We finally settled into a little groove, and got a few shots in. We had a wood duck fly by, about 70mph, about 7 feet off the ground. Pulled off 2 decent shots and brought him down. It was a little positive affirmation!
Decoy among the wild millet and beggarticks
Predictably, the wood ducks got sick of getting punished by around 8am, and we had scattered mallard pairs flying in after that. Apparently "Beggar Tick Holler" doesn't have enough room for them to land (especially under constant gunfire), so they went right to the open water of the "secret spot," where they were shot at 6 to 12 times, and still managed to fly away, generally unharmed. We waited around until about 10am, and called it a day. We'll be back there later this week, once the birds manage to cool off a little bit.
The wetlands - this timber slough was very interesting. There are several long, narrow crop fields that are parallel to one another. Inbetween are neglected, seasonally flooded, forested wetlands that are oddly, also parallel. This is not a natural landscape feature. Restoration ecologists (like me) refer to these sites as "made land." Poor farmers in the early 20th century realized that their fields were too wet, so using whatever equipment and horses they could mobilize, they stole topsoil from the wettest areas and piled it up on the highest areas, which then became "made arable lands." Or "made lands." The wetter, lower areas became even wetter and lower, and were essentially abandoned, other than for timber harvesting.
This is important because very few landscapes in the Mid-Atlantic have been "left alone" for the bulk of the 20th century. These wetlands are one of those few. They have very high value for wetland wildlife, particularly amphibians but also waterfowl, because the natural (but amplified) drying - flooding cycle produces a huge amount of food for critters. Once the flooding starts, the food is readily available to anything that can swim. The drying-flooding cycle is also important because fish are excluded from the habitat - very important for the production of amphibians, endangered invertebrates, etc. So the take home lesson is that even though this is not - in any way - a "native wetland," it is very important to wildlife, and it is very productive -perhaps more productive (in pounds of bugs, seed, etc) than it would have been naturally.
Not a bad place to spend a saturday morning in October.