Friday, September 20, 2019

Plenty of Welcomed Visitors

Seeing these three trumpeter swans make themselves at home in our Rest Pond these last few days has been a treat; but after
reading of the most recent findings on the precipitous decline in bird numbers in North America over the last 50 years
(more on this in the next post), it was hard not to think: wouldn't this scene be that much better with a fourth swan?

This week was marked by plenty of visitors at the marsh. With the seasonal calendar poised to flip, some of our guests arrived on the wing as our march into autumn continues. But several discrete groups made their way to us by car, by truck, by van, or by bus.

Nothing like getting to play naturalist
interpreter with a whole group of
naturalist interpreters!
(photo courtesy of Toledo Metroparks)
Tuesday, I accompanied seven naturalists from Toledo Metroparks on a morning walking tour of the West Marsh. Cloud cover was low, but enthusiasm was high for this group of dedicated interpretive scientists. As much as we truly revel in the opportunity to introduce the marsh to those totally unfamiliar, it is also always fun for me to share our mission and our restoration efforts with a group that really understands and appreciates the complexities and the magic of what is happening around our project.

But this group was especially special in that it included both a grade school classmate and friend (whose visit was LONG overdue) and two individuals who served as mentors when I interned for Metroparks all the way back in high school. It's always fun to be with old friends and have the opportunity to meet new ones.

I'm often struck by how different the marsh experience is depending on how you see it (e.g., on foot, by punt boat, by kayak, by power boat, by MULE, by truck, by helicopter or plane, etc.). We walked on Tuesday, and I realized that I don't take the time to do that enough. Wildlife activity was modest (relatively speaking), but we did get decent looks at black-crowned night herons, northern harrier, and an eagle "pre-building" a prospective nest for next spring. The gathering was an opportunity to enjoy the sites and sounds, but it was also a chance to compare notes: what can Standing Rush learn from Metroparks and vice versa? Especially with the Park's recent and significant investment in regionally and nationally acclaimed Howard Marsh -- about 30 miles west of Standing Rush, down the lakeshore -- there is no doubt they are upping their investment in coastal habitats. There's also little doubt that we'll find some way to actively collaborate from a programs perspective moving forward.

I hosted a couple more friends for a late afternoon driving tour in the MULE on Tuesday. The sun had broken through and 75 degrees again felt like 85. That only made the eagle viewing and the intermittent sorties of wood ducks splashing in and out of sun-drenched cover that much more enjoyable to take in. Tuesday was a lot of talking though (even for me), and I must admit I was ready for bed.

The group was all smiles as we pulled back to the bunkhouse; it definitely seemed to help the Conservation District
board members to see our projects first-hand

Wednesday offered another opportunity for a beautiful, dare I say, early autumn sunset driving tour, this time accompanied by select members of the staff and Board of Supervisors for the Erie County Conservation District. This dedicated bunch has served as a critical local conduit, offering both technical expertise and financial/administrative support for the important work we are doing in cooperation with ODNR's Office of Coastal Management, ODOW, and the U.S. EPA.

This sign was erected at the site of our first collaboration,
"Structure #1," completed in January; construction of
"Structure #2" began earlier this week
-- more on that very soon
As the light faded and the group departed for their scheduled board meeting, Roy and I leaned on tailgates and talked about (1) how sharp this group is, (2) how awesome it is to have local farmers and landowners taking a vested interested in all things conservation, (3) how important it is that they are willing and able to work closely with the District's technical staff, (4) how great it was to be able to show them our projects first-hand, and (5) how these types of collaboration are critical to the prospect of magnifying our collective efforts to preserve and protect wild places in harmony with other -- often competing -- land uses.

We could have kept talking. But ultimately, the short burst of evening mosquitoes that seem to be a hallmark of September on the marsh, forced us to call it a night.