Migrants on the Floodplain

This morning, a friend and I headed down to Eagle Bluffs Conservation Area on the Missouri River floodplain.  Despite the damp, chilly and cloudy weather, it was a productive visit, especially for waterfowl watching.

Once again, mallards dominated the scene, numbering 6000 or more; they were joined by northern pintails, gadwall, northern shovelers, ring-necked ducks, coot and a pair of redheads.  Bald eagles, red-tailed hawks, a northern harrier and a kestrel patrolled the refuge and a fair variety of songbirds moved through the riparian woodlands and lakeside thickets.

But migrant geese provided the highlight of our visit.  At least 1000 Canada geese graced the preserve and a large flock of snow geese (estimated at 1500) had settled in the southwestern corner of the refuge.  They were joined by a few hundred greater white-fronted geese which also occupied other fields across the floodplain; in total, we estimated that at least 2000 white-fronts were staging at Eagle Bluffs, the largest congregation I have ever encountered.  Few natural spectacles match the sight and sounds of migrating geese, headed for the Arctic.