Michael Pearce

Reptile group to host field days near Russell

Travis Taggert is expecting big things this weekend from the rolling Smoky Hills grasslands around Russell, like 100-plus people finding thousands of reptiles and amphibians.

The event is the spring field trip of the Kansas Herpetological Society.Taggert, the event’s director, and one of the top herpetologists in Kansas, said the fertile prairies are some of the most reptile-rich lands in the nation. He expects high numbers of milk snakes, king snakes, ringneck snakes and collared lizards to be amid the dozens of species found, counted and documented for science.

Taggert said most participants will arrive in the Russell area Friday evening, and the field counts will be all day Saturday and through about noon on Sunday. The above like has all of the information.

More updates

A reminder of Thursday’s Kansas Wildlife, Parks and Tourism Commission meeting at the Great Plains Nature Center, in Wichita. The afternoon session should run from 1-5 p.m. and the evening session from 6:30 until completion. Public comment will be welcome. The meeting can be watched online.

In case you’re wondering, yes morels are currently out in many parts of central Kansas. A group of grade school kids out for a recent field day at Harvey County West Park found about three gallons. Another friend said fishing and turkey hunting have been fair up around Marion Reservoir, but the morel hunting had been great.

Bird migrations continue to move along nicely, and about on time. Friends are seeing their first kingbirds of the season. Turkey vultures seem to be around in solid numbers as are herons and egrets.

Some kinds of wildlife could really benefit from large rains that fell in some areas last weekend. The most I’ve heard of is eight inches of rain, in one night, on a buddy’s farm north of Stafford. Fortunately it fell early enough in the year it shouldn’t have washed out any pheasant, turkey or quail nests. Some severe hail storms in the region, though, may have taken out some adult birds.

The moisture could also lead to improved native grass weed growth in pastures and wheat fields which is good news for wildlife, like the newborn fawns to come soon, but can be bad news for farmers. Needless to say, most of the marshes at the Quivira National Wildlife Refuge are full.

There are some good fishing reports around, though some of the patterns maybe fading. I had some reports of some of the best white bass spawn action in many years in the Neosho River above John Redmond Reservoir. A friend said the crappie fishing should break loose there as soon as the water clears and warms. John Redmond is ranked as the best crappie lake in the state of Kansas this year. If the current high water levels stay, the upcoming spawn could produce another great year class of fish for the future, too.

Upcoming coverage

Sunday’s Outdoors page will have a feature on probably the prettiest public lake in Kansas - Clark State Fishing Lake. Haven’t seen or heard of it? Don’t feel too bad. The 300 acre lake, north of Ashland, isn’t really on the way to anywhere popular. In fact, you can’t even see the lake until you’re within about a quarter-mile of it because it sits in the bottom of some amazingly steep canyons. Thanks to rains in 2013 and last year, the 300 acre lake is full of water and fish. We did pretty well on largemouth bass and others were catching channel catfish and walleye.

I’ll probably have coverage of today’s commission meeting on a blog, which will probably go on our online outdoors page tonight or early Friday. I’m not expecting anything major to happen but anything is possible, especially with the current commission.

That’s what we thought last year going into the annual April meeting in Wichita, and then three commissioners got pretty heated with Tom Bidrowski, the department’s waterfowl biologist. One commissioner stated it might be time for a new biologist and all three ripped into a study he’d provided and his professionalism. I got more e-mails and phone calls from department employees and the general public on how Bidrowski was treated than after any other commission meeting through the decades. If it’s hot again, I’ll write about it.

Down the road I’m hoping to have coverage from this weekend’s field trip event near Russell and possibly a trip to an unlikely smallmouth fishery in eastern Kansas.

Plans are still in the works for a feature on Sandhills State Park, too.

Michael’s world

I’ve filled both of my spring turkey permits. Both were two-year-old toms and both shot with my bow. The tom I shot Monday afternoon, my second of the season, was pretty unique in that it had two beards. One was five inches and the other was 9 3/4 inches. The latter is pretty long for that young of a bird, especially in an area originally stocked with the Rio Grande subspecies of birds.

Both birds were shot as they tried to intimidate my Dakota submissive jake decoy. Here’s a link to a video, on a blog I made on using that particular decoy in the spring, fall and winter. Within the photo gallery of last Sunday’s feature on the Governor’s Turkey Hunt are several shots of different toms attacking the decoy.

I’m pretty excited to have gotten permission to fish a half-mile or more of Bird Creek in Butler County. It seems to have a nice population of both largemouth and spotted bass, sunfish and whatever species of fish may move up from the nearby Walnut River. I’m hoping to give it a few hours of fly-fishing attention next week.

Sunday, I hope, is the last day of getting the vegetable garden ready for planting. I won’t plant anything until after Jerrod’s wedding on May 9, but I’ll need to have the soil fertilized and tilled.

I’m really excited for the week of the wedding. A lot of family and friends will be gathered and the entire three or four days should be enjoyable. I have a couple of neat stories I can be working on up in that area so I’ll head up a few days early. We even have some great pet-sitters living in, so there will be nothing to worry about at home.


Michael Pearce