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The gift of water
Marsh Musings snipe

It is easy to recall the furnace blast of summer. Kansas is so similar to the Texas Panhandle where I grew up. We lived then as our kids do here — play ball, hunt and fish, and not waste a lot of time sleeping. The big fly in our ointment was the same as it is here — the weather. It frequently gave us huge opportunity and stopped us on a dime at other times.

Big rains like we have just experienced here were awful during hunting season. It let birds scatter, it bunched up deer in strange (and mostly protected) places and made our vehicles perfectly camouflaged for parking in mud holes. It also immobilized us at times — mine sat in a road up to the running boards for over a week and we stuck three others trying to get it out. Lesson well learned — almost. About four years ago I got stuck in a wet sandy road down by Quivira and made the fatal mistake of calling one of my game warden buddies. He got me out, but it made Facebook headlines. I didn’t even see him take the pictures. Another game warden got stuck in the Sandhills down by Pratt and walked about eight miles to keep from calling anyone and risking Facebook or email exposure. It never pays to show a weakness in the group of friends that I hunt with. I could tell you stories. Ha! Thanks to all you fellows for the fun and memories!

Duck season seemed to explode this year. I didn’t get out to hunt teal, and now big ducks are in business. I drove a few roads on Friday. Lots of roads are impassable, but more are open than you would expect. I sat and watched and listened to a large group of Sandhill Cranes circling high in the sky. Their call is so unique — I spent about 30 minutes recalling the special time I have been gifted with these birds. If you ever get a chance to go to Grand Isle Nebraska to the Crane center don’t miss it. Tom Mangelson (a world-famous photographer from Jackson, Wyo.) has a cabin on the Platte. He and his friend and frequent visitor Jane Goodall have created a crane center and viewing areas — and have made crane conservation a spectacular event. My friend David Seibel and I got to spend a week with Tom and about a dozen other National Geographic Photographers in Jackson a few years ago. I learned a LOT!!!  

The migration is ramping up. The Franklin Gulls are more plentiful this year than I can recall. They are scattered across Kansas. When I drove back from Kansas City last week I watched those gulls in their migration. They are gathering in the catch water in the grain fields all around the Bottoms — it is easy to get close and is great fun to watch them fight and squabble over food and territory.

Not many people hunt snipe. Not many people actually believe there is a bird called snipe. We all recall snipe hunting and leaving people and such. There is a bird and the thimble of meat is absolutely delicious. Across the pond, the hunters wear tweeds and knickers, and the snipe hunt is a very proper and regimented event. It has been a very special occasion for a couple of my game warden buddies. Those birds help us commemorate some special people in our lives. I revere snipe. They are very plentiful right now and the high water has put them in some unusual locations. Go find a snipe and know that you have seen a very special bird.

Yellow Legs, Killdeer, lots of different ducks, and even a few White-fronts and Snow geese have appeared. They are pretty much on schedule. I am waiting for the Whooping Cranes to stop the show!!!!


Doctor Dan Witt is a retired physician and nature enthusiast.