A Frosty Morning Looking for Ducks

While Colorado is our home, we are currently spending an extended “temporary” season (i.e. 5 years) in Manhattan, Kansas. When you think of Kansas if you conjure images of sunflower fields and flat horizons, you would be surprised to see the geography surrounding our temporary home. Manhattan lies on the northern end of the Flint Hills region, one of the last native prairie grasslands in North America that undulate in slow rolling hills from here to northern Oklahoma.

We are living near Tuttle Creek Reservoir which is one of the largest reservoirs in Kansas. Sadly, it isn’t a great fishing lake, so we usually travel 30 minutes to Milford Lake to get the lines wet. But Tuttle Creek affords great opportunities for viewing all varieties of wildlife, especially birds.

Recently, NB decided to do some duck hunting and took a buddy out on Tuttle to see if they could find some. They didn’t have much luck, but now that he’s got the bug for ducks, so he wanted to explore some of the areas around the lake to look for larger duck populations. As with most hunting & fishing, dawn and dusk are the best times to view ducks on the move. But then first and last light are the best light for a lot of things.

We headed to to the north end of the lake near Fancy Creek about 20 miles from our home where we watched the sun rise beneath a waning crescent moon.

The reservoir was at record high levels this summer and is only just coming down. Many roads like this one are still blocked with debris.

The frost added a little more texture to these previously-hidden trails drawn by insects under the bark. I suspect there is a name for this type of micro-carving. Let me know if you know what it is.

As the sun rose, we moved further north to some of the wetlands that mark the beginnings of the reservoir. Here the road drops from the higher hills into the river bottom marshes of Swede and Timber Creeks. Cedars and elm line the flood plain, and small sections of corn hold an abundance of wild turkeys and whitetail deer. We like this area. It seems a wholly different place, a little more wild, echoing what the Big Blue River valley was before it was flooded for by the dam 20 miles downstream. It’s easy to imagine a time where people lived more closely to the land and it’s harvest when you wander here. On this morning, the sun turned the frost’s bite into a soft glow.

We ended the morning with an “old-timer” who rolled up next to us to chat. He spoke of the reservoir levels, duck hunting and how went to high school on land that is now under the reservoir Randolph.

We didn’t see many ducks, but the frost burned off to a bluebird morning. And that always counts as a success.

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