Being outside and observing nature has a way of recharging my batteries. I couldn't tell you if it is the fresh air, the chorus of life resulting from the birds, bugs, and frogs, or just the open space that is good for my soul. Whatever the reason, I'm typically always open for an excuse to go outside and explore. If you find yourself in the same boat and are looking for something to do, I might have an option for you.
This time of year, right after teal season and before the regular waterfowl season, is a great time to explore Missouri's wetlands either by yourself or with a family member or friend. The weather can't be beat and it is exciting to see birds start trickling back through our state as they start their seasonal flights south.
Sure, you can drive along the exterior roads and levees and glass the interior of the marsh with your binoculars to look for areas of avian activity. But, I've got a more immersive option for you to consider. Do you have a boat that you use for other recreational activities like floating the river, fishing the lake, or duck hunting in the marsh? A shallow drafted vessel is best for this kind of adventure, and there are a slew of canoes, kayaks, and paddleboards out there that are suitable to use and access the shallowly flooded habitats available during early fall migration.
Paddling quietly up an old slough or along the grassy edges of a shallowly flooded wetland is a great way to experience nature and get closer to wildlife. Any day in the marsh, as Forrest Gump might remark, is likea box of chocolates, you never know what you are going to get. Some of my experiences have included days where it has just been me and a thousand dragonflys darting back and forth above the still waters. Other days, I've been met with the comical cackling calls of sora rails as they darted in and out of the vegetation in search for seeds. Still other days I've been greeted with the squeaks and whistles of several hundred pintail roosting and foraging in the shallow flats nearby. These unique and variable experiences mirror the distinctiveness and complexity of the habitat itself and are overlooked or unknown opportunities that could be enjoyed this time of year.
All it takes is a few hours of your time, a watercraft, and the desire to explore. Going solo or recruiting the kids to unplug from a screen for a while can be a worthwhile venture. There is a quote from an unknown author that I think sums up an activity like this nicely, "There is no wifi in the forest, but I promise you will find a better connection".
Good luck, I hope you take the suggestion and enjoy some time on the water over the next couple of weeks. The window closes for this kind of excursion on October 15th, in which, these habitats become waterfowl refuge on our Conservation Areas in preparation of the upcoming waterfowl season.