Although I’ve been an avid environmentalist most of my life, like most people I have overlooked the value, not to mention the beauty, of wetlands until recently. I only discovered Malheur national wildlife refuge two years ago even though I drove by it eight years ago before taking up birding.
I must have driven by the Sacramento national wildlife refuge for nearly 15 years without ever noticing it. In fact, Leslie and I tried to avoid the area because it seemed so bleak, and hot. Instead, we drove a longer route through the Redwoods because it was more “scenic.”
Of course, I discovered both of these places because I took up birding and because they are both “hotspots” for birds at different times of the year. However, after taking the Open University course entitled “Ecosystems” and, in particular, the unit on Wicken Fen I’m even more aware of the significance of wetlands. Wetlands support greater biodiversity than almost any place on earth.
In the most real sense, then, places like The Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge might well be the most beautiful places on earth, even if that beauty seems like a rather austere beauty on the surface.
Coming from Western Washington, I think the flatness of the Sacramento NWR made the biggest impression on me in my two recent visits.
Of course, as the name suggests, it’s really water that is the most important element, and this time of year, at least, even the trees are often submerged.The dominant feature, though, at least visually are the reeds that seem to make up most of the lakes.
It’s easy to assume that some of the bodies of water are quite deep as they look like the lakes where I live,
but that’s a questionable assumption because you’ll often see Black-Necked Stilts wading through the same water that ducks seem to be floating on.
It’s too easy to focus on the beauty of wetland residents and miss the beauty of the wetlands themselves, but that would be a mistake.