Friday, April 15, 2011

The viaduct: one of Victoria's wetlands

As a transition zone between land and water, wetlands provide habitat for plants and animals that are terrestrial, aquatic and amphibious. The mix makes for high species diversity.

These productive ecosystems have been viewed largely as a nuisance to people wanting to develop land whether for agriculture or residential developments and roads.

Besides being prime wildlife habitat they filter water and break down detritus that flows in from the land around them.

In Canada many important wetlands have been filled in so we could build on top of them. Attempts to restore former wetlands have demonstrated that we can not recreate these complex landscapes, so our best bet is to conserve what's left.

Wetlands make a good bird outing at any time of year but they really bustle in the spring.

Mixed flocks of ducks paddle about seeking mates. Here's a female hooded merganser – or hoodie – hiding out behind some woody shrubs. Pretty dramatic look for a female.

She will find a tree cavity to nest in the year before she is actually ready to breed.

As a year round resident she can keep an eye on it and not have to race back from the south in the spring to claim it.

For food, hooded mergansers dive under the water and look for aquatic insects and crayfish. According to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology they can change the refractive properties of their eyes to see better in murky water.

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