As the construction contract comes to a close, we’ve been assessing the habitat conditions and moving on to habitat management. In the months to come there will be many transitions.
There has been a lot of disturbance in Unit A in the last year: disks, dozers and pans moving dirt here, there and everywhere. The weather has also been variable ranging from wet, dry, to downright dusty. These factors haven’t allowed us to have very much control on the plant communities in Unit A; however, that hasn’t stopped us from trying to give things a head-start.
Wildlife and Fisheries staff have been working together to grow aquatic plants in a nursery and then plant them in some of the scours that have retained water through the summer. Granted, there aren’t too many places still holding water this summer, but we have a few locations where you can still get your boots wet. This week we put in another 450 plants to help the vegetation get a foothold and expand over time. These scours will provide deeper water habitat and be available to early migrants in years to come.
Scattered showers have also ponded a little water in a few of our other shallow sloughs. Despite the lack of vegetation, we’ve still seen wildlife use in these areas. Egrets have been picking off tadpoles and small fish as the waterline begins to recede. It is also apparent from the footprints that the raccoons have been having a nightly crawdad buffet.
In other spots, the scours are as dry as a bone. You may remember that it was about this time last year that we baled up some of our smartweed and millet before the dirt work began. We’ve started to unroll these bales into the dry scours to add organic matter back into the system. Hopefully, this will help these disturbed scours recolonize with bugs and plants a little bit quicker. Another thing we have done is incorporate a little bit of nitrogen back into the soil so that if plants do get a little shot of water that they’ll have the nutrients necessary to start growing.
As you can see, just with these scours there is a lot of variability. The same goes for the rest of units A and B as the vegetation transition depends upon the degree of disturbance and soil moisture conditions. Once we get the wells on, there will be another transition as we learn how the area will operate under a new flood regime.
The plant community isn’t the only thing that has begun to shift over the summer. Some of the support staff for this renovation project has also changed. Our permit and policy coordinator has retired, and our engineer is now doing similar work for Ducks Unlimited. Their help over the last few years has been greatly appreciated, and we wish them the best of luck. The new staff has already spent quite a bit of time on the area and is getting acquainted with the project. As we tie up the loose ends in units A and B, we’re looking forward to hitting the ground running next summer and beginning to transition back into management.
Thank you again for your interest and patience as we’ve moved through this renovation project. Things are moving forward slowly but surely, and I’m excited to see what the future holds.