September 6, 2022
This week’s hot temperatures made me realize once again how important consistent water sources are for all wildlife including birds, mammals, insects, reptiles, and amphibians. Every living thing requires some water.
As I was out checking on how things were doing, I saw many birds looking very stressed, sitting on the fences with their beaks open, panting. Others were sitting on the numerous water troughs we have in the grazed pastures drinking away. The wildlife camera videos this week were full of various mammals drinking at the watering holes that remain in the creeks. Davis Creek was down to a few long pools of water and the tracks from so many different animals was proof how important those water sources are. Outlet Creek still has a good amount of water in some stretches though is drying up in others. In the past, we usually had a good rain system come in as early as September 15th. However, the last four to five years we have had the first rains occur later in the fall, usually on Halloween or even later. At this point in the season the trees begin dropping their leaves and decrease their water uptake from the ground water. The shorter periods of daylight and lower air temperatures prompt this phenomenon. As a result, the water table begins to rise, thereby benefiting wildlife. This is always a bit miraculous when observing the creeks in Little Lake Valley because even if rain hasn’t fallen yet, water begins to flow down the creeks.
Once a few inches of rain have fallen it seems the drought of summer may not be over, but at least abated. In the meantime, all the wild creatures must make do with what is available. Recalling last year, it was extremely dry and hot for the latter part of the summer. Here on the Mitigation Lands the water-saving work of the beavers and the water troughs throughout the grazing pastures provided relief for resident wildlife, who otherwise could have been facing quite a dire situation.
This year the summer has been milder, and we almost reached our average amount of fall, winter, and spring rain. We even got some late spring rain too. These are all important factors which have helped alleviate drought conditions in the Willits Valley. Still as my photos show, the heat is stressful on wildlife and every little puddle or water source is significant.
Of course, the 60 or so water troughs we have throughout the pastures have been installed for the cattle that depend on them. If a group of cows do not find water in the trough, they can become panicked and start breaking infrastructure. Our work includes making sure the troughs are functioning and have water in them every day. Knowing that wildlife uses them too means we appreciate this even more. It is a reminder to have water out for wildlife wherever you live. Remember to have escape ramps installed in taller containers for lizards or small rodents like chipmunks that may fall in.