Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Goose Pond and Beehunter Marsh

Egrets and great blue herons at Goose Pond, Indiana
Not far from us is one of the most amazing wetlands in the midwest.   Goose Pond and Beehunter Marsh sit almost adjacent to each other.  A few years ago they were reclaimed from agricultural use and purchased as a National Wildlife Refuge.   This is what the website says:
The soil in much of the basin has a clay content exceeding 70 percent, which greatly restricts subsurface drainage. The cropland was tiled and drained with lateral surface drains that emptied into an extensive ditch system. The open ditches conveyed runoff waters to pump stations where the water was pumped over the levees into the ditched creeks. Since it is a natural basin with low, level topography and tight subsoil, flooding was a constant agricultural concern that required constant maintenance of the drainage systems. This drainage problem was likely the reason for a large portion of the area changing ownership eleven times in approximately 35 years. Both Federal and State agencies had considered the area for acquisition and restoration at various times since the early 1950s.
Geese at Beehunter Marsh, Indiana
I totally understand the clay thing.   Really.

Clay is a pain.

These wetlands are what is left of the Blackwater Marsh, a glacial era wetland.   It almost disappeared.  This is how much they've restored so far:
Wetland areas:
Beehunter Marsh: 541 acres
Goose Pond Main Pool East: 320 acres

Goose Pond Main Pool West: 1,223 acres
Goose Pond (other units): 1,876 acres 
Total Acreage: 3,960 acres of open shallow water
There have also been more than 400 acres of tree plantings and more than 1,300 acres of native prairie grass plantings so far.
I haven't figured out what these are, but the marshes are covered with them.
 Here is more info on the plantings:
Prairies were restored on approximately 1300 acres of upland soil types and consist primarily of native prairie grasses and forbs (wildflowers). Species include big bluestem, little bluestem, Indian grass, prairie cordgrass, prairie dock, blazing star, and black-eyed susan. These habitats will provide excellent nesting habitat for waterfowl as well as grassland birds. Prairies also provide winter cover and foraging habitat for several grassland species that have shown population declines in recent decades, including short-eared owls, dickcissels, upland sandpipers, sedge wrens, and Henslow's sparrows.
Bottomland hardwood trees (including oaks and hickories) have been restored on approximately 300 acres. Once this forest community matures, it will likely become inhabited by squirrels, turkey, white-tailed deer, and many species of resident and migratory songbirds.
Approximately 75 acres of oak savanna will be restored. The historic data appear to indicate that oak savanna may also have been a component of the uplands surrounding the Beehunter Marsh. Midwestern oak savannas are among the rarest ecosystems in the world, with less than one percent of Indiana's original savanna remaining. Savannas are much like prairie habitats in that fire tolerant species comprise the majority of the vegetation. Unlike prairies, however, savannas, or oak barrens, do have a woody plant component generally represented by bur and/or black oak. The oak trees will be planted sparsely, approximately 27 to 48 trees per acre. Although many species of plants are common to both savannas and prairies, the animal communities will be slightly different due to the structural component the trees add. Prairie warblers, indigo buntings, red-headed woodpeckers, and loggerhead shrikes are just a few of the species which benefit from this type of habitat.
Herons and egret, Goose Pond, Indiana
I found some other really interesting photos, here.

And here is a map of the property.

Egrets and black necked stilt, 6/17/2012,  Goose Pond, Indiana

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