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Marsh Musings

Donald is gon!

POSTED May 11, 2018 12:50 p.m.
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Not THAT Donald — Donald Duck has vacated the premises! As we watch the processes of the great migration, this is the time when ducks leave our Marsh. It is too hot in Kansas for them to be comfortable. To be clear— not ALL ducks are gone. Several species nest and raise their young here. We will see Mallard and Blue-winged teal mostly. There may be some Northern Shovelers that have babies here. Probably the most visible and prolific waterfowl breeders are the Canadian geese. There are a lot of land and pond owners that erect goose tubs and nesting sites for these dedicated parents. I have lots of pictures of geese teaching their kids how to keep a low profile in open water and how to hide in the cat tails or weeds in times of danger.
Another species that is amazingly simple and dumb about their nests are Killdeer. They pick some of the most open and unprotected spots to deposit eggs. There is a nest in the open gravel in front of the headquarters at the Bottoms. It was necessary to put up a sign and establish a perimeter so an unsuspecting visitor wouldn’t park or drive over the nest. That mother stays perched on that nest in blazing sun or hailstorms. She has frequent heart attacks and goes through her ritual of feigning injury to distract predators away from the nest anytime someone parks close. It would seem logical to pick a spot further away from traffic. May she knows that Jason and Charlie and Kim will keep an eye out. Immediately after hatching she will move them to a more protected area. These babies are fun to watch. They are scraggly little things and run peeping at everything. They seem oblivious to their mothers call and she spends lots of time trying to keep them in line. There are nests at KWEC also, so if your want to see frantic motherhood at its best— now is the time!!
It is also time to be vigilant and careful when traveling on the roads at the Bottoms to not smash our busy snakes. I have seen a large number of garter snakes and a few Massasagua rattlers. Being cold- blooded is extremely hazardous this time of year. After emerging from hibernation, they really enjoy the warmth of a roadbed to restart their metabolism. Please be careful and go around or move them (it takes very little encouragement) off the roadway. They need our respect and care.
My friend Tim Higgins found a dead Virginia Rail in a parking lot. Foul play not obvious, and he took it to KWEC. That is one of the less visible birds in our Marsh. That was a good observation on his part and it makes us all proud to be wise stewards of our special place. I admire the way our community respects and protects this spot.
Go see the babies in our Marsh!!! They are beautiful!

Doctor Dan Witt is a retired physician and nature enthusiast.

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