Early this past week, we noted thousands of snow geese passing overhead. For the past few years, this “first geese” day has been nearly identical; it’s one of our more reliable indicators that spring is coming.
Friday afternoon, we headed down to Eagle Bluffs Conservation Area on the Missouri River bottoms southwest of Columbia and were rewarded by watching clouds of geese landing continuously for as long as we could stay. It’s an amazing sight and sound, as the birds descend in a wide swirl like a slow-motion reverse tornado, covering the ground in a shimmering mass of white feathers and honking. With the clear weather, the late setting sun makes the limestone bluffs along the river glow, giving excellent lighting to the birds, especially as the access roads tend to be to the west of the main overnighting areas. Just a beautiful experience.
We also were able to observe some Greater White-Fronted Geese from fairly close range, a new bird for both of us, and one only present in Missouri during migration. A few scaups and mallards were present as well, though the geese took most of our attention. This was my first chance to really use a nice spotting scope I snagged at an auction for $10, and it was an excellent compliment to our binoculars.
This weekend, with clear skies and warm temperatures forecast, would be a great time for any locals to go watch this event. Eagle Bluffs is easy to get to; once you’re there, just keep following the gravel roads deeper and deeper into the bottomland and pull off anywhere you see interesting birds, and view from the vehicle to avoid startling anything. If you go, let us know what you saw and what you thought.