Greeted by brilliant sunshine, warm air and the purple haze of henbit on many of the barren fields, I made a quick trip through Eagle Bluffs Conservation Area this morning. Bird sightings were generally unremarkable, including the usual mix of bald eagles, red-tailed hawks, northern harriers and common species of waterfowl; red-winged blackbirds, killdeer and upland chorus frogs provided a steady background chorus.
A flock of female buffleheads was a bit unusual for mid March and a pair of pied-billed grebes fed with the ducks and Canada geese. New to the crowd were a few double-crested cormorants, the first that I have encountered in Missouri this season; some will be seen at Eagle Bluffs throughout the warmer months but most will move on to more northern breeding grounds. The other new arrival was an eastern phoebe, hunting in woodlands near the Missouri River; always the first flycatchers to arrive from the south, eastern phoebes favor riparian habitats where their prey is especially abundant.
Unfortunately, no American white pelicans or sandhill cranes were observed during my brief visit and, despite finding dowitchers earlier in the month, no migrant shorebirds were encountered today. As usual, the bird sightings at this fabulous floodplain refuge were unpredictable yet rewarding.