The turkeys were scratching under the bird feeders in the afternoon. The flock was composed of mom, auntie and two small poults. This tiny number of offspring the females were raising is no doubt due to a cat, a bobcat.

The turkeys were scratching under the bird feeders in the afternoon. The flock was composed of mom, auntie and two small poults. This tiny number of offspring the females were raising is no doubt due to a cat, a bobcat. The wily animal lives here and seems to have recently enjoyed a few turkey dinners. A month ago I stumbled upon the long-legged cat stalking three young turkey hens. I stopped where I was, the turkeys fled into the woods and the bobcat bounded away in the opposite direction. Not fun to be part of the food chain.

The squirrel has figured out it can grab onto the thistle feeder and swing over to the birdseed feeder. In the middle of executing its clever maneuver the momentum became too much and the squirrel bypassed the feeder and landed below it on the ground. The thistle feeder wrapped around the branch. The turkeys never moved from under the trees, but I thought I saw them hold up two white cards, each with a five. I am waiting to see if next time the squirrel sticks the landing it gets a 10.

When we lived in England, our house was at one end of Bury Lane and an arts and crafts person was at the other. She created imaginative cottages out of flour dough. I still have three of her cottages on the bookshelf. Yesterday I noticed they were full of holes as if a diminutive hunter had pummeled them with miniscule buckshot. I shook the cottages. Several itty-bitty brown beetles came tumbling out. The loupe magnified the insects’ features. Pennsylvania State University Entomology department had on-line pictures of cereal and pantry pests. There they were. My cottages were under attack by drugstore beetles. I looked upon them as tiny termites. The package of mixed veggies was shifted in the freezer to make room for three Lilliputian cottages. That should take care of the 2 mm in size bugs. Whoever opens up the freezer is in for a little surprise.

The Oklahoma Master Naturalists held their Aquatic and Wetland Ecosystems Workshop at Lake Arcadia last Saturday. Amidst the variety of stuffed wildlife perched on the shelves and walls inside the Outdoor Education and Training Center had been a pair of Northern Shoveler ducks. Their preserved feathered bodies were nowhere to be seen. Northern Shovelers spend summers in the northwestern part of the US, Canada and even Alaska. The cosmopolitan ducks also live in northern Europe and Asia and bounce down into Africa and the Indian subcontinent. These are beautiful, large billed mallard-like dabbling ducks. The spatula-like bills have small serrations on the edges that can sieve out aquatic invertebrates. In winter they fly south to Texas and Central America, migrating through Oklahoma. Where did the Lake Arcadia Shovelers go? The Northern Shoveler will be the featured duck on the 2018-2019 Oklahoma duck stamp.

First thing in the morning, Marley Beem, Aquatic Biologist at OSU, took our class to the Youth Fishing Pond. He threw out his plankton net to catch microorganisms. The plankton net was a funnel fashioned out of mesh with a test tube clamped to the narrow end and a long cord attached to the open mouth. As it turned out, there was little vegetation growing in the shallow pond. The usually abundant algae, phytoplankton and zooplankton were hiding deep in the murky depths. They don’t like bright sunlight. The dragonflies, wasps and turtle didn’t seem to mind. The path to the wetland area meandered past an impressive bird blind built as an Eagle Scout project by Seth Fuller, with the help of Choctaw Troop 275. The wetland was full of cattails, water lilies and creeping water primrose. The Secchi Disk he brought along could not be used in either place. The water needed to be deeper.

The Secchi Disk is a practical way to measure for nutrients and richness of aquatic vegetation in a body of water. The disk is a simple black and white saucer that is dropped into the water. The depth is measured at the point the disk disappears from sight. The disk may still be visible at 100 feet in Lake Tahoe, but perhaps 2 feet in an Oklahoma pond.

We returned to the training center for the duration of the workshop. The air conditioning felt good as the temperature soared outside. The workshop participants introduced themselves and, to the person, expressed their love of nature. We sat close to each other. It was pointed out the distance is short between people, neighborhoods, and bodies of water. Water absorbs large amounts of heat, can be either constructive or destructive, is fickle about its distribution, and is the universal solvent. We are approximately 65% water. Our life depends upon water.

Ponds, lakes, rivers, streams and wetlands are considered surface water features. They are all ecologically important but vulnerable to destruction. Oklahoma leads the nation in the number of ponds per square mile and ranks second in number of ponds at 316,806. A pond is defined as being 1.25 to 99 surface acres.

Water has a mind of its own. Pond and lake shorelines are subject to erosion, while streams and rivers can cut new banks and channels. Floods are natural processes exacerbated by human development. The OSU Cooperative Extension maintains a fleet of stream trailers. These teaching tools demonstrate the effects of moving water. They help illustrate the importance of streambank stabilization and stream restoration through the use of deep rooted riparian plants and other approaches.

The workshop ended with places too often taken for granted: the wetlands. Wetlands may store flood waters, temper the effects of nutrient, chemical and sedimentary pollution and support an abundance of wildlife. Wetlands can be excellent nurseries and fish spawning pools. Different types of wetlands exist: the edges of riparian corridors (the sides of rivers and streams), forested areas, Playa lakes (small lake that form after rainstorms and evaporate in drought), Oxbow lakes (cut off from the stream or river), closed depressions and swamps. The aquatic and wetland ecosystems are valuable, vulnerable and worth protecting. You can stake your life on it.

This article will end on a resilient note. My oldest son had his first bike wreck this week. He told us he and his bike were fine. His buddy flipped over a bridge and fell 12 feet but landed on soft ground. His helmet protected his face and his bike is okay. We asked “how exactly is your friend?” Our son’s reply: he missed one day of work and is fine. There you have it, another plus for water. The moist soil cushioned a bicyclist’s fall. All is fine.

Keep your water safe. It is sacred.