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Marsh Musings
What Do We KnowNot Enough!!!
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I like to read books. There is an order to books that excludes the repulsive advertisements that have made television so distasteful recently. I wonder if they will ever produce a television that will block advertisements. I think it would sell, but I’ve never seen an advertisement for such a device.....
The most recent book I’m reading is teaching me things about the inhabitants of our marsh. “The Wisdom of Birds” by Jennifer Ackerman is a brilliant discourse about the behavior of birds and the people who study birds all over the world. The staggering migrations, choice of colors (blue is the strangest color in nature as it reflects the sky and water—most “blue” birds/plants are other colors that appear “blue” from a distance. Nobody has been able to breed a truly blue daylily. The purpose and structure of communication and songs, the ability to differentiate colors and shapes, the process of attracting a mate, etc. are amazing. If you like words, you will enjoy this book. Her vocabulary leaves me in bondage, and the flow of her language is pure “maple syrup” fun to read even when the topic is tedious- she has a literary style that just grabs your attention and demands that you read one more sentence. Tom Robbins did that to me in “Another Roadside Attraction” many years ago.
There are some really weird ducks that study birds and conjure up tests to evaluate their theories. Cornell University is a huge bird center. If you haven’t seen “The Birds of Paradise” you are making a mistake. One of the fellows that did that study is from Kansas University. We saw them live in Kansas City with their pictures. It is truly spectacular and was mind-bending and physically demanding to produce their video documentation of some of the world’s strangest and beautiful birds.
In our marsh, the show is about to begin! Dark goose season ended last Sunday. If you haven’t had White-fronted goose on the grill or in a can cooker you have my sympathy. It is stunning table fare. This production comes in several episodes. The Snow geese are still here in the thousands. They go straight up and out of the marsh and feed miles away. They rest in the middle of the refuge—far away from any human threat, and can be hunted well into spring. You can use electronic calls. They are ruining their own breeding grounds up north with over-population. The ducks are dressed up to attract a mate—all in their brilliant tuxedos and colors. There are lots of different kinds of ducks here now—all are glorious in their new clothes, and are starting to pair up. The new pelicans have arrived and are starting to grow the knob on their beak called a “horn” that develops during breeding season. There are lots of them now—fun to watch. The dark geese are moving north and the eagles are disappearing with the ice as the temperature warms except for those that nest locally. No shore birds have appeared yet. Killdeer will be here soon, and then the marsh will explode with such a variety and volume of shore birds that you will be stunned! KWEC will have some Prairie Chicken tours and the Wetlands festival is just around the corner. It is about to begin! We will soon know a lot more about our marsh!
Doctor Dan Witt is a retired physician and nature enthusiast.