Encounter at Fossil Lake

On my frequent trips between Colorado and Missouri, I always glance at a small lake just south of the Russell, Kansas, Exit.  The lake reliably attracts a variety of seasonal migrants, including gulls, snow geese, American white pelicans and double-crested cormorants.

This morning, on my way back to Missouri, I decided to stop for a closer look and found that Fossil Lake is easily viewed from a central, paved roadway and from dirt-gravel roads to either side.  A large flock of cormorants and several pairs of Canada geese were observed on the deeper waters, to the east, while the western shallows had attracted small flocks of northern shovelers, blue-winged teal and green-winged teal and a restless flock of western sandpipers; a great blue heron stalked the shoreline and a pair of marbled godwits huddled on a mudflat.

Turning around near the end of a graveled lane, I was approached by an older gentleman in classic farmer's garb; concerned that I may have invaded his property, I was pleased when he leaned against my pickup and asked if I had seen any interesting birds.  Initially feigning a lack of interest himself (he "only hunts and eats birds") he then reported on recent pelicans sightings and informed me that, like the birds, he goes south for the winter.  In fact, his place in South Texas is close to several birding hotspots, which draw hordes of birders searching for "green jays, caracaras and a bunch of Mexican species."  After chatting for ten minutes or so, I returned to the highway, glad to have visited Fossil Lake and its residents, both avian and human.