Last week I shared the idea of taking a drive to Nebraska to see the sandhill crane migration.
I know that not many of you could take the time to make that long a trip no matter how cool it would be. But that does not mean that you cannot have a great wildlife ride closer to home. I have a destination in Jackson County that every resident in southwest Minnesota should take in the next three weeks.
I went on the ride Sunday afternoon and the destination was the Sioux Valley slough. It is located east of Round Lake and about two miles northeast of Lake Park, Iowa.
As I was heading in that direction it was very clear that the waterfowl migration is in full swing. I saw hundreds of Canada geese. Tons on the wing and many resting in the wetlands that still had 50 percent ice cover on them.
As I was watching and listening to the Canadas there was a burst of white and black as about 2,000 snow geese that had been resting in a field about a half mile behind me all took flight at the same time. If you have never witnessed this sight, it is truly amazing. The sky filled with geese and the sound of that flock will never get old.
As they dispersed, I saw the reason for their excitement. A big fully colored bald eagle had made a pass over their heads.
He was most likely looking for an injured or sick goose that could not take flight with the rest of them. Finding no easy meal, the eagle soared overhead for a few minutes then continued his search elsewhere.
I noticed that the township had just excavated a beaver dam from one of the culverts that drains the area.
There is a constant fight between a beaver doing what a beaver has done for thousands of years and man’s desire to move water off their property as fast as they can. There are very few places a beaver can be today where they are not bothering someone. It was another display of nature doing its thing when warmer temperatures return.
This Wildlife Management Area Unit is almost a full mile. I was able to spy several different duck species that we don’t normally see here.
These are ducks that fly over our part of the state but don’t nest here. Many of them are called diver ducks because they feed on vegetation in the bottom of lakes and wetlands.
I saw canvasbacks, ring neck or ringbill ducks, the showiest of ducks in the spring, the shoveler and others. There were buffleheads, golden eyes, wood ducks, teal and blue bills.
Let’s not forget how beautiful a fully colored mallard drake looks this time of year. When they take flight, you can see their bright orange feet and legs.
At one point as I was standing outside the truck, I just faced the sun and closed my eyes. I used my ears to listen to nature that was in full spring. It would be cool to understand the language used by different wildlife, but I have to be satisfied with knowing that God gave all of these creatures all the skills and talents they needed to propagate and thrive. This is true even when humans make it very hard for them to do so.
Wildlife has adapted to man's world. Geese that were once almost extinct in Minnesota now live on every golf course and city lake or pond. Wildlife maneuvers through our wind tower fields and survives even when water quality is not good enough for us to drink.
It certainly was squirrel day on Sunday. The warm temperatures had these little guys out trying to find all the food they hid the fall before.
The first warm days of the year must make them a little wacko. Every one I saw tried to commit suicide by running under the truck as I drove by. There were no fatalities, though.
I could not help but notice the red wing black birds and the yellow headed black birds and the cool songs they were singing. Marsh birds are unique and special, and it was fun to see them again.
Take a drive, do it today. This nature drive option is short-lived and in only a few weeks the majority of it will be over.