First Wave of Pelicans

Light, patchy fog enveloped the Missouri River Valley just after dawn this morning.  At the Eagle Bluffs Conservation Area, flocks of geese and ducks wheeled above the refuge while groups of bald eagles (mostly immature) perched in the scattered trees.

In the southwest corner of the preserve, another mixed flock of snow geese and greater white fronted geese fed in the corn stubble, soon to depart for the next rest stop on their journey to the Arctic.  Among the ducks, lesser scaup and common mergansers were notably abundant though most migrant and wintering species were represented.  But the celebrities this morning were American white pelicans; two flocks, totaling 36 individuals by my count, were the first I have encountered this season.

Having wintered along the Gulf Coast, the pelicans are on their way to breeding lakes across the Northern Plains and Intermountain West.  They are common migrants through the Missouri River Valley, sometimes observed as early as February and generally seen through April; non-breeding birds may be encountered throughout the warmer months.  Their autumn migration generally begins by mid September, peaks in October and may persist into early November, especially if the weather is mild.  Huddled on sandbars or scooping up fish in the shallows, American white pelicans are always a welcome sight at Eagle Bluffs.