Friday, August 15, 2008

August Wander

This week's wetland wander was a stroll into the area at the end of Royal Avenue. This site was new to me, a walk along the Army Corps of Engineers access road. Our leaders were Jules Abbott, a WREN staff member with botany expertise, and by the new wetlands' summer site host, Tim Downey. We brushed against the sticky (and smelly!) tarweed, admired the last blossoms for the season of Douglas Spirea, and found Water Plantain growing in a dry vernal pool. Tall grasses, some the non-native reed grass (looks a little bit like bamboo), grew along the edge of the roadway. Restoration work has turned much of the vegetation back to native species.

To my surprise the seemingly dry landscape held large ponds, regulated to maintain water levels. The previous day a family of otters had been spotted in one of the ponds but we found only dry otter scats with bits of orange crawfish shells being their one bright color.
Several great blue herons waited patiently along the edge of one large pond and some distance away we spotted a row of white egrets (10). Kingfishers flew across above the water, sometimes hovering like a kestrel, and then diving. The ponds hold bullfrogs and we saw tadpoles and some minnows along the edges. A viewing platform provides a great place to sit and look about. At this time of the year the platform sits high and dry above a dry vernal pool although another nearby large pond provides an opportunity for watching shore birds and ducks. Birds spotted during the trip included a dowager, pelicans, and those mentioned above.

We also came across the skeleton of an animal but couldn't figure out what it was since the skull was gone. It had long toes though!

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