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Dont Miss This Duck!!!
Marsh Musings
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There are some birds and critters that just steal the show. Different classes or types of birds take our breath for different reasons. Eagles stir our national pride, pheasants and quail focus our state pride, and there is a fake bird called a Jayhawk that has been a source of pride and controversy for lots of years. This bird originated in the mid-1800’s to describe early Kansas settlers, primarily the “Free-State” population. It is a imaginary mix of a noisy, quarrelsome Jay with a Sparrow Hawk (probably a Kestrel) who is a good hunter. The artistic rendering of this bird has undergone several changes (including putting on shoes apparently to kick opponents) and the current drawing was done by a student (Harold D. Sandy) in 1946. The bookstores of the University purchased and copyrighted the image in 1947. The “Rock Chalk Chant” includes a visual image of the Jayhawk and when Kansas University started playing football in 1890 it was a natural process to include the “bird.” The rest is history....
The hero of this article is a duck swimming at the Bottoms right now that won’t be there very long. The Hooded Marganser is a beautiful species of small duck. They have a big “WOW” factor characterized by a big crest that can be raised or lowered. The black/white headgear of the male in breeding plumage is stunning. The female is more brownish and somewhat drab, but still has a beautiful crest. The short, pointed sawbill is used to grasp small fish, insects and crayfish that they find by diving with eyes open. A membrane covers the eye when they are diving for food. They can stay submerged for up to two minutes and are shy and secretive.  
Take binoculars when you go to look for these ducks. There are holes in the ice sheet at the Bottoms, and the ducks and geese are congregated in those open areas. It is convention time for ducks right now. Mallards, Pintails, Scaup, Bufflehead, Canvasback, Cinnamon Teal, and the Mergansers are coming through in the migration. Most are in their breeding colors and are just spectacular. I spend as much time as possible just watching these travelers. Ducks Unlimited can’t have a better logo than the ducks in the congregated areas of open water in our Bottoms right now. This is a serious warning-- it won’t last very long! If you can’t get a picture-- ring me up-- I have some!