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Four Columbia birders did one of our infamous madcap quickie trips. We left Columbia Saturday evening, heading for the Dexter rice fields. We got about five hours of sleep in the former Super 8, now Dexter Inn, and arrived around sunrise Sunday morning at the rice fields with the expectation that these perching ducks would be sitting in the dead trees along the nearby drainage ditch. Or, at the very least, we would surely see them flying into the rice fields from the trees. No such luck. We sat and studied the rice field on the east side of the road but as the sun rose and blinded us we turned to searching the rice on the west side of the road where two of the ducks had been recently seen. We saw Black-necked Stilts and Great Egrets. Then we saw Little Blue Herons. Then we became impatient and began slowly driving south looking at more rice fields. Then we backtracked our route. Then we drove east to get up on the levee by the drainage ditch. Duck heads appearing in the rice field, after careful study, turned out ... repeatedly ... to be Mallards. We slowly cruised more gravel and paved roads studying more rice fields. We visited with several locals who had ALL seen the Fulvous Whistling Ducks and the crowds of birders who had been there before us. The Fulvous Whistling Ducks had been seen "over here or over there." We drove more roads and searched over here and over there.
 
We decided to take a break from staring at vertical strips of green and drove over to Donaldson Point Conservation Area (since we were getting pretty close to being there anyway). We discovered the rain from the previous night made the roads slippery and messy but we did get terrific looks at Mississippi Kites and a breeding plumaged Cattle Egret that was soooo handsome.
 
Back to more rice fields ... up and down the roads this way and that way ... slowly staring until we were so image imprinted with green rice stalks that everything looked slightly in motion and greenish. Lots more Little Blue Herons seen, some in the pied plumage that is so striking. Nope, we couldn't turn any of those Little Blue Herons or even the Great Blue Herons into Reddish Egrets or the reported Tricolored Heron.
 
Eventually we head for home with a quick dash through only a small part of Mingo National Wildlife Refuge. We stop to look for the screeching juvenile Broad-winged Hawk we hear. It is only partly visible. In the process of looking we discover a juvenile Black Vulture in the trees and then on the ground high up on the bluff side of the road.
 
We drove about 100 miles studying rice fields for over six hours and 725 miles total in just over 26 hours with our target bird species being the Fulvous Whistling Ducks that others had seen in the rice fields south and east of Dexter. While we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves, with one in our party even getting eight life birds and all of us finding COMAL birds, we did not find the elusive Fulvous Whistling Ducks or any other unexpected species. We all wished it wasn't so far from home to this habitat as it was interesting, even if somewhat dizzying, birding. And, there really were a lot of birds to be seen in the rice fields and in the forested wetlands, too.
 
Susan, Kathleen, Denise, and Jean
Susan Hazelwood
Columbia, Boone County, Missouri
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