Life squishes out of every soggy corner in a marsh. To see it in action, pull on your mud boots and head into the wild.
This is the entrance to a crayfish house. Crayfish tunnel down into soggy ground to stay cool and wet. As they dig, the clawful crustaceans use their legs and mouthparts to roll mud into little round blobs. They carry the blobs to the surface and stack them to form a chimney.
Scan the shallow waters of a wetland and you’ll likely spot 3-foot-tall mounds of mud and vegetation tucked among the cattails. These are muskrat houses. If you watch a mound closely, you may see its furry brown builder swimming nearby.
Swish a dip net through some murky marsh water and you’re likely to find baby dragonflies, damselflies, and mayflies squirming in the mesh when you bring the net up. The young insects, called larva, don’t look anything like their parents.
From March to May, Missouri’s marshes offer perfect pitstops for thousands of migrating ducks, geese, and shorebirds making their way north. Visit one of these wetlands to witness the migration sensation.
Visit a marsh in March and you’ll hear spring in full swing as a chorus of frog love songs overflows each shallow pool.
Mosquitoes love marshes. Keep the bloodsuckers at bay by spraying yourself with insect repellent.
Great blue herons have two ways to catch dinner. Sometimes they wade sloooowwly through shallow water, hoping to ambush unwary fish, frogs, and snakes. At other times, they stand motionless and wait for fish to swim within range of their long, flexible necks and dagger-like beaks.
Angie Daly Morfeld
Nichole LeClair Terrill