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Here it comes!

Did you notice the big change last week? Our sky is empty of snow geese. Spring started on Wednesday, and the snows lifted off and headed for the northern breeding grounds. We had so many here for so long, and the Bottoms are completely different right now. If you didn’t go see the thousands of snow geese sitting in the pools when it was freezing and cold — you missed one of the most spectacular visuals that ever happens in Kansas! In fact, if you didn’t go listen to the thousands of birds — you missed one of the most impressive sounds on this earth.  My friend Mike Ehlebracht calls them “carp with wings” indicating that they aren’t really that good to eat, and take up space that more appealing birds (Canada and White-Fronted geese) might use. I agree with his premise — but we would all be less if they didn’t come to the Bottoms and Quivira. The Eagles would be thinner also. They are following the migration and enjoying the bounty. Snow geese have had a population explosion and are destroying their breeding grounds up north. It is legal to use electronic calls and unplugged shotguns. That still isn’t enough to control the population. When I first started hunting snow geese in Texas, we would take a couple of dozen paper plates and scatter them around. The snows would come right in without blinking. They have now become one of the smartest birds and can spot decoys and blinds with very little difficulty. We have to put out hundreds of decoys and use very precise blinds to hunt these birds. They learned fast.

So what occupies our space and minds when the snows leave? Ducks! The ducks at the Bottoms right now are so pretty it almost takes your breath! The Blue-winged teal has a white face patch during the breeding season. The Green-winged teal is dressed to kill and the Cinnamon teal are always beautiful! Mallards and Pintails are paired up, and the most plentiful duck right now is the Northern Shoveler which is one of the more colorful ducks. I drove the river and was glad to see several Wood ducks flying up and down looking for nesting sites. It is a great time to be outdoors and watch the magic.

I had trout for dinner last night. We have been fishing at Veterans and have been fortunate enough to catch some nice ones! I brined and smoked several on the grill and they turned out really good. That is a terrific program provided by KDWP. I doubt that the department will stock any more this year since they don’t survive the summer heat — but the fish are really nice and really good. They get a “thumbs up” for that gift. I’m amazed that the breeding program is so successful and they put trout all over the state. It is a great program. Yes, I know how much the trout stamp costs — it’s still cheaper than going to the western states to catch some trout and they taste the same. I’m all in for this trout program.

Brace yourself. The spring migration with all the shorebirds and Whooping Cranes is about to begin. You would think after almost 30 years we would get used to this event. It wakes me up and demands as much time in the marsh as I can muster. Birding friends, photography buddies, and just casual visitors benefit from this process. Don’t miss it!


Doctor Dan Witt is a retired physician and nature enthusiast.