Thursday morning the Quivira National Wildlife Refuge was one of the hotspots in the American birding world.
Wednesday evening biologists were amazed to find more than 60 whooping cranes on the refuge. Dawn the next day the count was 76.
It’s a red letter day one of America’s best-known endangered species is found in Kansas. A dozen is a huge deal and most years far less than a total of 76 whoopers are seen on Quivira during an entire fall or spring migration.
The 76 Thursday morning was by far a one day record for Q.
By 4 p.m. that same day biologists said all of the birds had flown on. Three were seen just before sunset. Nobody expects many, if any, to be around this weekend.
So it goes in the outdoors.
One hour the fish can be biting and by the time a buddy makes it out after work the same day they’re not. One morning migrating ducks are swarming every waterhole in the county and the next the skies are empty.
That’s because we’re dealing with living creatures reacting to real conditions in the wild.
The whoopers probably rode Thursday’s freight train of a southwind northward in their hurry to get to their Canadian breeding grounds. Fish in a feeding frenzy can go neutral the minute a cold front hits. Arctic blasts that freeze ponds can be the kiss of death to duck hunters who use those waters. Warm spells that thaw those ponds cripples the success of hunters who work the rivers where waterfowl concentrate when all else is ice.
And there are days when the wild animals are simply wild, like when a sapsucker isn’t where it’s been for days or the deer don’t hit the feed fields until after dark.
But that’s what makes those days of spotted whoopers or quick limits of walleye or pheasants so special. And that’s why we go often and stay long.
In the outdoors, you just never know.