Nestled in the center of a massive complex of industrial businesses, is a marvelous little oasis of wetlands, cattail marshes, and woodlands called the Narbeck Wetland Sanctuary.
First a word about the name. Back in the early 1900’s a homesteader named Cornelius Harbeck settled the area we now know as View Ridge. The creek running through the refuge was known as Harbeck Creek until around 1960 when someone miss-read an old map and copied it down as “Narbeck”. From that point on Mr. Harbeck’s name was just a footnote in history.
The tail end of autumn found me hiking around the sanctuary boardwalks and wooded trails with my binoculars pressed to my eyes. Fall and winter are wonderful seasons to scan the wetland for birds. The trees have lost most of their leaves and there are dozens of migratory birds to see. Some stoping in to fuel up for a longer journey, and some setting up camp for the winter.
The moment I spotted the first wood duck I knew where I would be spending most of the rest of the next week. These gorgeous little creatures are just about the most flabouyant feathered things on the planet. I’m speaking of the males, of course. The females are quite subdued, to allow them to blend in to their surroundings, and avoid predators.
As I hiked around the west side of the marsh, looking down through the trees, I spotted a whole mob of woodies. It was pretty difficult to get any type of accurate count on them because they were continuously paddling in and out of the cattails and behind the trees. I set my conservative estimate at 6-8 pairs of wood ducks – just in the southwest end of the refuge. As I hiked around the east side there was a lone female wood duck perched on a floating log. I slipped into the cover of the trees and waited with her, for her big colorful dandy of a male to come steaming in and sweep her off her feet… Well, technically that would be sweep her off her foot, because she was using the familiar one foot stand many waterfowl use to minimize heat loss. It’s called “rete mirabile” (thats Latin for wonderful net)… But I digress. Anyway, the male didn’t show for what seemed like an hour so I pushed on.
I continued around the boardwalks and was delighted to stand perfectly still next to a bushel of golden-crowned kinglets. I was the only one standing still, as these little guys were like pinballs. Constantly moving, and only slightly larger than a hummingbird, I knew I would need to return with my video camera to have any hope of capturing them on
film… ah, on digital media.
What was remarkable was that this very wild place existed right in the middle of thousands of daily workers. The Boeing Company, Fluke Manufacturing, ITT, Snohomish County PUD, and dozens of other businesses brought tens of thousands of employees into the area everyday. Along with them came a cacophony of noise. That harsh, discordant mixture of sounds was going to make any digital audio capture almost worthless.
I returned a couple days later, dressed up in my camo gear, cameras and spare batteries ready. The weather was noticeably colder and I was worried that the wood ducks may have been just stopping by the wetlands on their way further south. If that was the case they could have departed with the cold temperatures.
Well fortunately I did see some woodies, so a fabricated a plan to get down to water level and try to photograph them. I saw a faint game trail down through some nasty stickers near the south end of the refuge. I picked my way down the path, crawling under, and over the various obstructions along the way. The racket created by the continuous truck traffic helped to mask my movement. Once I settled into the brush at waters edge, I waited, and waited, and waited… A few ring-necked ducks came by but no wood ducks. I even tried playing a wood duck call from my iBird PRO iPhone app… sadly, nobody cared.
The day was certainly not a total loss. I had golden-crowned kinglets dancing in a bush 6 feet in from of my camera, a belted kingfisher scolding me at every turn, and hooded mergansers… Oh my! Hooded mergansers were just absolutely posing for the camera everywhere I went.
The next day at the marsh was an early morning roll out with sub-freezing temperatures. Since there was a thin layer of ice covering the shallower waters in the south end of the sanctuary all the self respecting waterfowl had moved up to the, deeper, more protected north end ponds. This concentration of birds made for a delightful tapastry of colorful plumage. There were woodies, mergansers, coots, mallards, ring-necked ducks, and Canada geese all paddling around in one tight group. And of course, that belted kingfisher was back after me again.
I did try to get some still photos of the wood ducks to share but my Canon S100 was soon “out of zoom lens” before the elusive woodies decided to swim even farther away. So, click the link on the video and spend a few minutes enjoying the wetlands with me.
That music track was Shinedown doing an old Lynard Skynard song called Simple Man. It was written by Ronnie Van Zant and Gary Rossington in 1973.
That’s about it for this edition of the Adventure Journal. I’m already working on the next story, or more correctly, the next couple of stories… We’ll just have to wait and see what the weatherman says before I decided what’s up next.
Thanks for following along, Kat