Keeping my feet dry

23 Oct 2012

In a marshy area, it is not so easy to keep your feet dry. So when visiting Oak Hammock Marsh north of Winnipeg you expect to get wet feet.

Oak Hammock Marsh, north end

Not so. Oak Hammock Marsh is currently in a state of “DrawDown”, an artificial draught to stimulate growth of new plants. The water is pumped away to dry out the lakes, or cells as they call them. The result?

A land where you find little birds, no place to walk without losing your boots to the marsh and nothing much to photograph. Or so I thought.

Artesian wellArtesian well

One can be wrong many times in this nature. Instead of walking or hiking for hours on end to find something of interest to photograph, I went to the Interpretive Centre to get some information.

Guess what, Oak Hammock Marsh will never be a completely dry land. It has its own artesian well. Water coming from a limestone ridge about 50 kilometres away, arrives here on an impenetrable layer of clay.

Spouting waterSpouting water

The well has fresh water all year round. Yes, you read well, all year round. The water is just above freezing temperature, so in summer it is “freezing” cold, nice to cool your feet after a long hike, and warm enough in winter to NOT freeze. Even by temps of 30 below zero. In the center of the above picture, the water is spouting out of the sand like a fountain.

Northern ShovelerNorthern Shoveler

So what about the rest? No wildlife? Well, yes, there is, but it has retreated a bit, just like the water. This Northern Shoveler is swimming nicely in the ponds, just outside the water managed area. There was only one way to get this shot: stay in the car and shoot through the open window. The moment I got out of the car, it flew away, never to be seen again.

Ye olde signageYe olde signage

The old signs say that it is a wildlife area. So probably you have to look a bit harder to find that wildlife. After all Oak Hammock Marsh is not a zoo. The animals are not presented to you on a platter. Hmm, come to think of it, that’s more like a restaurant…

Shimmering hot by +8CShimmering hot by +8C

By a temperature of around +8C the air was shimmering from the heat. I wouldn’t have believed it if I hadn’t seen it for myself. The above picture shows it quite clearly. Even more, the smoke on the horizon is hardly visible through the shimmering air.

Dark eyed JuncoDark eyed Junco

So, to find some wildlife, I decided to go to a different part of the marsh, but there again I struck hard ground and hardly any water. The unkempt trees, allowed to grow as Mother Nature wishes, had some small birds in them. This Dark-Eyed Junco seemed quite happy up in that tree. Usually it forages on the ground.

A mix of geeseA mix of geese

Then, suddenly I heard a strange noise from high up in the sky. You already know that this time of the year is the Canadian Geese migration period, but when I took a picture straight up in the air, I could also spot other geese, not of the “Canadian” type. The dark birds are of the familiar Canada Goose (Branta Canadensis) variety, the lighter ones I cannot identify. The closest I can get to these are Snow Geese, but they don’t seem to venture this far south. --correction-- they do venture this far south and they are Snow Geese :-)

Assembly of JuncosAssembly of Juncos

No, it’s easier to snap some shots of these small guys, at least they are not that far away. Those Juncos are abundant here at this time of the year.

So to say that a dried out Oak Hammock Marsh has no more wildlife is a big mistake. You either have to look in different places or you need to have some more patience to get your shot. Shorebirds are not on the menu for now, though.