplain.  Large flocks of these attractive ducks now mingle with the numerous mallards, shovelers and coot, joining smaller numbers of other waterfowl species; on my visit this morning, these included pintails, gadwalls, green-winged teal, American wigeon, lesser scaup, buffleheads and common mergansers.  A flock of greater white-fronted geese still graced the refuge, pied-billed grebes dove in the shallows and several flocks of American white pelicans moved among the deeper pools.

In addition to the teal, other signs of our accelerating spring included squadrons of tree swallows, a massive congregation of killdeer and small flocks of long-billed dowitchers and pectoral sandpipers; a solitary yellowleg was also observed.  But it was the invasion of blue-winged teal, having spent their winter along the Gulf Coast, that was the highlight of my visit, signaling that winter has finally lost its grip on the American Heartland.

Following their early spring staging along the Missouri River Valley, these teal will disperse throughout the Midwest and Great Plains, nesting in open country wetlands.  By late summer, they will congregate once again, moving southward along the major streams of the central U.S., the cool, dry air of autumn in their wake.