Do you enjoy the constant satellite TV, cable and phone companies trying to get you to switch services for the better deal? Over the last couple years the bundle service has been the “big thing”. You know what I’m talking about, the all-in-one promotion. Well, as we get closer to waterfowl season I thought of another example of a bundle package that may not occur to most folks as they sit out in the open marsh on a cool November morning.
Missouri wetlands could be viewed as a bundle deal because of all of the different species that utilize these habitats through the course of the year. Of course, the ones in your line of sites are the flocks of southerly migrating mallards. However, if you take a closer look at the annual cycle many other critters are in and of the swamp too.
For example, last winter’s wet weather flooded the restored sloughs in Unit A and the cryptically colored purple pirate perch and orange spotted sunfish somehow swam their way into these shallow depressions. In March, I observed several hundred green-wing teal grubbing in the saturated mudflats as they headed back north towards their breeding grounds. A month later, midges emerged from the soggy flats just in time for skittish shorebirds to fill their bellies’ as they continued their transcontinental trek.
As the summer heat set in, the water dropped and plants germinated in the moist soil. During this time egrets and raccoons hammered the tadpoles and crayfish along the edges of the evaporating pools of water. Several wayward ospreys also scavenged for food along Pool 1’s perimeter.
September’s moisture started to saturate the soil and gave the surviving plants a boost and helped set seed for species like millet, sprangletop, toothcup, and smartweed. Along with the cooler temperatures the teal were back again for a brief visit, followed by a raft of pied-billed grebes that could be seen dipping and dunking along the reservoirs boat lanes. As October progressed I’ve seen pintails careening out of the sky to rest and recover within the refuge. Although not nearly as graceful, quite a collection of coots has also assembled on Duck Creek’s open water. All of this will be followed with an all-time record number of migrating mallards making their way through the mid-continent.
Now I don’t care what internet or television bundle you prefer, and perhaps I’m comparing apples to oranges, but just from recollecting some of the critters I’ve seen through the seasons, we’ve got a pretty good package deal in terms of wetland use. We often have ducks on the brain, and rightly we should from November through January, but we shouldn’t underestimate the benefits these habitats provide during the other 305 days of the year.
I hope you have a good season and remember we’ve already got a package deal that doesn’t expire after six months, but continues to be renewed each and every year.