It has been a busy few days at the Wakarusa Wetlands. The wet, cool weather has been especially good for early morning walks. Shorebirds are arriving in abundance and year-round residents are busy staking out territory, courting, and gathering nest materials. Click on pictures to enlarge.
It was a morning of coyotes and Cooper’s hawks. I took a walk through the Wakarusa Wetlands and it was relatively quiet until I ran into this beautiful coyote on my way back to the car. When I got home, I noticed the quiet immediately as I got out of the car, and the fact that no robins there to greet me looking for raisins. Sure enough, there was our neighborhood Cooper’s hawk sitting on the ground directly behind the brush pile (designed to give the birds some cover). Click on pictures to enlarge.
The area I used to visit three or four times a week at the Wakarusa Wetlands is open again. While I did not venture north to areas most affected by the construction, I was overjoyed to go back in to my usual spots. The mitigation areas looked very good from what I could see. The newer Maple Marsh, Ibis Swale, Duck Lake, and Shorebird Shallows were all busy with geese, grebes, gulls, and assorted ducks (many mallards, Northern shovelers, and teal). Killdeer were all along the edges. I did not get a lot of pictures this morning, but I saw a beaver, mink, and muskrat from a distance as well as a big group of deer. I am trying to stay positive, but do worry about how all of the proposed development along 31st is going to affect this area. It looks like there is one path that goes under the highway where Louisiana Street was. I hope that once the highway is finished and heavily traveled that animals use that. I could not see from where I was how that all works, but I am keeping my fingers crossed. An updated map can be found, here: http://www.bakeru.edu/images/pdf/About/Wetlands/Wetlands_Area_Mapweb.pdf
This is what progress looks like at the Wakarusa Wetlands. It is not just for the “public’s protection” that one cannot get close to many of the construction areas of the SLT (they have roads blocked way beyond the distance they need); it is important to those involved to keep images like these hidden.
On a personal note, if this all wasn’t heartbreaking enough, this is my first encounter with a Kansas badger. I knew they lived in Kansas, but I had never seen one during my wanderings before yesterday.
Click on pictures to enlarge.
The year-round residents are getting into their winter groups and the winter residents like the juncos are here in abundance. Generally, at this time of year, I would be at the Wakarusa Wetlands four or more mornings a week. I know I am one of many deeply grieving this loss. I hope that those of us who are doing more feeding, putting up more cover, winter roosting boxes, and brush piles, can offset some of the habitat loss these birds are experiencing. Support the work the Haskell Students are doing here: https://www.facebook.com/wetlandspreservationorganization Click on pictures to enlarge.
Every visit to the Wakarusa Wetlands brought with it a gasp of surprise, a moment of total joy, and a peaceful sigh. On this day, I clearly remember watching a group of Kingbirds chasing a Cooper’s hawk. The Cooper’s was carrying a Kingbird, his little lifeless leg hanging from a talon. I remember being disappointed that I could not focus fast enough to record this, but I also remember feeling empathy for both the Kingbirds chasing the hawk who had killed one of their family and the hawk desperately trying to get away with his food. I am often astonished by the life and death struggles that go on right outside we humans’ doors that so many of us never notice. I also remember this frog and his expression; he seemed curious about me, but like he might be trying to decide if he should jump away. The place at the Wetlands where I took this picture no longer exists.
The places where the marsh wren and muskrat photos were taken have been bulldozed. Click on pictures to enlarge.
In honor and memory of the beautiful spaces and all beings disrupted and destroyed by the construction of the South Lawrence Trafficway, I am going back through my files and posting some of my favorite pictures. Every visit to the Wakarusa Wetlands has surprised, inspired, and moved me. August, 2009. Click on picture to enlarge.
I have not been to the Wakarusa Wetlands as much as I would like over the last few weeks, but I am not sure that is a bad thing. My walk there on Monday was on one of those five degree mornings. The sparrows were moving about in the long grass, but not coming out in the open much. I saw a few hawks and a bald eagle made a quick pass high overhead, but I did not see any mammals. No beavers. No deer. No coyotes. I have not seen a mink in months. The noise and the ever-growing gash made by this equipment are changing the land in ways we will never fully understand.
Construction closures: http://www.ksdot.org/topekametro/laneclose.asp
Wetlands Preservation Organization: https://www.facebook.com/wetlandspreservationorganization
Voices of the Wakarusa Wetlands: https://www.facebook.com/voicesofthewakarusawetlands
Occupy the Wakarusa Wetlands: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Occupy-the-Wakarusa-Wetlands/1380914642133457