I just came back from a walk along our part of the
river. It’s called Middle River and it’s
one of the most polluted rivers in Virginia. Just six miles up the river from here is its
source – a spring that just bubbles up out of the ground in a pasture. Cows are in the spring and the river from the
very beginning. Technically that spring
is the beginning of the South Fork of the Shenandoah
River – a tributary of the Chesapeake Bay.
fenced the cattle away from our part of the river and its tributaries back in
2004. I am amazed at how mature and
diverse the natural areas along the river are becoming since we fenced the cows
out. We’ve been trying to establish a
little native wildlife habitat every year since 2004. This year some of the prairie species are at
their genetic potential, probably because we received so much rain in
August. The maximillion sunflowers and
Indiangrasses are in peak flower and range from seven to nine feet tall. Some of the sunflowers got so tall they just
fell over. At eye level there are bright
yellow goldenrods, switchgrasses and bi-color lespedeza. At knee high to waist height are blankets of
marsh marigolds, grand lobelia, fall asters and our Shenandoah wild rice – rice
cutgrass. Bees are everywhere and I have
to dodge a Hummingbird here and there throughout the native area.
We plant a little bit every year. I think I have planted a hundred river birch
seedlings but only one has survived; it’s about nine feet tall now. Many seeds and plants have prospered though. It takes patience and persistence but it is
well worth it to see such diversity. The
indigo bushes, red osier dogwoods, buttonbushes, willows, oaks and other hardwoods
are coming along nicely; especially the
sawtooth oak. That’s the oak species
deer won’t bother. There are a couple of
these that we planted just three years ago as two year old seedlings that are
now nine feet tall.
It is here that I saw in a single look through my binoculars
a Blue Grosbeak, Goldfinches, Warbling Vireo, Blue Birds, Indigo Buntings, a
Cardinal, Song Sparrow, Ruby Throated Hummingbirds and a Northern Oriole.
These native areas that we have planted are magnets to
birds. Everything they need is here:
food, shelter and water. I guess what they taught us in biology is true: the
more diverse the flora the more diverse the fauna. Prior to 2004 this was just cows and tall
fescue. The banks of the river were
denuded of any vegetation and the cows did a lot of polluting. It feels good that we are no longer
contributing the pollution of the river, rather we are establishing native
habitat for wildlife and doing our part to cleanse the river for those
Middle river is awesome.
I third that.