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Marsh Musings

A glimpse of fall

POSTED September 8, 2017 1:21 p.m.

This has always been my favorite time of the year. September opens dove season. We breast them out and wrap them with a little onion, jalapeño and bacon on the grill — it is one of the “rites of passage” into the fall hunting and fishing season. The deer are coming out of velvet, and the fawns are shedding their spotted coats.
The female deer are putting on a little weight and getting ready for their encounter with the bucks that will perpetuate the species. Pheasants have started showing their colors and I can hear them calling on my early morning walks. Quail are everywhere. I can’t recall any year when we have had so many quail. Usually we struggle to protect them and are very careful about not shooting out a covey. Research indicates that you can harvest something more than 50 percent of a covey and it will survive and reproduce enough to restore itself each year. They are my favorite game bird for table fare — probably because I can remember my grandmother and mom frying them up when my father and I were lucky enough to get a limit and I can still “see” the joy in their kitchens.
How many of our best memories involve a successful hunt and a spectacular meal? My grandmother was a genius with a skillet and cooked a lot of “stuff” when I was growing up. I was not particularly “selective” or even always “legal” — but she cooked it without comment and we ate it. I can relate to my friends in Louisiana that make gumbo—there might be a robin in there somewhere.
The Bottoms are also changing. Jason Wagner is extremely busy getting ready for teal season. That is another of the premier birds for the table. He has made a good dent in the cat tails and has replaced some culverts to move water more efficiently — his energy and wisdom in land management will be a benefit to all of us.
Birders are also in for the fall bounty. I can’t recall seeing as many egrets and night herons as we have out there right now. It won’t be long before sandhill and whooping cranes migrate through our area. I am always amazed at the number of human visitors we get during these migrations—they come from everywhere and keep the Wetlands Center hopping. The geese are gathering to make their run down from Canada — the hunting season is open up there. Duane and Smooch and Duke will be heading this way in November.
We always lose some “players” in the fall. The purple martins are packed up and leaving. The Mississippi kites have their kids up and going, and will be traveling very soon. Turkey vultures are also getting that urge to leave. It’s hard to believe that the eagles and other raptors will be coming in with the waterfowl in the near future. Also say “goodbye” to the swallows until next year.
The egrets and night herons are just spectacular right now. They are in groups and are very entertaining when they fight over food or a place to sit. There seems to be a very loose “pecking order” or else they are just cranky with each other. Cranky birds make for fun photography!
See and taste the fall. It doesn’t last long enough—but then, neither does the spring.

Doctor Dan Witt is a retired physician and nature enthusiast.

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