After several days of intermittent, heavy rain, a soggy landscape greeted me at Eagle Bluffs Conservation Area this morning; flooded fields, swollen sloughs and bank-full pools seemed to affect a variety of species. Powerlines were loaded down with mourning doves, dragonflies swarmed above the drenched croplands, cricket frogs called from the transient shallows and cottontails lounged on the roadways, perhaps driven from their burrows by the flooding.
While few mudflats remained above water, they attracted some of the first "autumn migrants," including greater yellowlegs and solitary sandpipers. Great blue herons were common but less abundant due to the higher pools; they were joined by nine great egrets and a lone green heron. Other sightings included bald eagles, double-crested cormorants, belted kingfishers, wood ducks and the usual mix of summer songbirds; four terns (likely Forster's) were observed but were too distant to identify. As summer advances toward autumn, mourning doves, red-winged blackbirds, common grackles and European starlings are beginning to forage in large (if not massive) flocks.
The wet floodplain, a bit unusual for mid summer, will likely dry out over the coming week as heat and sunshine return to the Heartland. Expanding mudflats will soon welcome a tide of migrant shorebirds and shallow pools may entice southern waders up the Missouri Valley. Whatever the fickle weather systems bring, we have passed the summer doldrums at Eagle Bluffs and migration season, however tentative, is now underway.