By MIKE CORN

mcorn@dailynews.net

I have a new profound respect for mourning doves. And I now know why they have to be cooked just right to taste good.

They come precooked, one of the few birds tough enough to be out on the roads and highways even when temperatures top 100 degrees.

Humans and most other critters simply hide out when it gets this hot.

While roaming the countryside Wednesday, rather than staying inside where its cool, it dawned on me how little wildlife can be found during the day time.

I should have known.

While driving south of Goodland recently near the now-dry Smoky Gardens, I came up on a doe that had settled down in the road ditch -- deep as it was -- to seek out what little bit of shade she could find.

She stood her ground, but she was ready to take flight.

Wednesday's trip, however, brought reality to the forefront.

To be sure, there were Canada geese on the water at Antelope Lake and a hen turkey at the upper end of the lake, followed by what seemed like an entire orphanage -- a dozen or so half-grown chicks.

Dragonflies and damselflies flitted about on the spring water flowing into the lake, low as it was.

Even they sought out shade when they stopped flying for a few seconds.

So it was, only the hardy mourning dove was brave enough to gather up grit on the superheated roads, presumably to grind its food.

It's all a struggle for wildlife, which must cope with the heat just like we do.

Concerns have been raised about pheasants, or the lack of them in wheat fields cut nearly a month earlier than normal. There simply haven't been any.

As for pheasant chicks, I've seen a single and a double.

It's just a struggle to survive when it's this hot.

I'm sure there's little real danger to critters we once saw everyday, but I kind of miss them.