June 6, 2011
Wow - I leave for a week (lucky enough to do a work detail at the National Elk Refuge) and return to wetlands of GREEN. The cattail and bulrush sprouts - which were only several inches high when I left, are now easily in the 4 - 5 foot range and getting hard to see over. I guess it should be no surprise these wetland wonders are doing so well (and providing amazing habitat and food for many of our bird species) with all the water we have this year.
Many of our species use these great plants in a diversity of ways. Marsh wrens and coots will use both to make nests - one sewn above the water and floating just on it's surface...as do the grebes. Herons and bitterns will use them as hiding and hunting areas...carefully avoiding predators while performing predatory fishing from within the vegetation. Waterfowl will enjoy the bulrush seeds come late summer and fall - when the bounty falls to the water surface like a buffet to snatch up. And not only birds love this new wealth of greenery. Muskrats LOVE the cattail tubers - one of their favorite foods - and make their lodges out of last year's old stalks and leaves, and several insect larvae - like dragonflies and damselflies - will use the vegetation as a ladder, climbing out of the water - spreading their wings - and taking flight!
So - in a year with "too much" water and flooding issues - let's remember how important all that water is to our wetland vegetation and in turn, to our wildlife.