A Time for Terns

On this cool, cloudy morning in central Missouri, terns dominated the scene as I entered Eagle Bluffs Conservation Area on the Missouri River floodplain.  Flocks of black terns moved northward through the valley while a large, noisy flock of Forster's terns circled overhead; they were all on their way to breeding grounds across the Northern Plains.

The terns were certainly the highlight of my visit but many other interesting sightings occurred as well.  Among these were a barred owl, a pileated woodpecker, a snowy egret, a white-faced ibis, a peregrine falcon, a fair number of soras, a dozen Wilson's phalaropes and the largest congregation of shorebirds that I have encountered all spring.  The latter included greater and lesser yellowlegs, pectoral sandpipers and assorted "peeps," too distant to identify without a spotting scope.  Summer residents, including indigo buntings, dickcissels, common yellowthroats and orioles (both Baltimore and orchard) were all more abundant and conspicuous. Mammal sightings included white-tailed deer, a striped skunk, muskrats and a mink.

Since I'm heading back to Colorado, this will be my final spring visit to Eagle Bluffs.  But this fabulous refuge, among other factors, will draw me back to Missouri on a regular basis.  Any naturalist or birder who lives in the State likely shares my sentiments and others who travel through the region are strongly advised to explore this spectacular preserve.