We finally saw that orange, glowing orb in the sky Wednesday in Lincoln. I’d almost forgotten what blue sky looked like. After the long, hard winter we’ve had on this end of the state, I’m glad to see it end. And after mostly staring at my computer and pecking away on my keyboard for the past few months, I’m ready to get out in the field.
I took a quick trip to Langdon Bend Wildlife Management Area south of Brownville Tuesday. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has constructed a backwater and wetlands on former farmland under the Missouri River Mitigation Project to provide habitat for migratory birds. To ensure the wetlands are wet in the spring and fall, the Commission installed three wells and turned them on for the first time last fall. Mother Nature has added some additional water to the area. With the river at flood stage, water is spilling over the banks of the backwater and flooding farm fields and timber on the river side of the levy, one of many processes that benefits fish and wildlife that occurred naturally each spring before the Missouri was dammed and channelized.
Proving once again that if you build it, they will come, about 100,000 snow geese and 50,000 mallards and other ducks were using the wetlands and backwater last week. The snows and most of the ducks were gone when I arrived Tuesday, but there were still hundreds of mallards bobbing for corn kernels in the flooded fields, and I flushed thousands from the flooded timber.
I’ve photographed Langdon Bend from the air, but this was my first visit on the ground since the wetlands were built. It was more of a scouting trip to pick a spot to place a blind when I return next week. It was also a chance to prove another segment of Murphy’s Law: The water is always an inch deeper than your boots or waders area tall. I never would’ve guessed the water in that flooded cornfield was that deep, and dipped the tops of my hip boots while changing course and heading toward higher ground (note to self: the way you got in is the only surefire way to get out dry).
Next week I’ll pack the chest waders.