Calm before the Avian Storm

A couple of visits to Eagle Bluffs Conservation Area this past week revealed a rather calm scene on the Missouri River floodplain.  While large numbers of great blue herons and great egrets stalked the pools and small numbers of American white pelicans and double-crested cormorants stopped by to rest and feed on their unhurried journey to the south, avian activity was generally suppressed.

Mute flocks of red-winged blackbirds shifted about the fields, woodpeckers tapped from the riparian groves and killdeer, joined by a mix of migrant shorebirds, patrolled the limited mudflats.  Songbirds were all but quiescent, a few bald eagles lounged in dead trees and an occasional cloud of swallows swirled above the floodplain, feasting on insects.

These late summer doldrums will begin to abate by mid September as the first waves of blue-winged teal arrive at the refuge.  Those small, attractive ducks will be followed by an increasing number and variety of waterfowl, a spectacular avian migration that peaks from mid October through early December; ducks, coot and grebes lead the autumn exodus, followed by loons, geese and a host of vagrants.  Birders, hunters and predators will be anxiously waiting their arrival.