The Wings of Spring

Anyone who does not believe that spring begins in February should have been at Eagle Bluffs Conservation Area on this balmy morning in central Missouri.  The pools and channels of the refuge, mostly ice free, were clogged with migrant waterfowl.

Thousands of mallards dominated the scene, joined by Canada geese, northern pintails, northern shovelers and gadwall.  Large flocks of snow geese and greater white-fronted geese moved about the floodplain and five trumpeter swans flew northward above the Missouri River.  Bald eagles, red-tailed hawks, northern harriers and American kestrels patrolled the refuge and flocks of ring-billed gulls cavorted in the gusty south breeze.

Despite all the activity, a mystery arose, one that has occurred in the past; though I explored the refuge for almost two and a half hours, I did not encounter a single great-blue heron, a species that is common at Eagle Bluffs throughout the year (even when ice grips the floodplain).  Where were those hardy waders on this mild February morning?  Perhaps they knew that wintry weather will return tonight!