He was standing in ditch water on the west side of Highway 281 about a mile south of Hoisington — all alone and seemingly uninterested in his immediate surroundings. I pulled off the roadway about 40 yards away, and just watched for about 30 minutes. Traffic was light, and I recognized a few of the people who probably questioned my thinking in view of my parking spot. The camera must have been reassuring — nobody stopped.
His eyes were bright and his feathers were unruffled, so he did not appear to be injured or in any distress. He waded about 6 steps in 2 directions and checked the surface for any sign of life or food source-- which certainly has to be meager in ditch water that dries up rather quickly. He gazed at my vehicle for about 20 seconds and decided we were no threat, so he shortened his neck and retracted one foot to assume the yoga tree pose that is a lot easier for him than me(I tend to fall over — but that is another story...). He stood for about 15 minutes and then took a few quick steps and launched to the south. I can only assume that this Great Egret chose that spot for a short rest in his migration process. It was a gift to share a few minutes with him.
I then proceeded past the 4H building and went east to the Bottoms. Headquarters was quiet-- Kim is grading the roads and they are much improved. I marvel at that petite lady man-handling those huge machines. She seems to have a connection and understanding of them in the same way my friend Abe Prosser does-- it is a thing of beauty to watch them work. I stopped about half way to the first set of gates — a couple of pheasant crossed the road-- the cock has his fall colors-- and it was so quiet I could hear my heart beat. There were a few teal in the air, lots of blackbirds, and Grackles in the brush — but no waves of sandhill cranes, snow geese or big ducks. I used my cell phone and spoke to Duane in Saskatchewan who migrates down here with those birds — he says the geese are there, but the ducks are still lagging up north. I’m sure they will be here in the next few weeks. I’m ready for a freeze so I can quit mowing. I still have some day lilies blooming.
The “quiet” is so peaceful. The fall colors and the slanted light make for beautiful landscape pictures-- but I am feeling the need to see the sky fill with sound and motion. That is the signature image of our Bottoms in all their glory. It won’t be long....
Doc Witt is a retired physician and avid outdoorsman.
LSH escapee caught in Utah