After encountering a series of foggy mornings at Eagle Bluffs Conservation Area, I was greeted today by sunshine and cool autumn air. Within minutes of entering the refuge, I could see flocks of American white pelicans in the distance, flapping and gliding above the floodplain; at least 350 graced the preserve, always a welcome sight during their seasonal migrations.
Waterfowl travelers have definitely picked up in central Missouri, dominated this morning by northern shovelers, gadwalls and American coot. Shorebirds are still moving through the Missouri Valley as well and were accompanied today by five white-faced ibis, heading south from their breeding grounds on the Northern Plains.
But raptors stole the show on this bright, October morning. An adult bald eagle chased an immature eagle from his hunting grounds, a Cooper's hawk strafed a flock of blackbirds, a red-tail called from the Perche Creek woodlands, a red-shouldered hawk perched above a marshy shore, American kestrels hunted from power lines and an adult peregrine falcon swooped above the wetlands, toying with the waterfowl; once nearly extirpated from North America by the use of DDT, peregrines have made a dramatic comeback, nesting in the Arctic, along the Coasts, throughout the Western States and in large cities of the Midwest and Eastern U.S. The pelicans, ibis and the peregrine are all on their way to the Gulf Coast for the winter and I was fortunate to witness their brief stay at this fabulous Missouri River rest stop.