Fog, Birding & Life

When I arrived at Eagle Bluffs Conservation Area this morning, dense fog covered the Missouri River floodplain.  Chilly October air had settled in the valley overnight, interacting with the warm, moist ground to produce saturated air at the surface.  Entering the preserve, I found that the visibility was no more than ten yards and I pulled over to wait for the rising sun to warm the air and "burn off" the mist.  Though I could hear the distant clamor of blackbirds and the occasional shriek of a heron, there was nothing to see through the haze of moisture.

A half-hour later the fog began to lift and my patience was rewarded.  Large, mixed flocks of great egrets, great blue herons, American coot and pied-billed grebes filled the shallows while American white pelicans, double-crested cormorants and belted kingfishers fed in the deeper pools.  Bald eagles flapped above the wetlands, spooking flocks of wood ducks and blue-winged teal, and a female northern harrier patrolled the crop stubble.  A large number of barn swallows strafed the channels as they flew south through the valley and noisy flocks of killdeer moved between the barren fields.

A lesson for birding and for life as well, this morning's experience reminded me that a bit of patience is often worthwhile.  Whether the fog is a cloud of vapor or a veil of uncertainty, rushing toward its resolution is both futile and counterproductive.  It's generally best to let the fog lift before proceeding; by then, the view is clear and the landscape, with its motley cast of characters, is better understood and more fully appreciated.