Monday, April 26, 2010

high water on the Menomonee River - and a few birds, too

The Menomonee flows into downtown Milwaukee through a valley that was wetlands - extensive marshes - 200 years ago. During the build-out of urban Milwaukee, the valley became heavily industrialized, and much of the valley landscape was "brownfields" by the late 1980s. One of the world's largest and busiest railroad yards was here a century ago. But the valley is undergoing a resurgence of both new industry, and at least a thin ribbon of green habitat for wildlife along the River. The Hank Aaron State Trail follows the river through this burgeoning industrial resurgence, and you can ride or walk along that ribbon of greenspace. It's one of the few greenspaces near where I live, so I headed there today - the river was exceptionally high from this weekend's heavy rains. The urban runoff flows over an awful lot of impervious surface to end up in the river - and heavy rains make the water level rise over a foot in depth very quickly. The normally muddy/gravelly river bank was inundated, making it difficult to find food for some birds. New BGBY species for me (to add to my very abbreviated list! - none of these except the goldfinch ever appear in my neighborhood) were Green Heron, Mallard, Red-winged Blackbird, Red-tailed Hawk, Barn Swallow, N. Flicker, Song Sparrow, Great Blue Heron, Am. Goldfinch, Brown-h. Cowbird, and Downy Woodpecker - all common species to most of the BGBY participants, but not present in very urbanized environments...EXCEPT along and in this ribbon of green adjacent to the river.

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