Michael Pearce

Birding workshop to help improve backyard birding opportunities

Always wanted to take a more hands-on approach to enjoying backyard wildlife, or wanted to pick the brain of our area’s top birders?

You can do both at the Wichita Audubon Society’s Backyard Bird Workshop on Feb. 21, from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. at the Great Plains Nature Center. The event is designed to benefit youths and adults.

Pete Janzen, Audubon member, said materials, tools and experts will be there to help young people construct bird houses. Experts will be on-hand to explain how to get the most from backyard birding, covering feeding, watering and gardening for better birds. The event is free.

For more information, call Patty Marlett at 316-942-2164.

Other updates

Hunters need to remember that this weekend is the end for the major 2014-15 seasons, when all goose seasons end. The special conservation order snow goose season will open on Monday, and with it more liberalized limits and legal equipment. There seems to be quite a few geese around, especially a lot of cacklers and other small Canadas. A friend and four others shot easy limits of six Canadas and two whitefronts per man Sunday morning.

Also remember there have been some changes in the spring turkeys season framework, beginning this year. This spring the youth/disabled season begins April l, the archery season April 6 and the regular season April 15. That’s a week later than in past years for the regular season, which used to begin the second Saturday of the month. The archery and regular season opening days were moved back to give youth hunters a weekend to themselves.

No word yet on who poached the bald eagle below the dam of Marion Reservoir last week. The bird was killed in the wide-open. Mature, it could not have been mistaken for anything else. Then again, no kind of eagle or hawk resembles anything that can be legally killed.

Sorry, I have little to report about fishing or birding of special interest.

Upcoming coverage

Go to Kansas.com/outdoors to see a feature on the ninth annual Tonganoxie Squirrel Scramble. This year the event on Saturday hosted 99 two-person hunting teams from Kansas and Missouri. Organizers hold the event to provide something for hunters to do between deer and spring turkey season, and to raise money for several civic projects. The story will also be on Sunday’s Outdoors page in The Eagle.

Further down the road, I’m hoping to write about a new facility that’s planned for eastern Kansas, one that could help several threatened and endangered species make comebacks in Kansas. It’s construction isn’t costing the state a dime, either.

I’m also starting to take a close look at the threat of tick-borne diseases in Kansas. From the many people I’ve talked with, such illnesses may be more prevalent than most people realize. They’re also more physically serious. Some people take several months to fully recover. Some carry symptoms and problems for years. For some it’s been fatal.

Michael’s world

It was good to get up to our farm, southwest of Tonganoxie, for a half-day ahead of covering the Squirrel Scramble. I got a chance to spread some clover seed over about two or three acres of food plots. One already has clover pretty well established. The other had radishes and turnips that really didn’t do well last fall. Ideally the freezing and thawing of the ground will work the clover seed down deep enough to begin germination. It’s worked pretty well for me at least half of the time I’ve tried it. I’ll be doing the same sometime soon with several plots I manage near El Dorado. I’ll also be spreading seed along some trails we drive through the property, trying to get a little clover coming up here and there.

As well as a good food for deer, clover also can hold a lot of bugs that will help young quail and turkeys make it through the summer. Speaking of quail, I’m still finding coveys in places I hadn’t seen them in several years. Tuesday evening my friend, Jake, walked right into the middle of a covey that scared the dickens out of him. Well, maybe startled is a better word because he was smiling through the entire event.

Jake and I saw another sign that spring is just around the corner. The number of great blue herons has increased along the Walnut River and Bird Creek near El Dorado. Some of the birds have been landing in some huge sycamores where the birds have had a rookery for many years, too. I can’t see where they’re adding to the nests, but they’re at least jockeying for the best nesting locations. I’ve heard several people report seeing great horned owls nesting now, too.

I took a recent morning to take Hank, my old Lab, on his last hunt. We went to a pond near Newton for geese. Unfortunately a heavy fog settled in, which isn’t good for goose hunting because they don’t seem to be moving as well. We had lots of ducks in, though the season is closed. I enjoyed watching them. I don’t think Hank has the eyesight to have seen them in the gloom, 20 to 40 yards away. I had mallards, gadwalls, widgeons and canvasbacks decoy into my goose spread. The drake canvasbacks were stunning to see.

Every few minutes I got up so Hank could walk around, and not get stiff. Unfortunately that wore him out. I got one goose, a small cackler. Hank didn’t see it fall, but he heard the shot so knew something was up. I walked him about 15 yards downwind of the bird and he picked up the scent and carried it back to the blind. After I had my decoys and layout blind loaded, he carried it to the truck, just like he has on hundreds of other hunts with birds we’ve gotten.

He’s now officially retired, and relegated to whatever he wants to do in the house and backyard. The old dog still falls a lot, but always pulls himself back up and has his tail wagging. As long as he’s happy, Kathy and I are happy for him.


Michael Pearce