Weather for Ducks

Having returned to Missouri, I made plans to visit Eagle Bluffs Conservation Area southwest of Columbia, my favorite birding location in the State.  Fortunately, a fellow birdwatcher was available; unfortunately, the weather was not as cooperative, offering a low, gray overcast, light intermittent drizzle and chilly air.

As is often the case, such ugly conditions were especially attractive to waterfowl and a large variety of ducks filled the shallow pools and flooded fields of the Missouri River floodplain.  Mallards were most abundant, joined by sizable flocks of northern shovelers, blue-winged and green-winged teal, gadwall and American coot.  A small flock of lesser scaup were also encountered and a large number of lesser golden plovers foraged on the mudflats and sodden fields.  Other sightings included greater yellowlegs, pectoral sandpipers, killdeer, belted kingfishers, a few double-crested cormorants, a lone red-breasted merganser, a couple pied-billed grebes and two American white pelicans; three bald eagles (two on their nests) and two red-tailed hawks patrolled the refuge.

Known for its chilly, sloppy weather in the American Heartland, March is often more appealing to ducks than it is to humans.  But, for those of us who don't mind getting mud on our tires and boots, there is no better time to observe the spring tide of migrant waterfowl.