Farmington Bay Revisited
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
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
by Sandra Bray