There is a “dinner theater” quality attraction in progress at the Bottoms as we speak. The herons and egrets are here in good numbers and are busy feeding to continue their migration. This is a special window of opportunity to enjoy and be amazed at these birds! Teal season isn’t far around the corner and there will be eager hunters in the marsh which will scatter these birds a bit. I personally look forward to teal season — that is probably the best duck to put on the table! They are made for bacon and jalapeno wraps on the grill and this is a short season to start the fall. We do doves the same way.
The Snowy Egrets are a rowdy bunch of birds! They gather in groups around the feeding areas, and fuss and squabble almost continuously. Their magnificent plumage is on full display when they are agitated and it is so pretty it almost takes your breath! The other time they display like this is during breeding and nesting. Facebook is really amazing — I have a friend that I have never seen face to face. He is a retired game warden and lives in Georgia. I was introduced by a mutual friend from Louisiana who comes through Hoisington on some psychotic turkey hunting trips. He is a very talented photographer and his Snowy Egret pictures on nests and with babies are just stunning. Going to visit him is on my bucket list. When these birds display their plumage by spiking it up and separating it out — you will just have to go see them do it.
The other birds are also in the game. There are lots of grebes—look in your bird book. We have Western and Clarks grebes in pool 2. There are more night herons than I can recall seeing in a long time. There are also bomber-quality Great Blue Herons everywhere. The calm marsh is home to a lot of special birds. Snipe season is also upon us. Yes, they are real.
On a more serious note — I attended the Cheyenne Bottoms annual meeting for hunters and birders at the education center last Thursday evening. There are lots going on — fighting cattails and phragmites is high on the list. The cattail explosion dramatically reduces available hunting access. New equipment and some new funding will help. Rain has been excessive and the cattails just love it. They spread by root extension and seeding. It is a hard continuous fight. I admire Jason and his crew — you will see Kim running the big machine that digs out the ditches where silt has settled. They have been able to disc up ground in pool 4. It is interesting that most of our hunters in the marsh are from out of state. Kansas did a great job of promoting this area and they certainly come to hunt. We are losing our young hunting population — mentoring programs and simplified rules and regulations will help — we hope. We see more birders all the time.
Don’t miss these egrets! What a bird!
Doctor Dan Witt is a retired physician and nature enthusiast.