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One of our most popular attractions on the River S unit is the Kiwa Trail walk in late spring through summer. It is only open five months of the year, but it gets a lot of attention during that time. For me, the best time to walk the trail is very early in the morning. I try to do it on a week day when I can be the first one there. My chances of seeing the wildlife are better then. It is also usually less windy and temperatures are cooler. I must admit, I am not there for the exercise so much as the peaceful enjoyment of this lovely place; I stroll.
When I enter through the gate onto the path, I go slow and sneak a peek around the bushes there. Often, I am rewarded by a fine look at a Great Blue Heron standing on a log up stream. Or, I may hear the fitz-bew call of the Willow Flycatcher along the slough. Evidence of wildlife along the trail is the water paths. I always wonder who makes them; maybe ducks, coots or nutria. Did I just miss a Wood Duck moving through? They make lovely patterns in the water.
During the summer doldrums, when the vegetation is high, most of the wildlife is hidden. Parents are feeding babies and keeping them safe from predators. They are much harder to see and they are very quiet. But on occasion, a Sora Rail might call out. It is frustrating not to see them, but nice to know they are there. This is a good time to enjoy the plant life and the insects that dwell on them. Right now, the edges of the path offer a dryer habitat and are brimming with trefoil and chamomile flowers. Further along in the remaining wet area, you can find the white flowers and arrow shaped leaves of Wapato, a great source of food for our wildlife.
Contact Station volunteer, Virginia Scott, had an interesting encounter recently. Here is her story: This one I just took last week, and it just blew my mind. I stopped to look at a bee on a Queen Anne’s Lace, and I noticed the bee was not moving. So, I zoomed in, and I saw a white spider’s leg come over the bee, followed by a fat white spider with bright red stripes on its thorax. It was killing the bee. I watched it for a long time, taking a ridiculous number of pictures, and then, from underneath the flower, came a small brown spider with a whitish thorax with reddish brown bands on it, and it proceeded to climb up on the larger one and stay there for quite a while. The spiders are Goldenrod Crab Spiders, and the female has the capacity to change color to match the flower she’s sitting on; hence, the white spider. I almost didn’t see her at all, and wouldn’t have if she hadn’t moved while I was watching her. It was amazing!
Recently, as I came around the far curve of the Kiwa trail I found Columbia White-tailed Deer #203/4 on the path about 30 yards away. It looked up at me, then continued to browse undisturbed. I followed it slowly as it tasted the greenery here and there for about 200 yards when it disappeared in the high grass. What a treat.
Whenever the season, there is always something to see and enjoy on the River S. Being able to get out and walk the Kiwa enables a close view of plants and animals of summer. You may have to listen to know they are there or watch for signs of their presence, but this refuge has much to offer when you can take the time to enjoy it.