Summer Sizzle at Eagle Bluffs

Arriving later than usual this morning, I found Eagle Bluffs Conservation Area lit by bright sunshine and enveloped in hot, humid air.  As a consequence, most of the songbirds had escaped to their shady retreats and sightings were somewhat limited.

Turkey vultures, perhaps sensing a meal of stranded fish, gathered on the expanding mudflats while great blue herons, great egrets and a lone green heron stalked the cool shallows.  A small flock of double-crested cormorants lounged on a sandbar, a few pied-billed grebes dove for their breakfast and a family of wood ducks drifted across a pool.  Despite the growing mudflats, shorebirds were limited to killdeer and a spotted sandpiper; unfortunately, migrant species were either absent or hidden amidst the cattails.  A lone immature bald eagle surveyed the refuge from a dead tree,  two red-tailed hawks soared above the floodplain, an American kestrel hunted from a powerline and a female northern harrier flapped low across a cropfield.  Five fish crows gathered along the central channel while dickcissels, oblivious of the heat, sang from the browning grasslands; indigo buntings and red-winged blackbirds were the only abundant species.

On this sultry morning, the increasing number of great egrets (27 today) was the only sign that our long, hot summer will soon begin to abate.  Next winter, tired of snow and ice, I will look back on this visit with fond memories but now, locked in a steam bath and facing August, I can't wait for the crisp, chilly air of October.