I once thought I had to travel at least a couple hours to get a glimpse of the wild world.
These days, I can stay home.
Not far from my front door, I can lay eyes on a scene that rivals that of Squaw Creek or Swan Lake. Thousands of geese flock to Riss Lake each winter on their way south, and they put on quite a show.
The numbers build slowly as the temperature drops. By the time it’s bone-chilling cold, a stunning population of Canadas gather at our Parkville lake.
A big part of that is that Riss features deep water that stay open until the bitter end. As ponds and shallower lakes freeze, the geese search for what little open water remains, and they end up here.
But I’m also certain that the proximity of a migration landmark, the Missouri River, and large cornfields not far out of town play a part.
Whatever the case, I look at the waterfowl’s arrival as one of the few things that make winter bearable.
I often go down to our marina docks just to watch. Our lake looks like an avian airport, with Vs of geese constantly coming and going.
Even as it gets brutally cold, the geese will rim whatever pools remain open, and occasionally plunk into the icy water. They will fly out to feed, sometimes en masse, making a huge clatter. They will return, honking loudly as they fly over the houses.
But the geese are only part of the show. Bald eagles will perch in tall trees, keeping a death watch on the big flock of geese, waiting for one to show signs of weakness. And several trumpeter swans have shown up the last several years, dwarfing the smaller Canadas.
Other signs of nature also are part of the winter scene. Deer can easily be spotted in the naked forest along the lake. And flocks of wild turkeys can be seen along the steep slope of the dam adjacent to the Parkville Nature Sanctuary.
Such scenes, however striking, are far from unique in the Kansas City area. Friends who live in other lake communities report similar occurrences.
That never ceases to amaze me. I grew up in Rockford, Ill., where we had a big patch of woods behind our house, but very seldom saw wildlife.
Today, I sometimes think we live in an island of nature, only about 20 minutes from downtown Kansas City.
Every time a patch of woods is cleared to build a new home, I fear that our subdivision will eventually run out of wildlife habitat. But it hasn’t happened yet—and maybe it never will.
Wildlife is more adaptable than we ever give it credit for being. How else could you explain thousands of geese stopping at a suburban lake such as ours?