Dear Wetland Supporter,
Why do I love wetlands? Because they are full of LIFE. No matter what time of year you visit one, even in winter, surprising things are happening. Wetlands readily provide that essential to life – water – and organisms of all kinds take full advantage of it!
In spring, wetland plants are waking up. I love to watch the brown world turn green; it often happens earlier in wetlands than uplands. Look for things you can only see in spring: fern fiddleheads, ironwood catkins, violet flowers, tree leaf buds popping open. Spring bird migrations of large flocks can be seen in our coastal wetlands. Cricket frogs begin calling as the weather warms, as well as the North Carolina state frog – the uncommon Pine Barrens treefrog, which breeds in Sandhills and Coastal Plain wetlands in spring.
In summer, our wetlands are glorious. Water lilies and Venus’ flytraps are blooming, cypress trees are soft and feathery, butterflies are fluttering, wading birds are hunting, wetland shrubs are blooming, tadpoles are wiggling, blueberries are fruiting, dragonflies are zooming, beavers are building, turtles are nesting…. Everywhere you look in a wetland, LIFE is obvious and it’s beautiful.
In fall, bursts of color in our red maple and tupelo swamps are fantastic. Wetlands provide important sources of rest and food for migrating fall warblers. In freshwater wetlands, look for hatchling turtles, buttonbush flowers turning to “buttons”, interesting seedheads on rushes and reeds, and fruits on tupelos and persimmons. Wet prairies are full of colorful fall wildflowers, and shrimp are moving out of their coastal wetland nursery grounds.
In winter, many salamanders in the Carolinas begin breeding after the first warm, heavy winter rains, especially in the Sandhills and Coastal Plain. Their eggs can be found in globular masses in the waters of temporary woodland pools or ephemeral wetlands. Winter is also an amazing time to see flocks of over-wintering waterfowl in our wetlands. In North Carolina, Lake Mattamuskeet and Pocosin Lakes are famous for large numbers of snow geese, tundra swans, American coots, and other waterfowl. In South Carolina, Savannah National Wildlife Refuge and Santee National Wildlife Refuge offer fine opportunities to see overwintering ducks, geese, red-winged blackbirds, and shorebirds in their wetlands. Winter and early spring are also great times to find aquatic macroinvertebrates in wetlands – including larval dragonflies, mayflies, water fleas, beetles, and snails. Next time you visit one, take a dip net and see LIFE what you can find!
To help you find a wetland to visit, the NC Division of Water Resources recently published an interactive map of publicly accessible wetlands across North Carolina. They also have a printable wetlands passport, so you can check off where you’ve been and discover new places to visit. The South Carolina Department of Natural Resources manages many preserves with wetlands. Our wetland treasures map is also a great way to find a beautiful wetland.
Next time you are out and about, think about taking a little detour to see what LIFE you can find in one of our beautiful wetlands of the Carolinas!
Don’t forget – share your wetland vacation photos with us on Facebook and Instgram!
Secretary, Carolina Wetlands Association