Sunday, August 15, 2010

Birds and Botany in Ohio Wetlands

Wetlands are a precious commodity in Ohio. Once huge swaths of marshy swamps covered vast portions of the Ohio, the Great Black Swamp most notable. Today we have a fraction of this habitat left for birds, botany, butterflies and a plethora of other species dependant upon those "swamps".

Swamp Thistle, Cirsium muticum

Unfortunately we have drained over 90% of our original wetlands, often for farming, but commercial development and urbanization have taken their toll as well. Is it any wonder that we have also extirpated several species of wetland dependant butterflies? The swamp thistle is the host plant of the Swamp Metalmark, and both- plant and butterfly- are now rare finds in Ohio.

Pipe Creek in Sandusky may not look like much, but to we "nature types" a wetlands is a beautiful thing. Last Friday, the water's edge provided foraging for geese, ducks, and many species of shorebirds, including a Willet and a Red-necked Phalarope. Several species of butterflies were also noted, including Buckeyes frolicking in the bare spots along the well-worn path.

Groups of birders gathered here to pay homage to a wandering Black-bellied Whistling Duck, found at Pipe Creek by Larry Richardson (blue hat in center of group). Look closely in the background of the photo, another similar spit of land nearby projects into Lake Erie, where Cedar Point amusement park is doing business as usual. Millions of tourists and millions of dollars have made their way to this northern most point of Sandusky...

Black-bellied Whistling Duck photo by Bernie Master

but as far as we know, this is the first BBWD to grace this shore. It made big news in the birding community and it is one more reason to support wetland conservation.
As they say, "Be kind to your web-footed friends..." but remember, many plants and bugs benefit from wetlands too!

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