The Pocomoke River and connecting creeks and lowlands are flooded after days of heavy rain. It happened in the summer of 1989 and we thought that was the ’50 year flood’. Then my home and studio were isolated when damaged bridges all over Worcester County prevented access to many low areas.
This year the bridges have mostly held but Rt 12 is impassable in several places not least at the Pocomoke River bridge going into Snow Hill. Water flowed over the Nassawango Creek bridge when I took this photograph but shortly afterwards the road was closed when the fast moving water damaged the road.
In 1989 when the water flowed across the road there were river otters playing and sliding across the flooded road while the bridge was too badly damaged to allow traffic.
The land along the Pocomoke River and Nassawango and other creeks is a low swampy forest that absorbs rainfall overflow like a sponge. When the rains are too heavy and a saturated forest starts to flood it causes changes to the ecosystem here.
exposed maple roots
Deer, wild turkeys and even blacksnakes head for higher ground while shallow rooted trees like maples often fall even without wind. Maples often lean with roots exposed even in drier times. The Cypress trees, with their ‘knees’ are better anchored and the knees (growths from the roots) tend to grow only as high as the average high water mark.
All of the excess water will slowly trickle through the flooded forests and into the creeks and Pocomoke River on the way to the Chesapeake Bay. On the way it will absorb tanic acids from the fallen leaves and cypress needles and turn a deep tea brown. The forest will also filter the water to a degree.
Flooding here is part of the water system but it is not usually this dramatic. While we may be isolated while roadways are repaired, it is nothing to the inconveniences that would occur if we did not retain this valuable filtering swamp along the waterways.
It seems as if the March winds blow the little goldfinches to our corner of the forest. They arrive in flocks, chirping and singing their twittery songs as if excited to find our feeders and birdbaths.
he males have barely begun donning their brighter gold feathers so most of the birds are duller greenish gray this time of year. They scuffle and hop from feeders to nearby trees and back. Then a group will descend on the birdbath for a drink, trying to keep balance on the glazed ceramic edge as they take turns bobbing up and down like ‘drinking duck’ toys.
At some invisible signal the flock will fly off into the deeper forest for a while and later return when the winds blow or dinner calls.
American Goldfinch on Coneflower
As September begins and summer winds down, we may soon be saying goodbye to some of the summer birds in the forest. Two pairs of American Goldfinches have been with us all summer while most of their friends just passed through, heading farther north I assume. In a few weeks we will likely see more and eventually most will head south for the winter. Meanwhile they are fun to watch as they land, swaying, on coneflowers and snack on the ripe seeds.
Female Ruby Throated Hummingbird
Hummingbirds have been wildly entertaining all summer, zooming from one feeder to another and squabbling over territory. Three young siblings seemed to play tag as they raced from one area to another at amazing speeds! Eventually they stopped to rest a few minutes on a tiny twig but flying off at the site of the others. In our area the hummingbirds will leave in early October so we have a few more weeks to enjoy their antics.
Many Robins stay around for the winter although there will be flocks pass through on their way south. We have seen young Robins grow and lose their juvenile speckled chests as they learned to find their own food. No doubt the parents are tired after nesting and hatching hungry youngsters and finally getting them out of the nest and on their own. There is plenty of food and our winters are not usually too harsh for them to stay.
Northern Parula Warbler
Most of the warblers will likely head south soon. We have not seen Prothonotary warblers for several weeks. There are many other small golden warblers still here but they are shy and not easy to see in the green branches. Yesterday a Kentucky warbler made a brief appearance and we have noticed a blue winged Parula warbler in the area. We may not notice when they leave but I will certainly miss their quick flash of golden yellow in the trees when they go.
I feel lucky to have been able to observe these avian neighbors for the season and those that leave us for the winter will be most welcome when they return in the spring.