Wildlife in the Mist

Low clouds, patchy fog and a cool mist enveloped central Missouri this morning and, as I reached Eagle Bluffs Conservation Area, a barred owl perched like a sentry along the entrance road.  Flocks of ducks, mourning doves and red-winged blackbirds pierced the humid air but my attention was soon drawn to a massive flock of geese on a flooded field.

Composed of snow geese and greater white-fronted geese, the restless and vocal flock was constantly in flux as some groups moved off to the north while others arrived from the south, circling above the field before choosing a site to land.  Smaller flocks of Canada geese fed in the adjacent stubble while mallards and blue-winged teal (the first I have seen this spring) speckled the deeper pools.  Other sightings on this cool, damp morning included bald eagles, common mergansers, killdeer, belted kingfishers, great blue herons, wood ducks and lesser scaup; an island of white pelicans was spotted on a distant lake, chorus frogs called from shallow sloughs and herds of white-tailed deer raced across the soggy floodplain.

While many birders and naturalists avoid field trips on such dreary mornings, the relative darkness often brings out reclusive and nocturnal creatures (e.g. owls, rails, beaver, mink, deer) and the damp chill invigorates diurnal species, making them more active and conspicuous.  Besides, at a refuge like Eagle Bluffs, one need not even leave their vehicle to see a spectacular variety of wildlife.