Heavenly Days at Eagle Bluffs

Eagle Bluffs Conservation Area, southwest of Columbia, is an excellent destination for birding during any season.  However, the diversity of species peaks in early May, when summer residents have returned and migrants are still moving northward through the Missouri River Valley.  Today was no exception.

The lakes, ponds, channels and sloughs attracted a wide range of water birds, including great blue herons, great and snowy egrets, a trio of white-faced ibis, blue-winged teal, American coot, pied-billed grebes, double-crested cormorants, wood ducks, belted kingfishers, a flock of least terns and a large number of migrant shorebirds, dominated by lesser yellowlegs.  A pair of sandhill cranes foraged in an adjacent field and a bald eagle surveyed the scene from a dead cottonwood; muskrats, aquatic turtles and cricket frogs were also active on this mild spring morning.

Riparian woodlands along the Missouri River are always full of songbirds and, in early May, a visitor can observe most of the species that summer in or migrate through the State.  Today, indigo buntings, northern orioles, blue-gray gnatcatchers, eastern wood pewees and house wrens were most numerous though a lone yellow-breasted chat was most conspicuous, preaching from a sunlit limb.  Prothonotary warblers are also common in these woodlands and the distinctive call of the barred owl is often heard here in April and May.