Tuesday, August 16, 2011

July Roving Report

Mid July 2011

I took the month of June off from walking the wetlands and so I was looking forward to seeing the various changes to the environment I’ve been walking through since December. It was late spring when I last walked the West Eugene Wetlands but today was certainly summer. It was a warm, breezy day of full sun as we arrived. I had forgotten to bring a hat but fortunately did have sunscreen.

It was very quiet and calm with few obvious birds in the skies and vegetation. No one was walking but there were many bicyclists on the path. Much of the grasses had headed to seed and browned. A mix of green and brown was the view across the fields. Many flowers had also seeded.

Summer was in full swing as evidenced by the slow current in the stream and the changes in the flora. Swallows swooped over us catching insects with their graceful turns. I was reminded to watch for the return of the swifts to the chimney of Agate Hall on the U of O campus in late summer. Two summers ago we watched them flying into the chimney at dusk and a hawk was perched at the edge and grabbed one as it came in.

Dragonflies are in abundance now in the wetlands. Add another group to my ever-expanding list of creatures I’d like to be able to identify readily. I see a type with white and black striped wings. I also would like to read more on dragonflies in general. What do they eat? What life stages do they go through? What is the lifespan?

A pheasant scares me for a change as it was very close to the path and flew up in front of me at the last moment. Some bubbles come to the surface of the stream and I wonder what’s down in the cool stream bottom on this hot day.

While there are very few birds, my eye notices how many different flowers are now in bloom. Some have actually already dried and gone to seed, a reminder to enjoy the summer as autumn will come soon. I take photos of at least 15 different flowers with hopes of identifying them later.

The flowers are of various sizes from petite to prehistorically large. I step off the path to examine more closely some of these larger specimens and hear some loud splashing down in the stream. I’d love to see what’s making the noise but the bank is steep and the vegetation tall. It could be fish or ducks. I don’t think it’s a dog as it isn’t quite that loud and I also hear no jingling tags. My shoes, socks and laces are now covered with velcro-like seeds. Nature has evolved some fascinating ways of perpetuating plants. These seeds would grab on to anything and could be distributed great distances.

My legs are also itchy from the plants. I never used to be so sensitive to plants. Now my skin reacts to most all plants rubbing against it. I also seem to come away with some sort of insect bite each time I venture off a path or reach blindly into the garden. I suspect spiders but it could be most anything.

A bug lands on my shirt three times. It looks like what we called Stink Bugs as kids. My entomology class in college seems so long ago...

Minnows can be seen from the bridge trolling small pools. I wonder if they are salmon. A nutria emerges and then disappears again into a stream side thicket. A goldfinch is perched on a dead limb and a wilson’s warbler is feeding on something in the stream.

As we are nearing the car a couple on bikes tells me that they think they saw a fox in the open area down the path near the viewing scope. They weren’t sure because they hadn’t any binoculars. On another day I might make the trip back to verify the sighting but it’s hot and a shade tree, a chaise lounge and a glass of lemonade waits for me.