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Marsh Musings
Dr. Dan Witt
hoi kl ducks

It has been a strange year for the Bottoms and wildlife in general with the drought and dry pools in the Bottoms.  In normal years, the shore birds would be starting to appear.  I am hoping that the recent snow will put some sheet water down and that we will be able to enjoy some of the shore birds that normally appear in large numbers.  I have tried to locate the Whooping
Cranes-- I have had a couple of reports of them being in our area, but I personally have not seen them yet.  
What I have seen though, that is always a thrill-- are some beautiful ducks that are moving through.  A small pond north of Susank was the resting spot for some canvasback and redhead ducks.
At a quick glance, they look very similar.  Both have red heads, and both are diving ducks.  The canvasback is much lighter in color, and has a very definite slope to its head, and has a black bill as opposed to the blue bill of the redhead.  There are a lot more redheads around than canvasbacks.  The canvasback is the only diving duck that is primarily a vegetarian, and is different from the other diving ducks that feed on crustaceans and such.
The canvasbacks are so elegant-- and they are relatively uncommon-- so it is a special treat to get to see and photograph them as they travel through our land.  Take your binoculars and go find these beauties!
When I moved to Barton County in 1990, I hadn’t really thought about fishing.  The coffee-klatch crews talked about “river fishing” and wading which sounded a bit tedious and I was more than skeptical of their success stories.  In time, they introduced me to the Smokey Hill, Saline, and Arkansas rivers.  Lloyd Jaynes, Ray and Junior Deutsch, Harold Leuker, Herman and Vernon Skolaut, Ed Breit and Gene Bitter were masters of the river, and I am sure they could all catch fish out of a toilet bowl.  
We made stink bait out of old cheese and shad and garlic and anise. We blended and stored it. We  had it explode during the fermenting process. We ruined several vehicles when it accidentally got spread around. We used sponges on hooks and caught catfish that still seem unbelievable to me today.  We had fish frys and smelled awful for several days at a time when the water was right. We sank boats, got lost, got home late and missed some important events. We laughed a lot!
Most of those guys have gone fishing in Glory, but they remain very much present in my mind. I still get to drink coffee and visit with the survivors on occasion. I went to the Smokey this past week and caught this nice flathead catfish on a piece of shad.  I could see all of them standing in the shallows celebrating our success with the biggest grins you can imagine.  Our heritage is so rich and we are so lucky.  Enjoy our bounty!!

Doc Witt is a retired physician and wildlife enthusiast.