Monday, June 2, 2008

My favorite marsh.

One hundred years ago, the land on which my house sits was a square of peat bog. Perhaps a thousand years before that it was a patch of marsh, occasionally subject to flooding from fresh or brackish water. Ten thousand years ago, this was open water beyond the mouth of the Fraser River.

Sturgeon Banks (yellow) and Terra Nova (green), Richmond, BC.


This island grew (and continues to grow) from east to west. It started as silt and rock, washed from as far away as the centre of British Columbia after the retreat of the most recent ice sheet. Hitting denser salt water and incoming tides, river-borne material was deposited at the river’s mouth. New material tended to wash around that already there and accumulate on the lee side, spreading into the Strait of Georgia. Thus the west end of the island is relatively young land -- new land. Coincidentally, part of it was named “Terra Nova” by settlers in the late 1800s. Stretching beyond, out into the Strait, is tidal flat known as the Sturgeon Banks, an expansive cat-tail and reed marsh that each year grows a little larger.

Sturgeon Banks from Terra Nova.

The seaward boundary of Terra Nova is defined by the dyke that wraps around it. The dyke is not only a wall holding back the ocean; it is a grand place to walk, bike, and best of all, birdwatch.

Here you can usually see Northern Harriers flopping above the marsh. In spring and early summer the cat-tails house a cacophony of Red-winged Blackbirds and Marsh Wrens.


Marsh Wren making noise.

Topography is almost nonexistent, so radar reflectors have been spaced along the shore to warn ships of shallow water. These circular structures are fine perches for Bald Eagles, and during fall shorebird migration, Peregrines.

Radar reflector.

Within the cattails, more often heard than seen, are Soras and American Bitterns.

American Bittern.

No surprise in this impacted region, the marsh is far from ecologically pristine. Himalayan blackberry crowds its edges, and as the new green growth of cat-tails rises among last year’s brown stems and disintegrating seed pods, so does purple loosestrife. June to July to August = brown to green to purple. (Purple images forthcoming. You have to photograph the stuff - it's just too purply to ignore.)

A splendid view, all the way to Vancouver Island. Click to see a ship.

3 comments:

Amy said...

Beautiful pictures of what looks to be a wonderful place to live. I'm dying to get out there someday!

Love the bittern shot almost as much as I love that crazy noise they make. GaaahLUMPK!

Hugh said...

Thanks, Amy. Sometimes I forget how lucky we are to live here. It's when I'm out on the dyke on a sunny (or even stormy) day that I'm reminded what a striking place this is.

The bittern was funny. I was sitting on the dyke, waiting for a bird-watching group, and it just walked along in front of me. I took about a hundred pictures. It even gaaahLUMPKed for me. (New verb, you get the credit.)

Nancy J. Bond said...

Great shots of a wonderful area. My first visit to your blog -- but I'll be back. :)