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Furry Inhabitants of Drought-Stricken Wetlands.

August 11, 2012


A sneak-peek at the star of the show…

Ohio- like much of the rest of the country- has been affected by the drought during the last few months.

I’ve noticed less variety and less quantity of certain wildflowers.  Some plants hold up better than others in dry conditions (many prairie plants for example), others don’t do as well (Jewelweed comes to mind).  Some small streams have dried up, and ponds have low water levels.  This makes it easier to see things that live in the remaining water.  My birdbath is popular with more than just birds this year.  One positive effect is that I’ve been bitten by far less mosquitoes this summer, but other bugs are numerous, such as ticks.

Earlier this month, I visited the Honda Wetlands, Hoover Reservoir and the Battelle Darby Wetlands. By late summer, the water level is usually receding at these places.  But in this current drought, lots of water has dried up.  A year ago today, there was much more water present at the Honda Wetlands.  Unlike last year, there wasn’t a rail, egret or bittern in sight, unfortunately.

What follows are photos I took at Honda, some of them showing the effects of the lack of precipitation.

A modest amount of Barn Swallows are still nesting here.

Things still look green, but there’s a lack of standing water.

This cracked ground is usually underwater at this time of year, with all sorts of teeming wildlife inhabiting the area.

Some attractive wildflowers are still blooming.  Can you name the 3 above?

Three huge old Bur Oaks are at the edge of the wetlands.  Birds like them- see the following photos.

That last one is hard to see, but scolded me severely for walking by.

This is the one spot left with (low) standing water- the pond by the shelter house.  Creatures that depend upon water are crowded together here.

The water that’s left is fairly shallow, warm, and full of aquatic plants.

Large and small Painted Turtles are numerous here.

One of the many Bullfrogs dotting the pond.

There was a small clear area in the water where fish stayed close to the surface.

A lone female Mallard dabbled enthusiastically in the pond.

I noticed a small furry creature along the edges of the water in the exposed Cattails.

It was avidly feeding upon the Cattails, seemingly unconcerned about this photographer nearby.  Notice the little hands.

This is a Muskrat, a semiaquatic North American rodent.

This is the first time I’ve seen a Muskrat here- the drastically shrinking water level has brought them out into the open.

These animals have a tail somewhat like rats, though it is flattened to be useful in swimming.  They can spend a surprisingly long time underwater.

Muskrats play an important role in clearing out swaths of certain wetland plant species such as Cattails, allowing access to water for various birds such as ducks.

Like beavers, they live in a lodge that they construct.  Being ‘indoors’ makes getting through the winter more bearable- their 2 layers of fur also help.

Muskrats usually live in pairs along with whatever young ones they are raising at the time.  I saw 2 in the pond, most likely mates.

Once extensively hunted for their fur, these creatures co-exist with Beavers in the same habitat.  They look like small Beavers at first glance.

Muskrat populations vary in size, with booms and busts every several years.  Standing water with Cattails are their preferred areas.

Some good news- yesterday my area got a good soaking rain, something we hadn’t had in a while.  And it’s raining again as I type this post.  Hopefully this will be a trend, and the wetlands will not dry up completely.  I like the wildlife that I see there, living in or on the water.

43 Comments leave one →
  1. August 12, 2012 12:17 am

    Your photos are lovely, but tell a sad tale.
    I guess we can never know how much wildlife has been devastated by the drought conditions across the country.

  2. August 12, 2012 12:29 am

    I sure hope you get enough rain soon to replenish that wetland! I enjoyed seeing the photos of the muskrats! Several years ago there were some living in a pond near here, but they have gone now: I hope they were not trapped!

    • August 12, 2012 9:49 pm

      I was surprised to see them too, montucky! They were quite hungry, munching on all of those shoots 🙂

  3. August 12, 2012 12:54 am

    Your pictures say it all. Such a scary summer for our planet. I hope the rain continues for a bit.

  4. August 12, 2012 1:34 am

    Beautiful and fascinating like forms. Reminds me of my trip to Brazos Bend and Aquarena Springs. Last year, drought hit Texas badly. This year, there are signs of drought in certain areas already. I am amazed by the creatures ability to adapt and continue their life cycle. Inspiring.

    • August 12, 2012 9:52 pm

      So true, island traveler! Nature is very resilient. I went hiking today and found a stream with a healthy flow of water in it, and fish were gathered in places along its length. I was happy to see that they made it.

  5. August 12, 2012 2:05 am

    Hi! My prayer for more rain to your area… May all beings relieve from suffering!

  6. August 12, 2012 9:31 am

    I can’t put a name on that first flower, but the second is Joe Pye weed (in the genus Eupatorium) and the third is cardinal flower (Lobelia cardinalis).

    I love the shots of the muskrat.

    • August 12, 2012 9:55 pm

      The first one isn’t common here, jomegat, though it was abundant in the wetlands area- I’ll post its name by next Saturday if no one gets it 🙂

      • August 15, 2012 3:36 pm

        Is it pearly everlasting (Anaphalis margaritacea)? That’s my best guess.

  7. August 12, 2012 9:59 am

    I can’t get over how dry it is compared from last year. The Red-tailed Hawk picture was superb.

    • August 12, 2012 9:58 pm

      That juvie Red-Tail was looking for breakfast- I saw him again further down the path a half-mile or so sitting in another tree overlooking a dried-up streambed, looking around there too. I hope the dry weather is ending- we’ve got a chance of rain again tomorrow eve.

  8. August 12, 2012 10:02 am

    I’m stumped by the first flower as well, but it looks familiar, like one I should know. Hope your rain there continues. We’ve had lots of rain and our wetlands are thriving – maybe we’ll get lucky and have some muskrats move in! Joe Pye is one of my favorites.

    • August 12, 2012 10:00 pm

      Glad to hear you’ve had lots of rain, Jo Ann! I’ll post the name of the first flower by next Saturday if no one names it 🙂

  9. August 12, 2012 10:36 am

    The water levels are very low here, too … some of the lakes are suffering with a ton of extra weeds (which could kill fish during the winter … the decaying weeds use up the oxygen under the ice). I hope we all get much more rain. thanks for an interesting post.

    • August 12, 2012 10:28 pm

      Thanks, bearyweather- I noticed too that there were more plants in the pond that still had water. Hope the fish and other wet critters make it!

  10. August 12, 2012 11:20 am

    Great post, Tracy. We, down here, are also hoping for some torrential rains. I enjoyed your photos.

  11. Jo Woolf permalink
    August 12, 2012 3:00 pm

    Lovely photos. I feel sorry for the wildlife that is having to make do with what little water there is. I hope the wetlands get a good downpour (or two) very soon.

    • August 12, 2012 10:32 pm

      Thanks Jo- I too worry about the shrinking water habitats and their inhabitants. I think the rain over the last couple of days has helped- I’d like to see that continue.

  12. August 12, 2012 5:57 pm

    What a lovely area! A place I would no doubt enjoy exploring. The barn swallows would make me feel right at home. 🙂

  13. August 14, 2012 8:32 pm

    Hard to tell without a closer view of the flowers, but I’m guessing plant #1 might be one of the small flowered, daisy-like fleabanes. Prairy fleabane maybe? The leaves look like aster, but the flowers not quite.
    Hope you get replenishing rains soon. We’ve had showers, which have helped.

    • August 14, 2012 9:10 pm

      We had a couple good rains, and now it’s a hit-or-miss pattern of maybe a rain shower, maybe not. That first plant is tough! 🙂

  14. August 15, 2012 10:42 am

    Thank you for your good post and adding my prayers for more rain.

  15. August 15, 2012 7:04 pm

    It is sad to see so much dryness. Loved the muskrat! Glad you were able to get photos of it. It does look like they have hands. 🙂

  16. August 16, 2012 10:56 am

    Sending out positive rainy thoughts and prayers for the drought regions to get thirst quenching rain.
    Wonderful post. 🙂

  17. August 16, 2012 12:09 pm

    Hi Seasons, Having recently lived along a medium-sized man-made lake with loads of homes on the shore, I can tell you that yes, Muskrats and Beavers are lovely but really hard to deal-with guests. On wildlife-oriented lakes, no problem. They are great! When in residential areas, they eat trees and ornamental plants because that is what they naturally are meant to do. Your pictures are super! I liked your post a lot. Have an outstanding day!

    • August 16, 2012 12:10 pm

      Hi again Seasons, Yes, I also am remembering the drought in my prayers!

      • August 18, 2012 1:29 pm

        Many thanks Wildlifewatcher! I can imagine that the little furry fellas like to munch on anything!

  18. August 18, 2012 1:33 pm

    The three ‘mystery plants’ in the above post are:

    1) Mountain Mint (Pycnanthemum species, not sure which variety)
    2) Swamp Milkweed (looks like JoePyeWeed in the lighting)
    3) Cardinal Flower (or Royal Catchfly)

    Thanks for the replies, everyone!

    • August 18, 2012 5:55 pm

      Interesting-I’ve never heard of (or seen) Mountain mint. I gueseed Joe Pye weed for the second one too!

      • August 19, 2012 12:57 am

        Mountain Mint is not a common plant here- I’ve seen a patch of it at another park, but at the Honda Wetlands there’s a lot of it in the late summer for some reason. It’s one of those ‘search high and low to figure out what it is’ plants for me!

  19. August 25, 2012 11:18 pm

    What great pictures of the hawk and duck! And yes, my favorite thing about rodents is the tiny little hands. I once spent at least a half-hour watching a mouse in my compost heap because I just couldn’t get enough of its itty-bitty paws. 😉

    • August 26, 2012 12:07 am

      Their little hands are really cool! I watched a mouse climb up a phone cord one night (in a little parking lot shack)- it was remarkably acrobatic. It’s surprising how much entertainment the natural world can provide!


  1. High Summer at the Honda Wetlands. | Seasons Flow
  2. Darby Wetlands Update. | Seasons Flow

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