Isn’t it Ironic? (Wetland Remix)

DSC_0029My Better Half has been amused by the occasional interruption in my 99wetlands quest: sometimes I am unable to visit a wetland…because of flooding. Seems awfully funny to her. Honestly though, it’s to be expected—I mean, floods are part and parcel of the wetland ecosystem, so it’ll be a factor for us who like to visit wetlands. But sure, if it amuses you, or inspires you to song, then enjoy the irony.

This week’s wetland is an example of the challenge; at first I couldn’t even get to my site because of flooding! Buffalo Creek Wildlife Management Area, located in southwest Delaware County, was difficult to access because the creek was running high. I snapped a photo from the north approach, went the long way around, and entered a parcel from the south, after driving along the county line. (It all gets a bit confusing: some of the area is County land, other parts are State land.)

This might be a good time to put in a plug for road safety regarding flooding. At one point, I admit I looked at the thin layer of moving water flowing across the road surface, and thought…”that doesn’t seem so bad. I could probably drive across it OK.”

DSC_0024That’s dangerous thinking, right there. And I know better! I have slipped (violently) when walking in a stream as the current sweeps you off your feet (not in a fun, romantic way—more of a “now you’re gonna drown, you big dummy” way). And remember, your tires are essentially just big balloons. Tires won’t do well on water—they glide, or float. So, don’t drive on flowing water, please. Leave the river-on-road exploration to the experts…herons, for example, have skills you and I lack.

DSC_0026So, I drove around, and near a pasture I found a pretty little wetland pond just south of the creek itself. I’d expect the wetland to be flooded by the river itself, when water is a bit higher than I was seeing. At this moment, flood stage wasn’t quite there. I easily walked around, and I admired pretty dragonflies. These insects have become a favorite feature of my wetland travels. Whether thrilling to their elaborate mating flights, watching them gracefully depositing eggs, or catching their larvae (nymphs) with a net for a close-up look, dragonflies are beautiful and fascinating. Oh…and they eat mosquitoes! Gotta love these animals. I have several blurry photos of these insects flying around…at least I think that’s what they are? Um…they were actively moving, and hard to photograph. Instead, here I include some beautiful plants, Arrowhead (Sagittaria) and Spike Rush (Eleocharis) for your enjoyment.

Back to the question of flooding. In other posts, I’ve described how a wetland will absorb waters from swollen rivers, reducing flood hazard downstream. We’ve considered the removal of potential pollutants like excess nutrients. And that heron in the photo, surely likes the movement of animals in the high water (presumably it is hunting as it works that water over the road). So, inconvenient or not, the wetlands and the floods are a linked system. I will make my adjustments, and celebrate Iowa’s wetlands…”come Hell or High Water.” Come back next week, and see where I head next! Thanks.

Author: Paul Weihe

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

2 thoughts on “Isn’t it Ironic? (Wetland Remix)”

  1. I really love that heron photo. And looking at it, I can’t resist sharing the poem below, which is about mystery rather than wetlands. But wetlands are mysteries, right?


    The Gray Heron

    Galway Kinnell, 1927 – 2014

    It held its head still
    while its body and green
    legs wobbled in wide arcs
    from side to side. When
    it stalked out of sight,
    I went after it, but all
    I could find where I was
    expecting to see the bird
    was a three-foot-long lizard
    in ill-fitting skin
    and with linear mouth
    expressive of the even temper
    of the mineral kingdom.
    It stopped and tilted its head,
    which was much like
    a fieldstone with an eye
    in it, which was watching me
    to see if I would go
    or change into something else.


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