A Dearth of Wintering Waterfowl

Since Eagle Bluffs Conservation Area remains closed for duck hunting, a friend and I visited a few other hotspots south and west of Columbia.  On this cool, cloudy morning, our first stop was at the city's wastewater wetlands in the Perche Creek Valley.  While two adult bald eagles surveyed the area from a large barren tree, the ponds were nearly devoid of waterfowl; a small group of mallards, a few Canada geese and a pair of gadwalls were the only visitors.

Heading for our next stop, we encountered several red-shouldered hawks and a fair number of red-tails along the country roads.  At Philips Lake, south of Columbia, a pied-billed grebe, a lone male ruddy duck and a small flock of hooded mergansers dove from the calm surface.  Finally, a visit to the Missouri River south of Easley turned up red-headed woodpeckers along Bonne Femme Creek but sightings were otherwise limited to common songbirds (especially cardinals, blue jays, juncos, eastern bluebirds and northern mockingbirds).

The relative dearth of wintering waterfowl seems to be persisting in the lower Missouri Valley.  Though shotgun blasts echoed from Eagle Bluffs, no scattering flocks were observed and one wonders if there are enough ducks to warrant the hunt. During this El Nino winter, it may not get cold enough to send the waterfowl south; we birders may need to be content with raptor-watching, always productive during the winter months.