Despite the warm, humid air and bright September sun, the vanguard of autumn arrived at Eagle Bluffs Conservation Area this morning. Several flocks of blue-winged teal had settled on the pools, stopping by to rest and feed on their way to wintering grounds from the Gulf Coast to northern South America..
These small, attractive ducks, vigilant and skittish, are the first migrant waterfowl to arrive in the fall (generally by mid September) and among the last to appear in spring (peaking during April); most breed along ponds and in wetlands across the Northern Plains. Their appearance in September is a welcome sign that the glorious days of autumn will soon envelop the Heartland.
Wheeling above the floodplain in tight, rapidly moving flocks, their energy also signals that the doldrums of late summer will soon be broken by waves of migrant ducks and geese, their calls ringing across this fabulous refuge; for many of us, that is the most invigorating period of nature's year. Teal time is but a lead-in to the waterfowl parade.