In the spirit of the season I thought I’d list a few reasons I’m thankful that this year is almost water under the bridge (Sorry for the pun…I couldn’t help myself).
1. First of all, thank you for your understanding this year. Limited hunting is a bummer, no matter what the reason.
2. Thank you for the support and interest in Duck Creek. It truly is a great place and we hope to ensure that it remains that way for years to come.
3. I am thankful that the weather held so that our construction projects went smoothly and finished ahead of schedule.
4. I am thankful that the U.S. Army Corps project (Cato Levee) and LRDD ditch cleanout are moving forward.
5. I am thankful for the weather that creates the habitat conditions and brings the birds south...it looks like things are changing for the better.
6. I am thankful for the variability of nature so that every year isn’t nearly this dry.
Now on this last point, I thought I’d take a look back at the historical precipitation data to see how we fit in the grand scheme of things and try to put this year into perspective.
Periods of rainfall typically peak twice in the Bootheel. There is a small pulse in late fall and then a bigger pulse in the spring. Bar and line graphs are good to look at trends (data going up or down).
However, these trends are just a piece of the annual cycle, which runs continuously into the next year and the next. Wetland critters are adapted to these seasonal pulses of water as the wetlands flood up and draw down. For this reason, I like to use ring maps occasionally to illustrate how critters, their food and water interact within the annual cycle.
Below is what our monthly precipitation totals have been this year and how they are either above or below the monthly average.
Six out of the 11 months have been below the average rainfall amount. Since June the Bootheel (on average) has received only 12.43 inches. At Duck Creek this is an inch or two lower still.
This got me started and set the stage to look deeper and examine Duck Creek's weather history. I dug up the historic monthly precipitation data for the Bootheel and summarized it by year and season. Actually, it is kind of interesting...
Since 1950, the driest summer–fall (June-October) was in 1953, which was followed by three more severely dry years. This explains why the biologists early on discovered that they couldn’t count on the Castor River to flood the timber by waterfowl season. They needed to have a place to store water if they wanted to be able to flood Pools 2 and 3 by waterfowl season, hence Pool 1’s conversion from bottomland timber to bottomland lake.
The early '60s had a couple record dry years as well. The '70s were marked by four extremely wet years, which were driven by rains in the winter-spring period. However, there were a couple record wet summer-fall periods during this decade as well. It was extremely dry throughout 1980 and extremely wet throughout 1984. The precipitation during the summer-fall drove the annual records in 1998 (wet) and 1999 (dry).
The following year, 2000, was also extremely dry. Here again, the extreme weather directed a change in management actions. Because of the lack of water and therefore lack of hunting positions, the south end of Pool 1 was taken out of refuge and thrown into the draw.
Since then, we’ve experienced two sets of very dry years followed by record wet years (2005-2006 and 2009-2010).
Anyway, I kind of find this variability interesting. The extremes play a part in the good acorn crops and the busted crops, the flight days and slow days, the wet falls and, unfortunately, the dry ones as well. It is this variation that makes wetland systems crank...and more importantly and immediately, the odds that next year won't be like this past one.
…So I guess there is one other thing that I’m thankful for.
7. I’m thankful for graphs and tables to help make sense of the variable world we live in…or at least put try to put it into perspective.
Well, I hope you get a chance to shoot some ducks this Thanksgiving holiday and are able to enjoy family and food. I’m going to try to do the same.