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Winter Magic at the Bottoms
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Eagle doing the Wave in preparation for launching on a hunting adventure

It is cold -- cold enough to make serious ice in some parts of the marsh -- not cold enough to freeze the entire surface. There is quite a bit of open water. This poses a dilemma for some of our residents and a necessary place of safety for others.
I have watched a single pelican for about a month. I suspect he is injured and couldn’t make the migration with his cohorts. He is certainly able to fly, and stays in the east part of pool one most of the time. He obviously is able to catch some shad or bullheads and get enough to eat. He stays around the dike by the restrooms if you want to visit. I keep thinking I will see a carcass out on the ice being dissected by the eagle clan, but it hasn’t happened so far. I still think it will.
There are lots of eagles. They sit as close to the open water as they can and still be on the ice. They are certainly elegant. This one is doing the “Wave” in preparation for launching on a hunting adventure. We have a good mix of adult and young birds. The juvenile bald eagles stay brown until they are 4-6 years old. It is a common mistake to confuse a young Bald Eagle with a Golden Eagle. We don’t have very many Golden Eagles in the area. The eagles love to dine on ducks and geese and do very well at the Bottoms.
Another common resident this time of year is the sea gull. Most of ours are Ringed-billed Gulls, but there are a few other types also. You can identify the Ringed-bill Gull by the black ring around its bill. They squabble and steal food from each other as a way of life. They are very common and will eat almost anything. They love garbage dumps and are quick to learn that a French fry tossed in the air is a snack. I read that in some of the western states these gulls become vegetarians and feed in the fields while abandoning the expected diet of small fish. They eat shad and bull heads here. It is fun to watch them elegantly swoop and dive over their feeding sites. I keep looking for odd gulls. It is reported that Ringed-bills will cross-breed with Franklin Gulls among others, and we have the majority of Franklins through the Bottoms and Quivira during their migration. I would love to surprise Rob Penner, Mike Radar, Curtis Wolf, Karl Grover and Charlie Swank with a picture of something like that. That would be a thrill for the new year. It is far more likely that they will find something that takes my breath away. We are fortunate to have access to their knowledge and skill.
At the Christmas bird count we found Mountain Blue Birds just south of the Bottoms in a dense tree row by the road. That was my most exciting bird of the day. I am on high alert for Snowy Owls, Short-eared Owls, and various types of hawks other that our Red-tailed birds. Stay alert as the weather gets colder—there are some very unique and special visitors that will come through our marsh.
Your question for this week—what are the ducks in pool one that appear to be mostly black/white and take off like coots when they launch en mass to another spot 300 yards away. There are about 1,000- 1,500 of them racing around out there as we speak. It is worth the trip just to look them over. I hope you duck hunters get it right.
Happy New Year to each of you! I wish you the very best and happiest year ever!