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How it started!
Marsh Musings

A few people have asked me how “Marsh Musings” got started. It was not my idea. A terrific young man named Eric Giesing was working at the Kansas Wetlands Education Center with Curtis Wolf, promoting the Bottoms and all the wonderful things that happen in this area. I was poking around the Bottoms and taking a few pictures when we met in 2012. He was clever, kind, and enjoyed sharing the bounty of our marsh with school kids, senior citizens, and anyone else that had any interest. The expanse of his education and his love for the outdoors was infectious. We became very good friends and he generated the idea of a newspaper column that he would write and I would take pictures to enhance the information.

That was a significant challenge because he had lots of intense information about events and species in the Bottoms that I knew nothing about. His college education at Illinois was excellent even though I think they struggle with football. They are in a tough league. I will always be grateful to Curtis for hiring Eric. It has been a wonderful experience. I also want to thank Great Bend Tribune Managing Editor Dale Hogg for tolerating our early efforts — his support and help have been invaluable. I hope it has been good for the Tribune also.

We gave a few programs to the Senior Center and other places. I was always amazed at the unusual information in Eric’s mind — which is always churning.

One afternoon we were driving around the Bottoms in early February of 2012 and Eric spotted a beautiful Snowy Owl lying in the marsh. We got some cloth fabric and Eric went out and picked up the owl. It was hurt dreadfully — having been shot (by mistake I’m sure by a snow goose hunter) and wounded. I remember the gentle care Eric provided for that beautiful bird. We took it to the Raptor Center where it expired.

Eric noted that very few of the Snowy owls that we see at the Bottoms survive. They are young birds and end up here almost by mistake. They are not skilled hunters and are also harassed savagely by the raptors that live in our area. I saw a Northern Harrier knock a snowy owl to the ground when it was hunting in Pool 2. It lay there for a long time before taking the flight to a perch. I know that bird didn’t make it. Nature is harsh sometimes in its quest for balance. Survival trumps sympathy every time. Sometimes that is hard to comprehend because there is no “justice” — only survival of the fittest.

Eric and Whitney lived in Ellinwood for a while. Whitney was pursuing a degree in psychology and that required a move to Hays. Pretty long drive for Eric, but he loves Whitney in ways that take your breath. She got her undergrad degree and needed to get her masters diploma to be able to use the psychology in a clinical setting. That promoted a drastic change in their lives. She is a beautiful woman with a huge brain and had opportunities to extend her education that required Eric to leave KWEC. That was a sad day for Curtis and me. He applied for a pharmaceutical representative job that involved at least 100-plus applicants, including hospital administrators and people in the business. He got the job. His life and career have exploded in the technical pharmaceutical business. Whitney has transformed from a psychologist to a mother. Their two beautiful girls take your breath. They have lived in Virginia, New York City, Chicago, Indianapolis, Washington, DC, and are currently moving to San Jose, Calif. Each of these moves has involved a huge advancement in his career and I am stunned but not at all amazed at his success. Big brains do big things. He and Whitney and their girls are on an amazing journey. It is a joy for Sandra and me to be able to enjoy them as they make this journey.  

That’s how it happened. It is what it is, and Eric Giesing was the creator. He challenged me with continuing the column when he left Kansas. Dale Hogg accepted the idea, and here we are. Eric and Whitney and their girls, Nora and Hazel, stopped by for a visit this week. It was a very special time — they are moving to California for a while. I hope Eric will craft a Marsh Musing for all of us as the next edition.

I’m grateful to all of you who read this column. I appreciate more than you know all the encouragement and good wishes you have shared. I’m also grateful to the wise and kind birders that correct my errors or neglect. You are correct Rob — It IS double-crested cormorant ... I am looking forward to Eric’s Marsh Musings!


Doctor Dan Witt is a retired physician and nature enthusiast. He can be reached at