Summer has drawn to a close and the focus of my work here at Cosumnes River Preserve has shifted slightly. While I am still involved in a wide variety of tasks from day-to-day, lately my time has been spent working in our wetlands and learning the wetland management system that is used here. With the guidance of our wildlife biologists, I have slowly but surely been learning the ins and outs of providing good habitat for the over-wintering waterfowl that we and the public love to see at the preserve.
As a wetland preserve with numerous ponds, tasks begin with first knowing what ponds need to be flooded up, the date on which they are to be flooded, and any work that needs to be done to the ponds prior to their flooding. Earlier on in the summer I was tasked with collecting GPS data points for the infrastructure of the ponds. This has turned out to be a critical learning opportunity for me because knowing the ponds (their location, design, and infrastructure) is, not surprisingly, absolutely necessary for managing the system.
Once any work has been done (mowing weeds down, moving soil around, treating invasives, etc.–essentially the focus of our work this summer), we then proceed to put boards into our water control structures. These water control structures basically act as mini dams to keep water in or let it out as we deem fit. After checking all of the valves to see if they are in their appropriate state (open/closed) for the task at hand, we turn on our pumps to flood the ponds. This is done much the way irrigated pasture or rice fields are done in the area. In fact, as a preserve with farmers practicing wildlife-friendly agriculture, they use the same system for maintaining their organic rice fields.
Due to an array of factors such as size, depth, valve output, etc., each pond takes a different amount of time to flood up. As a beginner, this would be troublesome. However, I have well-experienced co-workers who have been teaching the system and know very closely how much time it takes to fill these ponds.
Each day I have been going out to monitor the ponds for depth and bird usage to ensure we are providing the habitat we wish to be providing. With only basic familiarity with the waterfowl, this has been extremely helpful for letting me practice my on-the-fly counting skills and my bird ID skills.
On an quite exciting note, the Sandhill cranes have finally arrived at the preserve. As our “superstar” birds, this is an exciting development and it has definitely increased the amount of visitor we have been receiving. One thing I have learned is that some people really, really love birds.
I have been challenged every day to learn something new and I have been really enjoying the focus of my recent work. With a little over a month left, it is hard to believe that my experience here is almost up. Each day I continue to do my best to get the most out of this great opportunity and am very thankful for it.
Until next time,
Cosumnes River Preserve