Today my birder crew spent the afternoon at Grand Pass Conservation Area. This was our first visit to the area, so we aren't as familiar with what a locally “normal” count looks like, and we aren't used to quite this many Mallards and Snow Geese. So I apologize if this isn't a very noteworthy report. Also, you should also take my estimates with a grain of salt (like I said, I've never had to count this many birds before). I don't want to publish any potentially misleading data on eBird, but I prefer to attempt estimation as opposed to saying I saw 'X' number of birds.

There were certainly several thousand Mallards, more than I’ve ever seen. Congregating among them were more than a hundred Northern Pintails, and smaller numbers of eight(?) other species, including one Wood Duck. The star of the waterfowl was perhaps a bizarre “blonde” Mallard. We are still trying to see if we can figure out to what extent its appearance is caused by a color mutation. It has been suggested that this duck might be half domestic. There was an American Tree Sparrow that also confused us with its appearance—he appeared to have a large black spot on his side, but other online birders proposed that it was probably just a ruffled feather patch.

I belive we saw at least half a hundred Bald Eagles. They were found all across the conservation area, perhaps slightly more widespread on the eastern side where we saw a couple of them terrorizing the main Snow Goose gaggle.

When we arrived and saw the first large duck flocks, a few thousand Snow Geese started to cover the sky in countless “skeins” (I learned that word today). During our last hour there, we walked from the gravel road to down by Lake Teteseau to see the real deal. All I can say is that there were tens of thousands. There may have been hundreds of thousands for all I know. My eBird count is 100,000. That might be too liberal. Or pretty conservative. I mean, who even knows what 100,000 of something is supposed to look like? I can't make up my mind. I wanna know what other visitors from today guessed. Estimating the geese is overwhelming, but watching thousands of them take off as a roaring cloud of white specks was a stunning and memorable experience. After approaching them, I wondered if we got to close. I don't want to cause any significant disturbance, so if anyone has some advice regarding how to be respectful of the birds, please let me know.

The cherry on top was Sandhill Cranes flying over us as we walked back to our vehicle. I heard the familiar rattling call behind me, and I turned my head to see four cranes north towards the geese. We were glad that we got to see some before we left.

I have great first impressions about this place. Thanks to everyone keeping me updated on Missourian bird news. And sorry for the long message.

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