Thursday, August 10
Karen came out to the Rainey Wildlife Refuge the evening before so that this morning could be an early start. We managed to get onsite by 7:00am.
We took the canoe out to move the discharge and take pictures before this week’s pumping. The water level was 5 inches below marsh level so travel across the shallow pond was limited. There are at least 2 gar fish trapped within the contained area as well as a myriad of minnows and small fish that were constantly rippling the water around us.
Cell 5 was drained and the mud fill was exposed with flow patterns from the discharge easy to see. The mounds (delta) created around each discharge location were covered with extensive mud cracks as the surface material dries out and contracts. There was no part of the exposed area that didn’t have tracks of birds and wildlife recorded in the mud surface.
Last week, the discharge hose had been disconnected and moved to Cell 4 because of low water. With low water this week as well, we kept the discharge in Cell 4, but moved it over to the northwest to create another delta overlapping with the first one. C4-D1 was aimed to the west, and C4-D2 was aimed to the south (see status map on the last page).
Peeps had flushed when we approached the area and a willet circled but landed in a nearby pond. As we worked to move the hose, the peeps returned to the exposed mud in Cell 5 behind us to resume feeding.
- Peeps on newly exposed fill in Cell 5.
- We returned to the dredge to get started and found that a large marsh island liberated from somewhere along the canal had floated up against dredge and was tangled up against the bank by our south anchor line. It wasn’t in our way, so we made no effort to move it.
We dropped the pump around 8:00 to start pumping. While Karen dredged, Timmy decided to move the water pump over to give us more room and relieve the stretch of the hose when the pump is dropped in deeper areas.
Then we settled into the dredging routine, with Karen handling the pump movement, and Timmy handling the dredge swing. Down, down, down, up, up, up, pause, over, over, down, down, up up, da dum, dad um… While dredging, all sound is overwhelmed by engine noises (as well as dulled by earplugs) and there is the constant droning of engine vibration and winch movement. The heat builds slowly as the day rises. We sit in the shade under our umbrella and tarp taking turns with the fan, and cooling off with iced drinks and wet towels. Occasional breezes brought short-lived pleasure. When everything is working well, there’s plenty of time for reflection and observations of nature around us.
- The wildlife around us seems to ignore us altogether after our arrival. There is a daily patrol of our resident gator-sheriff up and down the canal, and visits by the smaller deputies poking up between the lily fronds along the bank. Gar fish roll and splash occasionally, schools of minnows and menhaden flush out of the way, and the kingbirds continue their aerial displays as they chase insects and try to entice their fledglings away from the nest.
- Surprisingly, the bubbles coming up from the pump in the mud attract a myriad of creatures, including minnows, shrimp, juvenile crabs and even fishing spiders. Summer ducks, egrets, herons, and cormorants sail overhead. This continuous show of abundance surrounds us and is a reminder of just why this marsh that we are trying to protect, enhance and restore is so critically important in the daily dance of life for so many creatures – not only the residents, but the many that will soon be moving on to other parts of the earth.
At 11:00 Timmy left to go to town, and Karen continued dredging for 2 more hours. At noon, the official temperature for the area was 93° with a heat index of 107°. I had the fan and cooler all to myself so wasn’t too uncomfortable. A teleconference scheduled for 2:00 pm prompted a 12:45 shutdown to give me time to take the canoe out for the end of day documentation. It was amazing to actually see the amount of material moved in just under 4 hours.