Give me my space!

DSC_0103On a gorgeous recent April Saturday, I stopped by a wetland nestled in a campground  at Binder Lake in Adams County. The place was packed…both the campground with recreational vehicles, and the wetland with animals. The scene made me think a bit about how everyone—human or not—seems to need their space. I’ll concentrate on the wetland, and leave it to the reader to ponder the Great American Campground, filled with sounds of vehicles, music, conversations, and children’s laughter.

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This male is showing almost none of the red epaulet in this photo, but moments later he was on display nearby, holding out his wings and letting his crimson fly!

Instead, let’s listen to the marsh! Before even approaching the wetland, one is accosted by the loud, raspy calls of blackbirds. On a visit a couple months back, I noted one lonely male Red-Winged Blackbird (Agelaius phoeniceus), an early arrival to the breeding ground. He has since been joined by several others, moving about from herbaceous plants such as Cattail (Typha) stems to tree limbs to wires strung nearby on utility poles. Much movement, undoubtedly jockeying for position, and calling to each other…and possibly commenting on my presence. It would be fun to estimate the size of the territories when it all gets worked out.

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The bird on the nest stared me down, following my every move. “If looks could kill…”

Definitely commenting on my presence was a pair of nesting Canada geese (Branta canadensis). One member of the couple sat on the nest, low and watchful, while the other swam around hurriedly nearby. I am confident that the geese were alarmed, perhaps even perturbed, by my presence. I was a distance away on the opposite shore, but nevertheless not made to feel welcome.

As I walked along that shoreline, the Western Chorus Frogs (Pseudacris triseriata) that had been calling long and loud would jump into the water with a hiccup sound followed by a splash. It’s curious how the frogs wait until I’m nearly stepping on them to make the leap. I wonder about the relative proximity tolerated for my presence, or that of another mammal, or a fellow amphibian? Just how much space do they require?

The wetland here, nestled in the far, shallow reaches of the Lake, is a great spot to consider where we (and other animals) live, and how we use space. Our choice of site to build our roads or buildings (or campgrounds!) will necessarily have implications for wildlife: habitat quality, connectivity between populations and their ability to move around, and how much interaction or stress is encountered. After all, we all do need our space…DSC_0102

Author: Paul Weihe

Associate Professor of Biology at Central College, traditional author (Textbook of Limnology, Cole & Weihe, 5th ed.; Waveland Press), and now...blogger!

4 thoughts on “Give me my space!”

  1. We have beautiful wetlands near us here in Southern NJ. I love those red-winged blackbirds. They can raspy or let out a beautiful trill. It’s one of my favorite shore sounds, many of them congregate in the salt marshes too. The wetlands near us are in the shadow of what was once a toxic dump site, on the list of the worst 10 in the US. It has been cleaned up and shows me that nature can reclaim what has been stained and transform it into a good place once again.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Great news about the wetland restoration, especially in a formerly hazardous site. I’ve looked into that at a site here in Iowa too—if done well, it’s a sound approach. Thanks for sharing!!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I took a walk on a small wetland complex this morning, and sharing those little wetlands with all their shining singing swimming flying blooming buzzing life made me very happy. We need to tell our policymakers that we care about the joy and beauty and wonder that wetlands provide, as well as the water quality.

    Liked by 1 person

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