Winter Wetland

The Garth Wetlands, in the Bear Creek Valley of north Columbia, are, like other wetlands across the Temperate Zone of North America, a riot of color, sound and fragrance during the warmer months of the year.  Come winter, however, the scene has changed dramatically.

Yesterday afternoon, the ponds were frozen over and the vegetation was a mass of brown thickets, limbs and reeds; only the cold blue sky and faded green cedars added color to the landscape.  Noise was limited to the rustle of dead oak leaves in the chilly breeze, the twitter of songbirds in the barren woods, the tapping of woodpeckers and the scratching of sparrows, juncos and towhees in the dry leaf litter; only the occasional call of a flicker, crow or blue jay pierced the relative silence.  Other than the cardinals and jays, the winter birds were various shades of brown and gray, offering little contrast with the drab foliage, and fragrance was non-existent in that frozen marsh.

Then again, a walk through the winter wetland has its own rewards.  The warm, humid air of late spring and summer, alive with buzzing insects, has been replaced by the dry, invigorating chill of the season.  The frenzied chorus of frogs and breeding birds has given way to a calm silence and, best of all, the fair weather crowds of April through October have retreated to their cozy homes.  For a naturalist, the quiet solitude of winter is reason enough to venture into nature's realm.