4/3/2013 11:53:00 AM Nature says "April Fools" to baseball and spring migration
Ron Kuecker Outdoors Columnist
If you enjoy warm spring days with arriving waterfowl you had to love last Friday, March 29. Saturday wasn't too bad either. Then came Sunday night and April 1. Most of March had been cold, winds mainly prevalent from the north. The exception was the nasty southeast wind of March 7, 8, and 9 followed by a couple inches of rain that mostly froze on our areas earth. Up to a foot of snow fell to the east of us and six to eight inches to our north. Finally, warming started last week and culminated with last Fridays 59 degrees. A softer, southerly breeze was blowing and arriving with it were the ducks people like myself had been waiting for. Big flocks of mallards, smaller groups of canvasbacks, geese of all sizes, lots of bluebills this year and I even saw 16 wood ducks just before dark swoop over Wolf Lake. Then Saturday evening I saw a flock of nearly 100 white fronted geese and nearly the same number of snows and blues. A couple of great blue herons were wading in some of the shallow, melted waters looking for frogs and minnows. Appearing almost overnight were a smattering of trumpeter swans. There was a family group of six in the middle of Wolf Lake that took off into the wind, circled to gain altitude and disappeared to who knows where. A pair of larger swans seemed comfortable on the north side of Wolf Lake, similar to the pair on the south side of Lake Augusta. Banks Wildlife Management Area south of Bingham Lake also held several in its shallow waters. But then came Easter Sunday, March 31. When we entered church for services around 8:15 a.m. it was still a pretty nice day. Not so, when we came out. The wind was now blowing from the northwest and you could tell this was just the beginning. By late evening and into the night it blew up to 35 mph and with temperatures into the teens, the wind chill was around zero. April fools, springs not here just yet Mr. Mallard and Mr. Gardenhire. Prairie winds Living where we do, on what was once the tall grass prairie ecosystem and now the corn, soybean ecosystem, you either learn to live with the wind, move away or spend a lifetime of complaining about it. I've learned to live with it, even study it a bit but have never quite reached the stage of embracing it. I remember well the fellow from "out east" turned Minnesotan and a neighbor at our summer cabin. He always spoke of how our winds were different from theirs and simply called them prairie winds. He repeated it so much that my three young sons began calling him "prairie wind," not to his face of course. The name they gave him was both in reference to what he was talking about and the fact he talked almost as much as the wind blew. Oh, those easterners. . . Cottonwood Lake ducks Several of us have been really enjoying the trickle of ducks moving into Cottonwood Lake for several weeks compared to the more massive migration of last Friday and Saturday. They have been mostly diver ducks including cans, bluebills, ringbills and golden eyes. A good number of American mergansers also were present. Attracted by the open water created around the Game and Fish League aerator for preventing winter fish die offs, they seemed to remain for several weeks. I watched closely as they would dive near the edge of the ice and come up with some under water vegetation. Salad I call it. I'm not sure what it was specifically but it could be one of waterfowls most prized sub surface plants, sago pondweed. There are many types of pondweed but sago is the best loved by ducks that eat their seeds, tubers, stems and leaves. Possibly Cottonwood Lake got low enough in terms of water depth with last summers drought that a good growth of sago took place. The ducks have certainly found it and watching them dive, retrieve it and even share it with their buddies is fun to behold. The mergansers? Oh, they are fish eaters so probably going after the small perch that seem to be doing quite well in Cottonwood the last couple of years. A fund-raiser and a freebie There are a couple of nice events taking place locally yet this week. One is a fund-raiser, the other a freebie. Both are worth your time. On Thursday, April 4, 7:30 p.m. at the Eagles Club the Cottonwood County Game and Fish League will hold their 18th annual spring forum. They are bringing in a couple of speakers to talk about water quality and turkey habitat. It's free. On Saturday, April 6, 5:00 p.m. at the Windom Community Center, Ducks Unlimited will hold their annual banquet. That group has been going consistently since 1977 and has earned hundreds of thousands of dollars that are well spent on habitat projects both locally and internationally. They're all over if you look. This one is not a freebie but we all know what we are getting into when we attend a Ducks Unlimited banquet. Bring some bucks for the ducks.