Water levels dropping with the heat

July 7, 2010

With the summer heat, the landscape of Huntley Meadows is changing.

The wetlands are drying out, but that environmental change has allowed for some new observations.

The cattails are beginning to change as well. Their once vibrant green is beginning to dull and the tips are turning brown as they endure the heat.

That’s one step closer to the soft autumn colors that I’m waiting to see. Summer is great for sightings, but autumn scenes are on my list of favorites.

Tuesday I explored the site and was impressed by the number of footprints running through the newly exposed areas where water has evaporated.

Although I recognized most of the tracks instantly, one puzzled me.

Those tracks, shown above, appear to be canine. I’m not sure if they would be fox, coyote or simply a stray dog.

Along the boardwalk, mid-sized birds caught my attention. I wasn’t familiar with the species but noticed they were comparable in size to the resident blackbirds and appeared to be some type of shorebird.

These are Killdeer (Charadrius vociferus). They are a “medium-sized plover” that I’ve never seen before in person. It was pretty neat to watch them hop back and forth near the remaining water.

As I attempted to change my vantage point, they would take off and fly a short distance.

A very neat bird with a cool call.

On a scan of the boardwalk there were a few amphibian observations. In one instance, there was a snapping turtle that was there one second and gone the next. It seemed to disappear into a shallow puddle.

I wonder what they’ll end up doing if the water level continues to drop.

I also found several bullfrogs.

I can’t quite look at them the same way after watching a frog eat a frog on my last visit.

The smaller frogs seemed to have issue with the extreme heat and I noticed a few who seemed to have dug themselves foxholes.

The shallowness of the water has also opened up new travel routes for deer.

As I reached the area near the observation tower, I noticed  a group of deer that were wading through the shallows in the distance.

Although my lens wasn’t quite as long as I would have liked in this case, I enjoy the softness of the scene.

The Osprey has been missing from the park for a while, but I was able to find a heron where the Osprey used to eat.

With the high humidity and heat, I wasn’t able to make my usual trek through the informal trails and headed out after about an hour of exploration.

If you are planning any outings soon – BRING PLENTY OF WATER.

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