As a youth, I was smitten with wetlands. The aroma, the flora and fauna, and the myriad sounds that filled the moist, cool air. I can recall fondly the feel of decaying plant matter and soil squishing between my toes. The distinct smell of gases being released underfoot as I attempted to introduce myself to the resident frogs (of which, were not at all interested in making my acquaintance). On occasion, I would catch a frog, proudly show my father, and proceed to put the frog back where we met. I would repeat this same procedure numerous times throughout the warm months in Northern Michigan. All without a net.
Fast forward to 2018: I am still smitten with wetlands. In fact, even more so. After a short time being a social worker working with victims of domestic violence, I felt the need to go back to school, to follow my other passion, the environment. I love working with people…but I also love the environment–our species lifeblood–our life-support system. We as a species cannot thrive unless our environment is thriving. Its a simple case of symbiosis. We are part of nature, and it is a part of us.
So it is no surprise that I am smitten with wetlands; wetlands perform a critical task. This task? Wetlands are in essence large kidneys, or filters if you will. Wetlands filter out toxins, sediments and other substances that may be harmful to other ecosystems. A wetland ecosystem also acts as natural flood control. Remove wetlands, and flooding becomes more commonplace over time. And of course, wetlands are among the most productive ecosystems on the planet, supporting various plants and animal species.*
Common species that rely on Michigan wetlands include Mallard ducks and various species of frogs. Consequently, both are two of my favorite subjects to capture on camera. Yesterday, while walking the waters edge near Lake Michigan, I had an opportunity to examine both a lone Mallard and numerous frogs (including large tadpoles). As I walked camera-in-hand (in this case a FujiFilm HS50 EXR), I could hear the territorial calls of Red Winged Black Birds. In Northern Michigan, these birds signal the official arrival of spring.
My sandals began to sink into the spongy substrate as I made my way around the wetland. Frogs betrayed their abodes as they slipped into the reeds below the surface of the water. The lone Mallard eyed me cautiously, then took flight. Water beetles zigzagged around the cattail stalks in erratic displays. My camera shutter clicked and clicked. By the time I had circled the entire wetland area, I had added roughly 100 image files to my SD card.
Walking back to the car, I could not help but smile. I was so content. My passions in life fulfill me. In addition, when I spotted, and captured the images of the duck and frogs, I captured a moment in time. A time from the past, as a little boy, exploring the wetlands of Northern Michigan in awe. And as an adult, capturing other species in their element–living their lives.
Now that is a reason to smile.
*More on wetlands later on!