Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Our Wetland

The back boundary of our 1.7 acre property is in the midst of a forested wetland. Actually our backyard is a bit of a wet meadow that just gets more soggy as you walk back to the woods. Beyond our boundary the woods continue for another 30 feet or so until they meet dogwoods, blueberries, and alders growing along the shore of "our wetland."

Until a few years ago it seemed like we had this wetland to ourselves. We have near neighbors on either side, but no one else seems to venture back to the wetland. To our dismay a subdivision was built on the other side of the wetland a few years ago, a subdivision that is now called "Fox Hollow." You can't even make this stuff up.

The homeowner's association owns the wetland, although I am not sure the people living there know that. I tried to get my land conservation colleagues interested in conserving "Fox Hollow" before it was sold, but it didn't quite fit into anyone's plan at the time. Our subdivision was built in the speculative days of the 1980s and we've learned what that means over the years -- too close to wetlands, poor drainage, poor construction.

Yet, we've seen so much wildlife living here, and try to manage are proximity to the wetland with care. Blanding's, spotted, and painted turtles wander into our yard looking for nest sites, in the gardens or compost piles. Soon the spring peepers will be deafening. Barred owls call occasionally outside our window. The pileated woodpecker pair visits the tall, dead and dying pines. This week we find beaver chews left at the wetland edge.

"Our" beaver, with their lodge in the middle of the wetland, that we can visit in winter. Hoar frost visible in a few places, so we know they are alive and breathing.

Along with the beaver sign, the ducks are migrating through, stopping for a rest and to find their mates. Several pairs of hooded mergansers and a like number of ring-necked ducks are paddling around back there. The male hooded mergs with their dramatic black and white fan-shaped "hoods" up. A more regal duck you will not find than the ring-neck with its angular, iridescent dark head, golden eyes, a white ring near the black tip of a bluish bill (the chestnut-colored neck ring is much less visible), and its bold black and white body. They are elegant as they swim.

I walk back to the wetland at mid-day to watch the ducks, look for fresh beaver sign, and watch the wetland change with the seasons. It is quiet then. A peaceful time.

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