Granted a mild, sunny day in the middle of winter, I visited Eagle Bluffs Conservation Area, on the Missouri River floodplain, yesterday morning. Expecting to find a mix of wintering waterfowl, migrant snow geese and a smattering of raptors, I could not anticipate the spectacle that I would encounter.
On my tour of the refuge I was treated to a reunion of more than 80 bald eagles, about 2/3 of which were immature. Sitting on the ice, resting in barren trees, perched on wood duck nest boxes or cavorting above the floodplain, those magnificent raptors were an inspiring sight to behold, joined by Canada geese, ring-billed gulls, great blue herons, mallards and common mergansers; a flock of snow geese also passed above the refuge.
Why this congregation of bald eagles in early February? While the Missouri River and a refuge channel are open for fishing, I suspect that the eagles are waiting to "greet" the massive flocks of waterfowl (especially snow and greater white-fronted geese) that will be moving up the Missouri Valley over the next month or so. After all, the prospect of feeding on injured, ill or aging geese appeals to our National scavenger.