Special to the 530News –
The weather and Kansas are starting to change. My personal barometer is focused on the migration of birds through the Bottoms. Even though we are barely into February, some things are happening.
I think the pelican might be gone. I haven’t seen him in a couple of weeks. There is probably a pile of white feathers and some eagle footprints in some obscure place that we will never discover. The gulls (my friend Tom Nulton pointed out to me there are no birds labeled “seagulls”— only gulls that have names) remain constant and are so elegant in fishing and diving for dinner.
Most of the ducks are mallards and the goofy mergansers that stay in a big gob way out in the middle of open water. They have to be one of the most fearful of the duck species. They look like coots when they start running to launch and fly another hundred yards to get farther from the road or people. It is hard to get a decent photograph of those birds.
The new ducks right now are pintails. They are absolutely one of the most elegant ducks. They are very comfortable sharing space with mallards, and both species are starting to mate up. It is too early to consider nesting, but they are certainly enjoying the company of their mates. Drake pintails seem very considerate of their hens and stay on alert when the lady is napping. They were sharing a bath in the warm sun and are very considerate of each other. We might learn some good things from them that would encourage us to be better to each other.
I hope you have seen the armadillos. I have found four so far unless there are a couple of runners in the group. They tend to come out in the warm afternoons and dig around in the sod next to the roads. Kim is grading down the ripples in the road, so it’s not so rough to go see the sights. I don’t know if armadillos have been seen at the Bottoms in previous years. I have seen them down around Pratt and Medicine Lodge in previous years, and did see one up by Wilson a couple of years ago. They don’t move fast, but do seem to be migrating north. My suspicion is that they don’t like cold weather, so this may be a boundary.
I know it is early, but it might be a good time to till up the garden and get things ready. My asparagus patch sure got smashed down by the ice storm which will make cleaning it up for the crop harder, but that is a labor of love. My day lilies still have their heads down.
Spring is not sprung, but we can envision the burst of birds that is coming. Right now, the sky is black with white birds as the thousands of snow geese go out to feed each day. That is such a beautiful sight and will keep us well entertained until the new show starts. Don’t you dare miss it!
Doctor Dan Witt is a retired physician and nature enthusiast.