A Distant Surprise

Facing limited time in central Missouri and a forecast with several days of rain, I decided another visit to Eagle Bluffs Conservation Area was in order on this mild but cloudy morning.  I especially hoped to see some of the summer residents before I visit Ohio and then return to Colorado.

Fortunately, I did encounter a couple yellow warblers, yellow-breasted chats, orchard orioles and indigo buntings, joining the usual mix of permanent residents.  The number of blue-winged teal, American coot and lesser yellowlegs had fallen significantly but the diversity of birdlife was excellent, as usual, totaling 43 species during my two hour visit.  The resident bald eagles were especially active this morning, feeding their hungry offspring and reinforcing their massive nests.

Just before starting my return trip through the refuge, I made one final scan of the large southern lake and noticed a small flock of white birds with black wingtips wheeling above the distant shore; to my aging eyes (aided of course by binoculars), they seemed to have a pinkish or rusty tinge to their head and neck and they were clearly some species of large shorebird.  After watching them intently for a minute or so, it became clear that they were American avocets, uncommon but regular spring migrants through the Missouri River Valley.  Indeed, almost one year ago to the day, I wrote Avocets at Eagle Bluffs in response to a dozen of those graceful visitors.  A lesson for fellow birders: a final look is often rewarded!