Sunday, December 4, 2011

Swamp Memories

This morning, while hiking through the swamp to replace the trail camera card, I couldn't help stopping to take photos. It's a long way to hike every morning, twice, first to collect the card and then to put it back in after downloading the night's videos. Yet I never resent the trek. I love having an excuse to go there.

Why, I began to wonder, do I love swamps? Ours has few interesting birds or plants... the horses have kept the underbrush eaten out. Hopefully, now that the horses are fenced away, it will become more than just water, mud and ash trees. The edge of the swamp, of course, does have interesting wildlife visiting at night, thanks to the many apple and pear trees that line its banks. That's why we put the trail camera there.

As I pondered my connection to the swamp, I remembered a swamp from my childhood. In my middle school years we lived on Long Island in New York. Across the road from our house was, within a short distance, a wonderful swamp and lake. Swans nested in that swamp every year. I loved pushing my way through the rushes higher than my head to get to a viewpoint where I could watch the nest. I didn't get very close because the swans were protective and threatened anyone or anything that came near. I spent many happy hours in that swamp.

Years later, after we had moved to Illinois and I had graduated from high school, I returned to Long Island to visit friends. And to hike to the swamp. It was gone. Drained and full of houses. I was devastated. I vowed then to never go back to any place I had loved.

Now I have my own swamp. Not nearly so big and with no lake and no swans. But I love it still. I stand there in the stillness and imagine I'm in a southern bayou with the possibility of Ivory-billed Woodpeckers around me. (Never mind that the trees are Oregon Ash, not Louisiana Bald Cypress, or that my swamp dries up in the summer and freezes over in the winter.)

It is here, in the mysterious swamp margin, that the trail camera lets us see what animals roam at night. Only one apple tree is still holding on to its fruit and it is under that tree that the trail camera is aimed. If you click on the photo below right to enlarge it and look carefully in the bottom right, you will see the trail camera with its targeted apple tree on the left. There are lots of apples, but they are high above and fall only in wind storms or when the raccoons climb up and knock some down.

One video caught a raccoon climbing the tree. Now that computer guru friend Mike has uploaded a program for me that captures stills off the videos, I can, from time to time, put photos on here of our night-time visitors. Like the raccoon climbing the apple tree... And two young deer eating apples the raccoons probably knocked down.

And the bobcat with the wild eyes...

And the 5-point buck....

And, of course, the bears... Little Bear, Big Bear, and 3 Foot....

I want the swamp and its denizens to always be here, long after we are gone. Somehow, I must find some organization or university or ?? who will preserve it for all time. May our ash swamp and our farm beneath Spirit Mountain never be drained and filled with houses.

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