King of the Wetlands

I spent two glorious summers working at the Scout Island Nature Centre. From the whispering grassland to the cool willow trail, my memories are full of animal encounters, strange discoveries, conversations with locals and tourists alike, and introducing kids to the wonderful natural world around them. Today, however, I want to focus on one part of Scout Island, one that really distinguishes itself from other nature preserves I have visited, and what draws tourists from across the globe to Williams Lake.

The Marsh.

I am not sure how its size compares to others in North America, but for whatever reason there are certain species who have decided that THIS marsh is a more excellent feeding and/or mating ground than other wetlands. Pelicans, for example.

Scout Island Pelicans

While it is common to spot American White Pelicans around Scout Island, it is rare to see such a number. I took this photo in June 2013. These pelicans migrate from the Baha to mate at Stum Lake, but frequently travel ~64km east to feed at Scout Island.

My favourite marsh bird, however, is the Redwing Blackbird. Their calls fill the air (and a good thing too- I could always count on them when doing a bird lesson with the kids). Visiting birders would tell me how rarely they had seen the bird in such abundance (while I, meanwhile, lamented how quickly they emptied the feeders).

RedwingBlackbirdByLauraUlrichI do not love them for their song, however, or for their distinctive colouring which makes them so easy to spot. I love them because they are the most polygamous bird of all. A single male can have as many as 15 females in his territory (though usually they like to manage around 5), who he will defend fiercely during the Season. So fiercely in fact, that they will declare all out war on encroaching Marsh Wrens and go after their eggs. They must have better eyes than I, for I never spotted a Marsh Wren’s (or a Redwing Blackbird’s) nest, despite some serious searching.

RedwingBlackbird

You stud, you.

Happy World Wetlands Day!

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