Post 1: Observations

The area I have selected for my study is a small protected wetland in the Ottawa Valley of eastern Ontario. The wetland is about one square kilometer in size, and is located on the southeast edge of Muskrat Lake, where the Muskrat River flows into the lake. The wetland is fragmented by a walking trail and a road, and has water being piped into it from the nearby water treatment plant.

journal sketch 20april2016

I visited the site from 14:45 until 15:00 on April 20, 2016. The temperature was 12 Celsius and it was a clear day with a slight breeze.

The organisms I observed were: bulrushes, tall grasses, deciduous trees (which I can’t identify until they get their leaves), algae, Canada geese, American robins, red-winged blackbirds, a small brown songbird the size of a chickadee, tiny flying insects, pond-surface insects, and mallards flying overhead toward the lake.

Potential subjects for my research are Canada geese or red-winged blackbirds because I find them the most interesting to observe. The red-winged blackbirds seem to be the more reliably present bird, so they will probably work better. One question that I had was about the effect that proximity to roadways has on various aspects of the ecosystem (such as population density of a specific insect), but this would be observational data rather than experimental, unless I were willing to build some new roads. I would like to know how the litter that I see along the edges of the wetland is affecting the health of the ecosystem, but I’m not sure how to measure that quantitatively. A good question which could be answered through experimentation is: How does the pH of water affect a red-winged blackbird’s readiness to eat insects or plants out of the water? (I would not try to manipulate the pH of the marsh, but set out large containers of water with neutral, slightly acidic, and slightly alkaline water, and place the same kind of food in each.) This would be useful information since excessive carbon emissions are slowly lowering the pH in our waters.

2 thoughts on “Post 1: Observations

  1. great subject to study as the males are very visible and vocal –

    I will be interested in seeing if you can entice the birds to drink out of containers of water.

    Some other projects may focus on – how males use songs and epaulets to defend territories

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