As I wrote here previously, I came hope wet after my last visit to Langdon Bend WMA after dipping my hip boots while walking across a flooded corn field. I was better prepared this time and brought my heavy, insulated chest waders. But it was good thing I checked the river levels online before I hit the road at 4 a.m., or I would’ve ended up wetter than I did the first time.
I’d hoped to photograph mallards in the timber. They were literally piling out of it on my first visit and I’d picked a nice open spot where I’d hoped to catch them diving through treetops and also give them plenty of room to swim around once they hit the water.
But snow melting across the plains of Nebraska, the Dakotas, Iowa and Minnesota had sent the Missouri River even further out of its banks. In the week between my trips to Brownville, the river rose 4 feet. That meant that if the water was 2.5 feet deep where I’d planned on setting up, it would now be 6.5 feet. I may be dumb, but I’m only 6-2 and not stupid, so I forgot about the waypoint in the GPS and found some higher ground.
I scared scores of mallards out of the finger of timber and the flooded corn next to it on the way in, strapped my new seat to a tree, hunkered down and waited for them to come back. To my left, there were a half-dozen rows of flooded standing corn left for wildlife over the winter. To my right, flooded willows and the edge of the backwater built by the Corps of Engineers.
I guess with food (corn) and water in the same spot, ducks really don’t have to move around. They didn’t. And the ones that did sure didn’t care about the decoys I set out. Thankfully, a few wood ducks did and swam in for a closer look and posed for a few photos. If I would’ve brought a longer lens, I could’ve gotten some nice photos of them nibbling corn of the cob, which was conveniently at water-level.
But that’s the way it goes in this game. Sometimes you plan for a shot and get it. Sometimes you don’t plan for it and you do. Didn’t plan for woodies, but I’ll take them. Didn’t plan on seeing a leucistic hawk either. But when a white hawk-looking-thing (that’s about the extent of my bird ID skills) landed on a tree well out of range for a quality photo, I snapped one anyway to try to figure it out later. Found out from an expert that I can add that to the list of unusually white birds I’ve photographed, right next to sandhill cranes and turkeys.
And I also learned that no matter how good your waders are, if you stand crotch deep in 40-degree water for 3.5 hours, you’re going to get cold. Guess I wasn’t prepared after all. Should’ve brought the toe-warmers and put on another layer.