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Farmington Bay Revisited

Late Fall

Thirty UNSS members assembled at the Farmington Bay Waterfowl Management Area on November 14, to make a study of the general environmental conditions which attract the birds and other water life. Literature was distributed which reviewed the major features of the area and listed the birds to be found there.
Many of the plants which supply green feed and seeds for the birds and the aquatic life were dry stalks. Matured seeds still remained on some dead stalks, or had fallen to the ground to be picked up by a hungry animal, or to await another Spring for sprouting. Yellow clover, curly dock, burdock, parsnip, teasel, several mints, lamb's quarters, ragweed, cattails, and Indian hemp were noted. The Indian hemp bark was stripped, and some of it was twisted into a cord, which the strongest in the group could not break. The bast (or bass) fibers are strong in some plants. Indians used these fibers in some of their weaving.
Teasel was introduced to this area in pioneer days, when the dried heads were used to put the nap on wool. However, this plant has become a pest in some pastures because the winter rosettes of basal leaves it produces chokes out all other plant life. Teasel produces a seed which some birds find palatable, but cattle and horses are unable to eat it because of its excellent supply of thorns. During the early summer when the plant is in full leaf, an interesting waterlife habitat is produced. The leaves are positioned opposite each other on the stem, and their bases grow together forming a pocket. In these, rain water collects in which unique waterlife develops, not found elsewhere.
While the tops of some of the plants in this bird environment are annuals, and appear to be dead and dry, many have perennial roots. When a seemingly dead cattail was pulled up, it was discovered that the bud for next year's stalk was already about three inches long. It would remain buried in the mud until the warmth of Spring stirred it to continue growth. These plants would take over the entire shallow area of the reservoir if it were not for the muskrats. These animals are house builders, and their favorite construction material is the cattail. The open waters which the muskrats provide give more edges, which ducks and other water birds need.
Waterfowl hunters were everywhere. As a result the greater portion of the bird population was scattered far from the roads. However, the UNSS group did observe marsh hawks, Swainson's hawks, long billed marsh wrens, great blue herons, one cattle egret, pied-billed grebes, coots, green winged teal, gadwalls, Canada geese, and others.

The surprising find was the cattle egret with its black feet and its preference for the grassy areas removed from water. While it is about the same size as the snowy, its stance is characteristically different. At the present time this African bird, which first appeared in Florida several decades ago, is now found in more than half of the states. All in all, it was a very pleasant trip.
-- by Stanley B. Mulaik

Utah Nature Study Society
December 1970
Adapted for
by Sandra Bray