Hunters await arrival of ducks

Hunters await arrival of ducks
By KEVIN BOWDEN
Staff Reporter
It’s going to take a lot more cold, wet weather to lure migrating birds to Reelfoot Lake this winter.
For duck hunters like David Haggard, more winter-like conditions can’t get here quickly enough. Recent warm, dry conditions are ruining his duck hunting.
The recent warm weather conditions are also keeping away migrating bald eagles that usually nest at Reelfoot Lake during the winter months.
“The migrating birds are just now starting to show up,” he said.
In addition to being an avid outdoorsman, Haggard is a regional naturalist with the Tennessee State Parks Department. The next few months will be the busiest season of the year at Reelfoot Lake with the arrival of migrating ducks, geese and bald eagles.
When they arrive, hunters and tourists won’t be far behind.
“Right now, I’d say a third of the blinds on the lake aren’t huntable because of the low water,” Haggard said.
As for duck hunting, he described it as “very sporadic” so far.
Cold, rainy weather to the north will change all that, though. And with the duck hunting season continuing until the end of January 2013, there is still time left for hunters to salvage their season.
As for the winter tourist season, Haggard said migrating bald eagles haven’t arrived at Reelfoot Lake yet, but there are about 20 permanent nests at the lake and that translates to about 50 bald eagles on the 15,000-acre lake.
A New Year’s Day hike is planned at Reelfoot Lake to kick off a nine-week winter program organized by the park staff.
The holiday hike will get organized at the Reelfoot Lake Visitors Center at 2 p.m. and hikers will caravan to the Keystone Day Use area for a 1.5-mile trek. The hike is described as “moderately easy” and will be led by park staff.
The knowledgeable park staff will narrate the hike with information about the history of the park, the wildlife and the landscape.
“Binoculars and cameras are recommended and dress for the weather,” a brochure states. “After the hike, we will return to the visitors center for hot cocoa and coffee.”
Then, beginning Jan. 5, 2013, and continuing through Feb. 23, 2013, a special program will be held each Saturday night at the visitors center off Highway 22.
The first three Saturday nights — Jan. 5, 12 and 19 — the park staff will present a program on the birds of prey at Reelfoot Lake. The programs will feature several of the injured raptors that are housed at the visitors center.
Other programs planned as part of the winter speakers series include:
• Jan. 26 — Knox Martin, with the Mid-South Raptor Rehab Center in Memphis, will bring several of the birds from his rehab center and will “share some of his vast knowledge of raptors and what he does for these majestic birds,” the brochure states.
• Feb. 1-3 — Eagle Fest Weekend will feature a variety of programs, tours and exhibits. This weekend is the highlight of the winter tourism season at Reelfoot Lake and will include an art and photography contest, children’s activities and vendors set up behind the visitors center.
On Feb. 2, John and Dale Stokes will present a program at 2 p.m. and then a second program at 7 p.m. where visitors will get the opportunity to experience several birds of prey at close range. The Stokes program is traditionally the most popular program in the series and will feature such birds as hawks, owls, eagles and a vulture.
• Feb. 9 — The state park staff will again present a birds of prey program at the visitors center.
• Feb. 16 — The Natural History Educational Company will present a program on the native animals at Reelfoot Lake. Bob Tarter is scheduled to bring such animals as raccoons, opossums and a bobcat.
• Feb. 23 — State park archaeologist Bill Lawrence will present a program on Native American history as it relates to the Reelfoot region.
For more information about any of the weekend programs or other activities at Reelfoot Lake this winter, including eagle tours, call the Reelfoot Lake Visitors Center at (731) 253-9652 or go online to www.tn.gov/environment/parks/reelfoot/.
Staff Reporter Kevin Bowden may be contacted by email at kmbowden@ucmessenger.com.
Published in The Messenger 12.11.12

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