Valley Fog & Blackbird Clouds

Hoping to beat the heat, I arrived at Eagle Bluffs Conservation Area just after sunrise; patchy fog blanketed the Missouri River floodplain, limiting visibility for a half hour or so.  Despite the mist, I could see massive flocks of red-winged blackbirds, wheeling above the pools, clustering on the roadways or settling into the crop fields; at least 3000 graced the refuge on this humid summer morning.

Once the strong July sun baked away the fog, the views broadened.  While the red-wings dominated the scene (joined by large flocks of common grackles and starlings), a decent variety of birds was encountered.  Migrant shorebirds (including solitary sandpipers, least sandpipers, pectoral sandpipers and semi-palmated plovers) joined the resident killdeer and spotted sandpipers on the expanding mudflats.  Pursued by a flock of fish crows, a broad-winged hawk fled to the riverside woods.  Among the many avian residents and visitors (45 species were observed today), green herons and belted kingfishers were unusually common.

Within two hours the heat had intensified, avian activity had diminished and I aimed my pickup for the refuge exit.  After all, I'm no masochist; if I don't enjoy the weather, I can't enjoy the birding!