Great Egret

Great Egret

Wednesday, 29 April 2015

Swamp Tromp

Last week my friend Darren invited me to check out a wonderful wet woods  in eastern Chatham-Kent. Wet woods are generally known as 'swamp' as per the wetland classification system. Most people don't get overly excited about hiking through a swamp, as it conjures up visions of getting ones feet caught in the oozing, black, bottomless, muck while being surrounded by a gazillion mosquitoes. Certainly that can be the case under extreme circumstances, but at this time of year with the sunlight beaming through the leafless woods and the relatively cool temperatures, hiking a swamp can be kind of fun if you are prepared for it.

Swamp in early summer
 Good knee-high rubber boots are a necessity, unless you are like a former MNR colleague of mine who loved wetlands and swamps in particular. He would just wear an old pair of sneakers, put on an old pair of pants and strike out wherever the mood took him. Are you reading this Gary? That is one way to do it, and then you don't have to worry about having the water go over the top of your boots so that you end up walking around in wet boots the rest of the time. Although I have done it that way, I prefer a good pair of rubber boots. Go ahead and call me a wimp, but it keeps my car a lot cleaner at the end of the day!

So with boots in, on feet, Darren and I struck off. At times we were hiking through more upland woodland to get to our destination, all the while surrounded by carpets of developing spring wildflowers. There was Bloodroot, Spring Beauty and Yellow Trout-lily (a.k.a. Dogtooth Violet), which I have included images of in a couple of my most recent posts. Wild Ginger and Blue Cohosh were also noted, and there was even a White Trillium that was just ready to pop open.

Wild Ginger

Wild Ginger flower close-up
 The flowers of Wild Ginger are often under the leaves, as they are pollinated by ground beetles.

Blue Cohosh
But the lower areas beckoned, where the residual water of snow melt and spring rain was responding to the tug of gravity, and the accumulation of water meandered along the contours of the forest floor, winding its way towards the Thames River not all that far away. Spicebush is an abundant wooded wetland shrub; its waxy yellow flowers were ready to burst open as well.
 The woods were relatively devoid of bird song.....not all that atypical for interior woods this early in the season. But we enjoyed the gentle sounds of water trickling by. A few butterflies were noted, including Eastern Comma and my first of the year Spring Azure.
Eastern Comma
 An occasional frog was briefly seen plopping into the water, only to disappear at the muddy bottom. They could have been either Wood Frogs or Chorus Frogs. In spite of the sunny day, we saw only a single Eastern Garter Snake.

Skunk cabbage, which is related to the more well known Jack-in-the-Pulpit, is plentiful in these wet woods. Their actual flower emerges early in spring, well before the leaves do. The following image shows what is left of the flower in between the much larger leaves which now predominate.

Skunk Cabbage close-up

Skunk Cabbage dominating the swamp
Water Cress is plentiful, and clusters of Marsh Marigold are more and more obvious. Some marigolds had flowers already open and in just a few sunny days their brilliant yellow will be dominant, looking something like the following images, taken at another wet woods in a previous year.

Wet woods featuring Marsh Marigold

Marsh Marigold
 As with any natural area, the views keep changing as the weeks pass by. I encourage you to get out and explore a local swamp!

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