Probably the most visited part of the sprawling Montezuma Wetlands Complex is Wildlife Drive, a 3.5 mile loop that allows visitors to take a hike from the comfort of their own cars.
And today, April 1st, the gates were opened to welcome birders (and photographers) to the 2020 observation season. Even CoVID-19 could not prevent this long-awaited event — in fact, it’s one of the few things that can be safely accomplished “alone together” and six feet apart.
The Drive closed a bit early in 2019 due to the unfortunate combination of low water levels and an early freeze (see What, No Ducks? on this blog). The levels are still not back to “normal,” (whatever that is) but they are deep enough to support a modest muskrat population and a few ducks, mostly northern pintails, northern shovelers, and the ubiquitous mallards. Pairs of Canadian geese, of course, were in abundance; some were nesting on top of the muskrat lodges while others were busy constructing their own mounds with grasses, twigs, and other marsh debris.
I saw only two great blue herons fishing in the Benning Marsh; doubtless there will soon be many more. No great egrets as of yet, no swans, and none of the small waders, but it’s still early in the season.
Capturing these tiny snippets of life in the natural world is comforting. Here on Wildlife Drive no one judges the carnivorous heron or urges it to “go green.” No one attempts to improve the sparrow’s song. Life on the marsh is beautiful and balanced. . .there is no need for human intervention. Our job is to watch in awe and admiration — and don’t touch!