Northern Waterthrush at Eagle Bluffs

On this warm, breezy morning, I returned to Eagle Bluffs Conservation Area for the first time since March.  Except for blue-winged teal and American coot, waterfowl numbers had fallen dramatically and summer songbirds were reclaiming the refuge.  Of course, spring migrants were also passing through the Missouri River Valley, one of which was foraging in a soggy drainage ditch, oblivious of the beautiful landscape that covers most of the floodplain.

The visitor was a northern waterthrush, a large warbler that favors wooded swamps and bogs.  Feasting on insects and other invertebrates, this bird spends most of its time on the ground, searching mossy logs and muddy shorelines for its prey.  On his way to Alaska, Canada or northern regions of the U.S., he likely spent the winter in Central or South America, though some head to southernmost Florida.

We birders look forward to the spring warbler migration, searching trees and shrubs for those active, colorful insectivores.  But we must also check stagnant pools and muddy ditches; there the northern waterthrush stalks the damp terrain, bobbing his tail as he sifts through nature's debris.