MDC says spring migration offers good waterfowl viewing opportunities

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Kansas City
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Kansas City, Mo. – The spring waterfowl migration is underway, and the Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) says visiting wetlands can provide good birding and photography opportunities. Ducks, geese, and shorebirds begin moving north toward nesting grounds as weather warms and ice melts in wetlands, lakes, and rivers. Service roads and paths in MDC conservation areas provide viewing and hiking opportunities. Some wetlands also have blinds available for viewing and photography.

“The Bob Brown and Nodaway Valley conservations areas will both have good viewing opportunities,” said Craig Crisler, MDC wildlife management biologist. “Also, the waterfowl refuges on both areas are now open to the public.”

MDC’s Bob Brown Conservation Area is in the Missouri River bottoms near Oregon, Mo., north of St. Joseph in Holt County. The Nodaway Valley Conservation Area borders the Nodaway River in Holt County. Both areas have managed wetlands and various other habitats.

“In spring, we do slow drawdowns of pools to concentrate invertebrates along the water’s edge instead of draining pools quickly,” Crisler said. “One reason we do this is to provide easily accessible food for migrating ducks, geese, shorebirds, and other wading birds.  Most managers try to have this occurring in some part of the area from ice out to early June to be there for the entire group of migrating species.”

Spring migration of wetland-oriented birds varies by species and can be influenced by weather patterns.  The bird species using a wetland can vary from week to week. MDC and private wetlands provide important resting and feeding spots for migrants as they prepare for nesting season.

“There is a lot of opportunity for the public to see a little bit of everything at Four Rivers Conservation Area,” said Shane Allen, MDC wildlife management biologist and area manager. “We are currently dewatering slowly in select pools, and I have seen a good amount of shorebird and diverse waterfowl use. Pool 6 is currently being completely dewatered for a management objective with several acres of exposed mud flats.”

The August A. Busch, Jr., Wetlands at Four Rivers is south of Kansas City in Vernon and Bates counties.

A major wetland renovation project is underway at MDC’s Schell-Osage Conservation Area in Vernon and St. Clair counties. But some wetland pools may be usable for shorebirds and waterfowl. Plus, Atkinson Lake is nearby.

“What we try to do is provide useful habitat,” said John Henry, MDC wildlife management biologist and area manager. “Waterfowl use wetlands as loafing and foraging areas on their migrations both north and south. In the spring we begin drawdowns on our wetland pools to promote natural moist soil vegetation for the rest of the growing season.  This drawdown also provides shallow water habitat for migrating shorebirds and waterfowl.”

MDC’s Cooley Lake Conservation Area in Clay County and the Little Platte Marsh Conservation Area in Platte County are close to Kansas City. Both have wetlands frequented by wetland birds.

For more information and maps about all MDC wetlands and public conservation areas, visit