Michael Pearce

The Eagle's outdoor reporter highlights the latest hunting, fishing and wildlife news.

Michael Pearce

Duck population holds strong; purple martins still in Old Town

By Michael Pearce

mpearce@wichitaeagle.com

August 10, 2016 04:34 PM

This fall’s duck migrations should mirror those of last fall and winter, according to a Ducks Unlimited press release. They got their facts and figures from counts made this summer by waterfowl biologists in the U.S. and Canada. The total flight is estimated to be about 48.4 million birds. Mallard numbers are about one percent higher than last year. Blue-winged teal are down about 22 percent and green-winged teal are up five percent over last year. With the exception of pintails, most duck species are well above longterm averages.

My most recent report estimated there are about 30,000 or more purple martins roosting in Old Town these evenings. Great places to observe them from are Joe’s Old Town Bar and Grill and the parking garage in Old Town. The line of ornamental trees between the two places is where they’ve been roosting. The birds start showing up around 8:15-8:30 p.m.

Friday through Sunday the Kansas Bowhunters Association will hold their annual rendezvous at Smoky Valley Archer’s Club, near Lindsborg. For several decades the group that’s dedicated to protecting and furthering bowhunting of Kansas animals has gathered on an August weekend to shoot targets, share meals and visit other members before hunting seasons get rolling in September. For information call 785-227-4318.

Flatland Fly Fishers wants to remind the public they’re holding an open fly-tying night Thursday evening at the Great Plains Nature Center from 6:30 pm to 9 pm. Club members will be there to help beginners. All material can be provided or people can bring their own. A press release said attendance has been growing and the monthly events will probably be held through the rest of the year.

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Thursday’s Kansas Wildlife, Parks and Tourism Commission meeting in Clay Center is becoming more interesting. Commissioners will not be asked to officially vote on any regulations but there could be debate on eliminating fall turkey seasons and about upcoming deer seasons. Word has it questions will be asked about proposed pay raises for agency employees. Most haven’t had a true pay raise in more than 10 years. A concerned angler is also wanting to ask for more conservative size limits on blue catfish in Kansas waters.

Remember, the meeting can be watched on the agency’s website.

Fish are biting at most area lakes, especially wipers and catfish. Reports of pheasant, quail and turkey broods are still promising, though cover is becoming so high it’s harder to see them. Mornings with heavy dew are probably best for driving backroads and looking for young birds.

Upcoming coverage

This week’s Outdoors page will feature a morning of fishing Missouri’s Lake Taneycomo when the temperature was a tad below 100 and the comfort index was far above. One of the neat things is that the steam coming off the much colder water made for some good photography. Coverage of Thursday’s commission meeting will also be available, probably by Friday afternoon.

Remember you don’t have to wait until Sunday to check things. Often times the article are posted on our online Outdoors page several days earlier. You can already go there and see our newest “Where in the state of Kansas ...” video. This location is in southeast Kansas, but it would pass for the Ozarks or Great Smoky Mountains. Seriously.

I’m currently working on a story about a 20-year-old Emporia State University college student who placed second in a large, highly competitive rifle shooting competition sponsored by the National Rifle Association. She did so while shooting against both genders and all ages. Many of the other shooters had better equipment and have been trained by shooting coaches. Megan Hillbish said she mostly learned to shoot while growing up on a farm where both of her parents hunt, and through 4H shooting sports programs.

Another story in the works is how state parks are evolving to meet the different demands of modern campers. It seems that true primitive camping is falling out of favor. Today’s campers at least want an electrical hookup so they can keep their cell phones and tablets charged. Many states, including Kansas, are also looking at alternative shelters to offer campers something between primitive tents and nice cabins. One Kansas state park has yurts that come with electricity, air conditioning and heat and are totally weather-proof. Their cost is less than half of a fully-loaded cabin.

If all goes as hoped I’ll be putting together an article on some of the neat projects Eagle Scouts have done to improve the Kansas outdoors. Most state parks have several projects done by the Boy Scouts so they can qualify to be an Eagle Scout.

I’m also in the early stages of doing an update on how monarch butterflies are doing. Some local nature lovers are gathering caterpillars and protecting them from predators within a mesh structure.

Michael’s world

If you’re ever down at Table Rock Lake in southern Missouri, you’ll probably notice several series of tall cliffs over the water. Atop some of those you’ll see people jumping out and falling into deep water. You’ll also probably notice that none of those jumping people are in their 50s.

I found out why, last week, while down there on vacation.

After a ride around the lake on a pontoon boat, Lindsey, Lance (her boyfriend) and I swam to shore were a dozen or so people were jumping off the cliffs. Lindsey and Lance went straight to the cliffs that were about 40 feet above the water. I went to the bunny cliff about 15 to 20 feet up. Besides me the oldest person at my spot was maybe 12. (It did feel good to be the tallest one, though.) While trying to talk a reluctant friend into jumping, one girl of about 10 pointed at me and said, “Look, he’s old, like 60, and he’s not afraid to jump. (Actually I was, though.)

When my courage was up I jumped down into the water. No problem. It was fun. I planned on swimming over and trying the taller jump until Lindsey swam to me and said she hit so hard it hurt quite a bit. That scratched that idea.

I went up and tried the bunny jump again but didn’t land quite as vertically. Somehow I got what seemed like two quarts of water, two bluegill and a crawdad up my nostrils. I won’t be doing that again, probably.

The week of vacation at the lake was great, especially since we had about the entire family there. Jerrod and his wife, Carilyn, and her bump, to be born in early October, were also there as was Kathy’s sister and her husband. We were only missing one nephew for having the entire clan.

To me, the most fun was at meal times. We all cook and there were times when there were probably seven of us in the kitchen at once. Meals were huge, delicious and often interrupted by lots of laughter.

When our kids were at home, Kathy insisted we eat together as a family in the evenings. She said it would help with our bonding. She was correct, as usual.

Oh, I bought my grandchild his own fly rod while we were down in Missouri, too. Now, if he’d just hurry up and be born, then hurry up and start walking so we can go fishing, it would help greatly.

Bests,

Michael Pearce

mpearce@wichitaeagle.com