Some call them sky carp - their numbers are growing exponentially - and many waterfowlers scoff at them until conservation season when most anything goes and there are no limits. For me they are the signal that winter is just around the corner. They signal the season in which I function best, the season that I love the most. They tell me the birds are coming, and my time on the flyway highway will increase as exponentially as their numbers have.
The snows are back! The first small groups began trickling in a few days ago. That was enough to send me out on the deck in the wee small hours straining to hear them in the distance. I began the annual ritual of watching the message boards and social media sites, checking aerial survey results and knowing that soon, very soon the big skeins would start appearing across the sky. The temps dropped like rock last night, the winds shifted, and about 4am I heard them. I knew where they were going. Their patterns and flight paths are as familiar to me as my own breath.
I checked the sunrise and sunset times, I knew where I needed to be and when. It was time. Time to sit in a frozen field while thousands tornado down around me.
Time to look for bands and collars and other assorted "jewelry" they night be wearing. Time to load up the dog, pack the blind bag, and hit the flyway highway.
It's time - they're here!
I stood in the last dying light of day today, my face turned upward and filled with a sense of joy that another season of winged wonders was upon us. I stood until the gentleman from DNR was forced to come fetch me and remind me that the unit was closing, the gates needed locked, and I needed to leave.
"I know, I know, " he sighed, "Your snows have made it back another year and so have you. They'll be here tomorrow, and so will you will you - but for today, we both have to go home." Then we both laughed and trudged off into the setting sun knowing he was right. I am thankful for the snows, for the DNR employees who know me, trust me, watch over me and understand that for me every year that the snows return and every year that I'm in the field to greet them I am incredibly happy.