-By Myles Hurlburt, WSO President-
This year’s WSO field trip to the George W. Mead State Wildlife Area was held on Saturday April 13. Of course we had just received 13+ inches of snow on the Thursday before. I did not move the date as I did last year. With the cold and snow hanging on so late, I was concerned what the weather might be like, but overall it ended up being an okay day for viewing and enjoying our wildlife.
Temperatures did not break 40. For 12 hearty attendees plus one small child we had a great time. Getting young people involved today and having them learn and appreciate the importance of the conservation of our precious natural world is a key to preserving the beauty for upcoming generations to enjoy.
Leading our car caravan to our first stop, County Line Rd., we expected to see the few remaining Greater Prairie Chickens on the only lek in Marathon County. As is typical for this time of year, the males were fighting, strutting their stuff, and with their sounds of booming, trying to win the favor of the females. We saw a total of nine birds, most of them male. The perfect lighting illuminated their beautiful plumage.
From there, we traveled to Smokey Hill Rd and stopped at the viewing platform on South Rice Lake. With the naked eye one would suspect there to be no life at all, as the lake was mostly frozen. Things seemed still and quiet, peace-filled and serene. It was only when looking through our binoculars and spotting scopes, that we could see some activity on the back side of the lake. We typically see Yellow-headed Blackbirds here but none were around yet due to the cold weather. We did see two Trumpeter Swans, and a total of 10 species of waterfowl.
Next, we headed north on Smokey Hill Rd., hoping to find the Rusty Blackbirds I had seen earlier in the week, but again with the cold, none were found.
Next, we headed over to Rangeline Rd. and stopped on the south end of the lake where there was some open water. Here we saw a few Tundra Swans and lots of waterfowl such as Northern Pintail, Blue-winged and Green-winged Teal, Mallard, American Black Duck, American Wigeon (52), Ring-necked Duck (hundreds), Bufflehead and one American Coot.
We concluded the morning with a tally of 63 species. While the weather was not great, it ended up being a great trip for everyone. We had an awesome group of people. We’d love to attract and encourage more, of all ages, to get out and explore their world. There is so much amazing life and beauty out there, if we only take the time to look for, see and enjoy it.
We all should know just how beneficial spending some time in nature truly is. The peace and tranquility is good for the soul. It changes your perspective on things. It makes you feel more positive and alive and more at peace with yourself and others. I challenge you to get out there today and see and feel for yourself!