Quivira marsh short on water, but full of eagles

A dried-up marsh may be bad news for fish, but it's great news for eagles and eagle watchers.

About 230 bald eagles were counted Tuesday at the annual Quivira National Wildlife Refuge Christmas Bird Count.

More than 200 were seen around the Big Salt Marsh.

"Basically we let it dry up and had a big carp die-off," refuge biologist Melanie Olds said. "The eagles found a good food source and that's why so many have stuck around for so long."

Olds said much of the marsh had been allowed to dry up to help control the advancement of some invasive plants.

Drying and refilling is part of the natural process for most Kansas marshes.

Earlier in the year, a few whooping cranes were seen feeding on the dead fish.

Olds said Tuesday's count was probably the most bald eagles ever documented at Quivira.

"You sit there and scan from one side to the other and you almost need a little clicker to keep tallying them," she said. "It's been pretty impressive."

On the river _ The Arkansas River Coalition is offering the public a chance to do a little river floating on the Little Arkansas River on Jan. 2.

Vince Marshall, float coordinator, said early January floats are an important annual event.

"The idea is to get people out and get them thinking about the recreational floats we will be doing this year," he said. "It's also a chance to get them out to enjoy a day that may be nice or it may be not so nice."

Marshall said participants will gather below the Biting Street Bridge (along 12th Street) at about 12:30 p.m.

The actual float will take about an hour and end at South Riverside Park.

"It's just kind of a leisurely float that winds around for about 2 1/2 hours," Marshall said. "It's fun and that gives people enough of a taste so they'll know what's going on."

Floaters can bring their own canoes or kayaks, or may borrow equipment from the club.

Beginners are welcome.

"They need to wear enough clothes," Marshall said. "A lot show up not wearing enough clothes."

Coalition members will also provide information about the organization and get e-mail addresses to notify the public of coming events.

Pre-registration is required so equipment can be gathered and the public notified if locations change.

Call Marshall at 316-755-1473 or e-mail marshallfam@prodigy.net.

Licenses on sale _ Hunting, fishing and furhavesting licenses for 2012 went on sale Wednesday.

Most of the licenses will be valid from time of purchase through all of 2012. Some will be valid much longer.

For the first time, Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks is offering people 16-21 a chance to buy one permit valid for all of those years.

Karen Beard, Wildlife and Parks licensing chief, said the permits will be valid for up to six years.

"We'll let people buy them when they're 15, like if it's a gift for someone's 16th birthday," she said. "They expire Dec. 31 the year they turn 21."

Costs are $42.50 for hunting or fishing licenses and $72.50 for a combination license.

"That's a savings up of to about $150, depending on how old the kid is when they get the license," Beard said.

Beard said people can purchase licenses for others as gifts.

Buyers need all personal information, including eye color, driver's license and Social Security numbers. Beard said a call to her office will yield the person's Wildlife and Parks registration number.

It can be used at most license vendors or online when purchasing licenses. Call 620-672-5911.