Decoys at the Refuge

Arriving at Eagle Bluffs Conservation Area early this morning, activity on the pools was subdued except for scattered groups of great egrets, great blue herons and double-crested cormorants.  The reason was clear when I spotted a flock of decoys near a marshy shore and saw duck-wing pinwheels along the channel.  Pickups and flatboats in the parking lots also provided evidence that teal hunters were hiding in the marsh grass.

Before long, a series of shotgun blasts echoed through the valley as tight flocks of blue-winged teal bolted from the wetlands and raced above the Missouri River floodplain.  Ignoring this activity, a pair of bald eagles surveyed the refuge from a large, dead tree, a northern harrier skimmed the crop stubble and a lone osprey circled above the larger pools, hunting for fish.  High water and flooded fields (likely produced to attract more teal) negated shorebird sightings and I turned my attention to the woodlands along Perche Creek where blue jays, Carolina wrens and red-bellied woodpeckers provided a raucous background chorus.  Unfortunately, the woodland birds seemed to sense the hunting as well and had retreated into the shadows.

While I am not morally opposed to hunting (assuming it provides sustenance or is used to reign in uncontrolled wildlife populations), I do have a visceral reaction when "refuges" and "conservation areas" are managed for hunters.  They would point out that their fees serve to fund refuge maintenance.  And I would respond that nature provides maintenance free of charge.