Sandra and I were reviewing our year early this month and trying to count our blessings and make some “decisions” (as opposed to “resolutions” which seem to falter when I gain weight or don’t exercise enough) about our goals for this year. We didn’t get too far into the process before it became a blur. One thing we did notice was that as best we can determine “Marsh Musings” is in its sixth year. She and Shelly totally blew me away when they presented me with a scrapbook of all the columns from the past years. You folks deserve a lot of credit for reading a bunch of stuff. I am grateful that only about 50 percent exposed my lack of knowledge or debatable opinions about any number of topics. I am so grateful to all of you that give me encouragement and share the fun and goodness of our marsh.
Our marsh has an echo right now. We have lots of water and geese. There are quite a few Mallards, and the odd ducks that I love to watch and photograph but not eat are hanging out in big water or secret little spaces in the cattails. Diving ducks are absolutely gorgeous, but not particularly good to eat. The Mallards are beautiful this year and the tough guys that ignore brutal weather have had some great hunts. I’m always amazed at the young hunters that break ice and go far out in the marsh to get their birds. The “echo” is from the vast empty sheets of icy or open water with no birds. The freezing temps that came early and over-stayed their welcome forced a lot of birds to pass us by in their southern migration. I have driven the Bottoms several times recently without snapping a photograph. A few Great Blue Herons, Common Mergansers, and some gulls comprise the majority of birds right now, but the marsh is mostly empty. It is easy to forget that in a few short weeks we will be so busy with the spring migration — our horizon is always teeming with good things in the spring and fall! I can just see the Whooping Cranes down at Rockport and Aransas Pass gobbling up the blue crabs and gathering strength to come see us on their way north. If you get the winter blues and want to see these birds up close and personal, go down to the Texas coast and take the boat tour. We have done that a couple of times, and that is the best method to get great shots of the Whoopers in a beautiful (and warm) location. Of course, there is nothing like seeing them elegantly wading and feeding at the Bottoms and Quivira.
I may get the chance to go see the Whoopers in Texas. Several years ago my Louisiana and Canadian friends combined their efforts to hunt hogs and javelina pigs (also called “skunk pigs” due to the smelly gland on their back) in south Texas. We are working on a reunion of that group with the same ranch foreman and his wife that were so good to us so many years ago. I think it will happen in February. You will enjoy that trip if it comes off — lots of hilarious things happen in south Texas on hog hunts, and I will have pictures.
The prettiest birds in Kansas right now are the feeder birds in back yards. Winter birds are so pretty and cheerful and busy at these feeders. Here is a picture of a Northern Cardinal on high alert at a back yard feeder. He symbolizes the good cheer of this special group of birds and sings his little heart out to tell us that spring is just around the corner!
Happy New Year to everyone—watch those feeders!
Doctor Dan Witt is a retired physician and nature enthusiast.