All Quiet in Duckland

After two weeks in Florida we're back in Missouri and, when I'm in Missouri, Eagle Bluffs Conservation Area is where I like to be.  After all, this is early November, long the peak of the fall waterfowl migration; in addition, as a cold front descends on our State, cool, overcast, showery weather has enveloped the region, ideal for waterfowl watching.

It was thus with optimism that I approached the Missouri River floodplain this morning, expecting to see a wide variety of ducks, hopefully joined by migrant sandhill cranes, American white pelicans and even some early geese.  Unfortunately, though the refuge was inviting with its late autumn colors, the lakes, pools and sloughs were relatively devoid of waterfowl; except for hundreds (if not thousands) of American coot, which foraged in the marshy shallows, I saw only a few small flocks of mallards and gadwalls.  A lone northern pintail joined these ducks and distant flocks of blue-winged teal wheeled above the floodplain.  As usual, bald eagles, great blue herons, red-tailed hawks and northern harriers were observed but no cranes or pelicans were present.

A delayed autumn waterfowl migration is becoming an annual phenomenon, perhaps related to global warming.  While songbirds migrate in response to the light cycle, waterfowl move southward when food becomes scarce or when ponds and wetlands begin to freeze; neither has yet to occur this year.  Within a few decades, we birders may have to travel north to observe migrant geese, ducks and cranes.