On 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.
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.
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…