West Shore Trail is in the northern part of the Montezuma Wetland Complex. It’s rather isolated; nobody seems to go there much except me. That’s too bad because now that the simulated drought is over, the water levels at West Shore have risen even higher than those at the main pool in Seneca Falls, and the resident wildlife is even more varied here than it ever has been.
Unfortunately, the 2019 drainage practices forced nearly the entire muskrat population to relocate. There’s still a lodge here and there but nowhere near the hundreds that dotted the marsh last year. Though few, the lodges now serve double duty — one for the great blue herons (resting) and another for the ducks (nesting).
Nobody actually hikes the West Shore Trail. Part dirt road and part gravel path, it’s wide enough to drive, albeit slowly and quietly so as not to disturb the animals. The trail ends rather abruptly where the land is too wet to support a roadbed, but that is fine — looking up, there is a sturdy osprey nest resting atop an old utility pole. It hasn’t attracted any squatters yet, but it’s still early in the season. . .besides, if you look off in the distance at the line of poles running past the old bridge supports, you’ll see two new osprey nests that have indeed attracted family-loving osprey.
There is an eagle nest, too! I didn’t see this in years past, so it may be new. . .or maybe not. Maybe I just didn’t see it. In any event, an eagle pair has taken it over. It’s too far away to see any little ones, but there are signs of life in the comings and goings of the parents. There are probably other eagle nests deeper in the woods, because there is always a juvenile or two or four perched on trees, poles, or atop the muskrat lodges as they seek out fish, frogs, and other delicacies swimming in the marsh.
Great blue herons are also seen at the Trail marsh as are great egrets, which have only recently returned from migration. Beautiful birds!
Ruddy ducks, redheads, and mallards reside here as well as pie-billed grebes and coots. They ply the water for an occasional fish, but their diet is mostly grasses and other submergents. Common gallinules (a fancy name for moorhens) like the grasses, too, but they will also forage for spiders (eww!), insects (eww!) and tadpoles. They are much better swimmers than they are flyers, although they will indeed fly if provoked by a heron, an egret, or maybe even each other.
Gulls and terns are good fishers, too, and there are lots of them here at West Shore Trail.
Curiously, this is one marsh that is nearly devoid of Canada geese! I saw a few the other day, but the others must have found a marsh that isn’t quite so crowded as this one.
Even though the West Shore Trail spans just about a mile, the water is sparkling, clean, and deep enough to support vegetation and fish. . .just what a food chain needs!
Those photos are amazing!!
The detail and clarity in those action shots… Wow!