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Exploring the Leight Estuary: The Cove Without the Water

A day of strong winds pushed water out of the cove at the Leight Estuary Center, allowing a stroll through areas normally under water! Not only was it fascinating to see the effects of the wind, but a delight in seeing things close up not usually accessible.

Here’s a broad view of the area, sans water. Hopefully the shading and line identifies for you the mud flat open for a morning walk:

view1 view2

A solitary specimen of wild blue flag iris was the highlight. These are perennials native to the Chesapeake Bay region and bloom in May and June. They are found in wetlands and shorelines.This one was growing among a stand of grasses. If I had not had the opportunity to walk in the cove, I never would’ve seen it.

wild blue iris_Leight iris in grass

I also observed arrow-arum up close. Another native perennial, it grows in shallow, tidal fresh waters throughout the Chesapeake Bay region. Rails, muskrats, wood ducks and black ducks all rely on arrow arum for food.  Leight Estuary Center has several wood duck boxes for nesting, increasing the habitat appeal.

arrow arum closer stand of arrow arum

wood duck box

Here is some SAV (Submerged Aquatic Vegetation), or bay grass. I think this is “Slender Pondweed”. I did not stop to pick it and examine it (no idea why the thought didn’t occur to me at the time …), so the ID is my best guess from my research.

unsubmerged SAV

SAVs are crucial to the health of the Bay and provide food and habitat to a large variety of fish, crabs, and waterfowl. Back in 1972, Tropical Storm Agnes along with pollution run-off, just about destroyed the Bay’s underwater grass beds. Considering the Chesapeake Bay is one of the most productive bodies of water in the world, this has significant impact. Today, there are huge efforts to protect and restore SAVs.

Slender pondweed grows in fresh water tidal tributaries. It needs to be underwater by a few inches. Otherwise, it dries up and dies. Luckily, by the time I finished my wanderings, the water was starting to move back in.

bay grass_SAV

I was not the first visitor to the mud. I found many tracks: deer, raccoon, and others:

deer tracks raccoon trail track3 track4 track5

And maybe the low water levels made it a little easier for the local avian species to hunt for food. Osprey circled. Here, a few great blue herons take stand in the mud. Across the cove (a long shot for my camera), two bald eagles perch at the top of a dead tree along the shoreline.

herons

eagles

Some closing pics –

I thought the lighting was pretty in this shot:

pretty lighting

The Estuary Center pontoon was stranded:

stranded pontoon

I’ll pay more attention to wind speed and direction for future opportunities to take a walk in the cove.

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