Thursday, May 11, 2006

Fragments of Wetlands

Germania is a Crane marsh.  My memories of the place are a bit dim save for the call of the Sand Hills, watching them circle in random steeps and alight in the cattails.  We must have doe an Overnight because I remember Molitor, the field zoology prof frying breakfast.  It was the first time I had seen someone make a hole in the middle of a slice of bread, lay it in a greased cast iron skillet and drop an egg into the hole.  It was kind of like a proto breakfast sandwich.

Some of the memories blend in with trips to Horicon, another marsh.  Horicon is a truck stop for geese on their way South, much to the dismay of farmers whose fields are full of corn hungry birds.  It is nice to see so many geese – folks come from all over to watch them. I suspect there may be more people watching the geese drop from the sky into the fen than are out looking at the fall colors.  

Some of the boys woke early and fished catching painfully thin Pike and dubbing them snakes.  They looked like a whip with a huge predatory head, a throw back to some primeval time. In fact the marsh is primeval, the dance of cranes and gees has been going on long before man knapped his first point and vandalized the muddy edges of the marsh with his footprints.

My father took us to visit Horicon when we were kids and I remember the incessant honking. The fields around Horicon moved and seethed with Canadian Geese, Snow Geese, and other migratory waterfall.  Botulism has since taken its toll, the level of the water I the marsh dropped exposing the humus black rich mud which acted as a medium for the bacteria.  Another enemy was lead, not only fired at the birds during hunting season but more subtle  killer when the birds fed on bottom plants scooping up lead pellets with the vegetation.   Over hunting, draining marshes for development, and various afflictions have taken their toll on all migratory waterfowl.  

I hope it never gets to the point that the fading memories of  an old ex-student aren’t the only thing left, as I become one of the old men on the stoop by some small town market reminiscing about the old days and the passing kids pay no heed to us idlers.