24 August 2009

Outdoor Enthusiasts Appreciate Lancaster County Saline Wetlands

A languid day of late summer presented a fine time to get out and about to visit a variety of those especial saline wetland places of northern Lancaster county, about Lincoln.

Birds were naturally about, silent in their ways, ignorant about foreign visitors, as they foraged and continued their blatant daily routine of birdly existence.

Landscape view of the Little Salt Creek environs, as seen from Little Salt Fork preserve. The north side of the fence is the Hermone Tract.

Each wetland place visited gave a different presentation for this particular time of the season.

The first of the morning showed fog along northerly Little Salt Creek along north 27th Street, especially at the renowned Arbor Lake. Further to the northwest, beyond the pale light of the rising sun, dew adorned the plants and made for wet conditions during a walk about at the forks of the creek.

In their aerial realm, birds were subtle and contrite. Just a few of them proclaimed their usual song of the early breeding season. Instead, subtle calls or chirps revealed the relevant place for a species. Blue Jays were readily raucous over in the sparse woods where resident had homes and other buildings. The dickcissels chirped from atop a heighty bit of a plant. Further up the small creek at the marsh preserve, a pond was a haven for a bunch of ducks that were not going anywhere else. Saline marshness was appreciated by some shorebirds, with the yellowlegs readily loud, while some sandpipers cared only about finding a nourishing tidbit.

Cattle being used to graze the lowlands and grassy lands on the hills, cared about nothing other than munching on a bit or green finely suited for chewing.

August is a quiet season for birds as the nesting season continues to wane. A closer look was needed to determine there were wrens. Killdeer were so obvious - an exception to any subtlety as they loudly expressed the presence of a human intruder. A family of kingbirds were bunched about on a tree they certainly appreciated.

In the early hours after a dynamic dawn, the hiking was through moist, hindering bunchings of plants, expressed as drenched jeans to see and survey the birds of the day. Places visited in the morning were up there on Little Salt Creek. Proper names included the Little Salt WMA and the Little Salt Fork Marsh Preserve. Driving during the day meant visits to the Lincoln Saline Wetland Nature Center where a couple bicycling were taking advantage of the fine conditions, and onward to Oak Lake Park, for a brief visit where miscreant kids were harassing the geese, as their uncaring mother ignored the situation.

Mark Vanek and his kids after their hike about Frank Shoemaker Marsh.

There was an early afternoon interlude indoors, to avoid the blaze of the midday sun. After a time, as the day waned, the outside time continued. First with a scan from the fast-food parking lot west of the Whitehead Saline Wetland, and then northward to the wonderful scene at Frank Shoemaker Marsh.

A family had been enjoying what they had seen. Mark Vanek, a Lincoln resident, and his youngsters had enjoyed a time at a place they learned about in 2008 when the place was among the sites included on the Safari Lincoln event. Shoemaker Marsh is now "one of their favorite spots," they agreed after the visit on Saturday afternoon. Each of them appreciated something different:

Mark: "getting out with the kinds on a beautiful day";
Emily: a "new trail overgrown and fun to explore where it went";
Ryan: "a digger wasp"; and
Nick "loved the walk and the yellow rock."

Each of the kids had a walking stick for the family hike around nature's scene. The marsh was a place to get the kids "curious about nature," Mark Vanek said.

A bit of time later, as the day was drawing to a close, there were five vehicles in the Shoemaker marsh parking lot ... it seemed as if there was a party. The explanation was images were being captured for promotional purposes for a Lincoln photographic business, according to a person waiting at a van, with the remainder of the bunch were out and about along the trail to the overlook platform perched above listless Little Salt Creek.

Shorebird habitat along north Little Salt Creek. The sandpipers can be seen in the background.

There were a number of species noted during the hours afield. The tally for the day? Consider that there were to a varying extent, the: Canada Goose, Blue-winged Teal, Ring-necked Pheasant, Northern Bobwhite, Great Blue Heron, Turkey Vulture, Red-tailed Hawk, Killdeer, Spotted Sandpiper, Lesser Yellowlegs, Semipalmated Sandpiper, Pectoral Sandpiper, Mourning Dove, Common Nighthawk, Red-headed Woodpecker, Northern Flicker, Eastern Kingbird, Blue Jay, Barn Swallow, House Wren, Sedge Wren, Marsh Wren, Eastern Bluebird, American Robin, Gray Catbird, Brown Thrasher, European Starling, Northern Cardinal, Dickcissel, Red-winged Blackbird, Eastern Meadowlark, Common Grackle, Brown-headed Cowbird and the American Goldfinch. Those troublesome sparrows of late summer were probably present, but not seen in an obvious manner conducive to viewing well enough to identify.

This is a tally of more than 30 species, each ignoring any census, but essentially attentive to their day's routine of survival.

In a presentation of subtlety, these birds of the day did convey a presence to appreciate by some looked giving attention to the natural features of saline wetlands and what species find these habitats are a haven. The glory of the flora was colorful and expressive, set against the clear cerulean skies so bold.

On the bare relics of truly saline flats, diminutive beetles were still active, yet hardly noticed, expressing in a sublime yet essential way, the reason for these places having been bought and managed for their nature.

Black Swallowtail on a thistle at Little Salt WMA.

Showy Snow-on-Mountain, also at Little Salt WMA.

During this Saturday at the saline wetlands, nature continued its fundamental ways ignorant of it being some day of the week or a date on the calendar, but there were a number of visitors that appreciated the fine weather for them to enjoy and appreciate being outdoors at the prairie and wetlands that endure.

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