Thursday, July 3, 2014

Seeking Refuge in a National Wildlife Refuge.

  Twelve hours in a National Wildlife Refuge is a great way to see the workings of  the planet, and to satisfy a never ending curiosity.  At least for a moment.

  Clarence Cannon National Wildlife Refuge was the destination. My favorite South African being my traveling companion.

  Located in Pike County, Missouri with the village of Annada, population 29, on its' Western edge. The Mississippi river is on its' East. The refuge is 3,750 acres of Mississippi river floodplain. Established as a stop over in the always important Mississippi flyway. A place to rest and regenerate for migratory birds.

  I have been here before, but never in the Summer. The Spring and Fall of migration time, and the dead of Winter. During my visits I tried to imagine what Summer would look like, adding in the promise of a Summer time return.

  A late start but a beautiful day brought us to the Refuge office which had a banner on display showing the actual size of five birds. (See photo)

From largest to smallest:

California Condor
Bald Eagle
Red-Tailed Hawk
American Kestrel

  All five birds can be found in National Wildlife Refuges accross the country. Four can be found at Clarence Cannon.  We became excited knowing we have worked with the four, and have seen all five in the wild.

  It was a day hiking around the refuge casually. No rush, no hurry, no point A to point B, just taking the time to take it all in.

  Many different wildlife representatives were seen, birds, reptiles, mammals and fish.

  Great Egrets were numerous and traveling in their vicinity would cause them to take to the air. On one such rush to the air approximately forty gathered, and flew to a pool maybe a 1/4 of a mile away. It was incredible to see them dissappear from sight, not behind a tree, or any other vegetation, but below the ground level that our eyes could see. Expertly dissappearing into the massive field. You could not see one feather !

  A few deer were seen, but not many until later. One racoon kept an eye on us until it moved deeper into a tree line. Fish jumped in the flooded areas, taking advantage of the insects flying too close to the water. Frogs jumped into the water at the approach of our feet.

  Birds were numerous, Grey Catbirds, Swifts, Herons, Gold Finches, Grackles, and the master of the fields Red Winged Blackbirds balancing perfectly on delicate plants, swaying perfectly with the wind.

  While walking in the woods near the river, a mature Bald Eagle was perched in a tall leafless cottonwood tree. It took to its' wings wanting to put distance between it and its' historical repressor, man.

  While walking another forested path, a juvenile Bald Eagle busted out of the undergrowth not twenty feet from us. It turned on the path, flapping and skipping akwardly until it could take flight. A sign of a recently fleged bird, not yet having the skills to burst into the air.

  As the day moved towards its' end the change that occurs from light to dark began. The melodic communication of the winged ones quieted, as the sun dissapeared, being hidden as the Earth spinned in its' orbit. More deer and their fawn appeared from their hiding. Momma racoon moved quickly into a tree line followed by her two offspring splashing madly to join their mother.  As darkness limited our vision, the distant hoot of a Barred Owl began.

  As we rumbled down the gravel road in need of the headlights to start our journey home, the flickering glow of thousands of fireflys began.

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