Monday, October 4, 2010

Great Egrets Seem Quite Content in the Muddy Shallows of a Broken Dam

All That's Left

Until they refill Tempe Town Lake, this is all that's left: some rather large, shallow, muddy pools. And the wading birds love them.

Before the rubber bladders burst, you could see some of these birds hanging around the downstream side of the dam where a small wetlands grew up, and then also following the skinny stream as it snaked away. However, with most of the lake itself drained and turned into a sun-baked mud pie, some temporary contingent wetlands have formed where some shallow water remains upstream, or has gathered from rainfall, run-off, snow melt, or dam releases, and many of the egrets have headed up that direction.

I noticed today that the cormorants are still hanging around back by what's left of the dam, as if something will happen soon to put things back to normal. I saw the signage which announced that a pedestrian / bicyclist bridge will be built on top of the new dam, but that's going to take some time. It seems cold that the egrets lefts and didn't let the cormorants know where the new hot spot was, but maybe they tried, but the cormorants stayed behind anyway. 

[Showy white birds. Graceful fishing fluffballs. We are the wise and efficient cormorants, and we know that the dam will rise again soon, and with it the avalanche of stunned fish which are so easy to catch and eat, kind of like one of those sushi conveyor belt restaurants. Go on, fluffy white birds, to wherever it is you are going, we're staying here to stare at the dried mud and the last carp gasping for oxygen in the shrinking pools.]

I noticed the front page of the local Sunday newspaper had a story about the interest in wetlands and wildlife along the Salt River. The article describes the possible restoration efforts, and includes some mention of the burst dam, but no photos like this. Instead, there's not one, but two, photos of the undersides of freeway overpasses with a little patch of water in the background. Don't most of my fellow citizens see enough of those every day?  

Couldn't the editors balance the full-page color ad on the back of the front section of an offer to save 10 cents per gallon on gas with a tiny picture of lovely white birds standing motionless in the sunshine? Why not portray something beautiful that's also out there, right now, today, this moment, instead? The freeway was right behind me when I took these photos, but somehow this direction looked more interesting, more photogenic, at least to me.

Easy for me to say, though, I guess. I wasn't in a hurry, just riding by bike along the path on a Sunday morning, watching the wading birds feeding. If this is what happens when they let the muddy water sit around, rather than back up behind a rubber dam into a squarish lagoon for boating and triathlons, I hope they take their time fixing it. Even if they are putting in a pedestrian / bicyclist bridge. At least long enough for another generation of egrets to show up. Maybe if enough of them show up, the cormorants will get the idea. Or at least make it onto the radar screens of the local newspaper editors.

Get up. Go ride.



  1. Maybe the whole point was not being in a hurry? Love these peaceful water/bird pictures

  2. Emma, thanks. I did sit out there and watch them for a while. The little ones kept flying back and forth in a frantic group, while the Great Egrets (and the single blue heron) stood motionless until something lunch-like swam by. Then sharp beaks did their work.


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