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Marsh Musings
Dam Witt

This is a hard time for the Friends of the Cheyenne Bottoms, the birds and critters of the Bottoms, and local duck hunters that normally would be using the Bottoms in their annual hunting rituals. No water is a sad deal. The only advantage is for Jason and company to clean out cattails and phragmites. They are doing a great job and have utilized this dry spell to make headway against invasive plant species. 

There is not much activity for me to discuss in the middle of this drought. When that happens, I usually review some previous pictures and try to discuss some of the amazing things that occur daily in our marsh.

The snakes were terrific this year! I was lucky to find a big water snake trying to swallow a bullhead that was too big for his mouth. I watched him try to unhinge his jaw and get around the fish. I don’t think he ever got past the lateral fins. It was a really neat experience to watch him try while a couple of turtles and another snake of equal size came up to show interest in the proceedings. There is always conflict and drama on some scale at the Bottoms.

Back in May, there were lots of birds in the marsh. Pelicans are just beautiful in the slanted light of morning and evening, and if you throw in a few other species it becomes a really neat image. We are probably not going to see any of the Whooping Cranes. I doubt they will stop long enough to give us a peek this year. They will rest on small ponds for short periods, so some will probably be seen in that environment. The shore birds will travel on through, but I know they will miss the rest and food that our marsh provides. I hope Quivira can keep some water. There always seems to be a damp spot down there somewhere.

The drought has decimated our fish population in the Bottoms. It was terrible to see all the carp with their backs out of the water and then these piles of bones. We will miss the shad that we caught with throw nets to use for bait on our fishing expeditions. Night fishing is the best thing going in this heat. The fall bite is arriving and chasing the gulls and dropping slabs is starting. Fall fishing gets ignored usually because deer season, duck season, and upland birds make us do those things. I wish everything didn’t happen all at the same time.  

I really will miss the snipe season. Not many people hunt snipe, but they are fun to walk up in the shallow water and they really are delicious on the table. The world is just tilted some without water in the Bottoms. We will survive, but the process won’t be fun.

I had the worst year for tomatoes. It was just too hot. I got a few of the cherry tomatoes that were good, but my big tomatoes didn’t do well. My lemon cucumbers did OK. Jim Schneweis got some really nice cantaloupe. I’m exploring hydroponic tomatoes — seems tedious...

Stay cool and cheer for our high school teams. The cross-country, golf, and tennis teams appear to be having a good year — we wish them the best! Friday night lights will get brighter now!

Water and “change” are on the way.

Happy birthday Henry!  What a fun celebration!

Rest in peace Michael Schnipper — I will never understand or forget...


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