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Rosewood Pond, an Unusual Cityscape

Multi-species Ethnography by Sadie Smith, Lead Wetland Restoration Technician

Ponds, much like a city, are full of hustle and bustle. They are full of aquatic citizens who interact in an organized chaos, divided by evolutionary class as opposed to social, limited by the tools natural selection gifted them. As with a human metropolis, Rosewood pond has distinct borders between the desirable and the less valuable, reflected in distinction between those species that utilize the immediate surface of the murky brown waters to those that stalk the shadowy depths. A casual tourist of any great city would revel in its flashy lights, individualized architecture, and particular culture. Perhaps, they spend some time people-watching, examining the interactions of the locals to get a better understanding of the place they are in.

A passer by of Rosewood pond may undergo some of the same experiences as a traveler in a new city, taking time to observe the reflection of the sunset tinted green by the ever present aqueous algae, the clusters of cattails and reeds that hug the edge of the pond and tower over the surface, or attempt to catch a glimpse of what living thing could cause the often seen disturbances below the water.

Moving about the surface of Rosewood pond in a variety of ways, are birds. These birds, elegant in image and sight are a menagerie of species, including the majestically solemn blue heron, the comical cominglings of mallard ducks, and the Canada goose. While a casual observer may at first glance assume the birds are free to move about the area as they see fit, closer consideration reveals that in fact, a pecking order is at work. Fighting for dominion of Rosewood pond, at the top of the chain is the calculated and orderly heron, who stalks among the reeds behind the chaotic groups of smaller waterfowl striking at fish stirred up by their actions with its mighty spear of a beak. Competing against the graceful heron is the great bully of the pond, the American pelican

The heron’s meditative hunts are often derailed by the cacophonous splash which announces its arrival. Pelican’s are awkward creatures, their characteristic beaks with leathery fish traps making fine movement difficult. They labor on land, waddling across the banks on unsteady webbed feet. Unlike the heron, who carefully waits for a prime moment to strike, the pelican spends its time laboriously plunging into the brown water of the pond reaching for shadows of movement with an open maw. It repeats this time and time again, using its wings to leap from one dive to the next rather than ever truly becoming airborne. Neither is rarely successful. Occasionally the pelican will toss its head back and shake the contents of its pouch back into its gullet with the gusto of a true glutton, and the heron will juggle its prize headfirst without the use of hands down its throat with practiced ease.

One can watch the heron methodically move along the perimeter of the pond, staying close to the vegetation to obscure its reflection. Its legs adjust painstakingly slowly, while its head moves about a tight arc in regular intervals to scan below the water for prey. Deliberately, its head will inch closer and closer to the surface until it hovers just above the water. In a moment that can feel like forever to both observer and bird, the heron shoots forward. At the same moment, in the deeper center of the retention pond, the pelican hauls its body back out of the water and throws it back face first a few feet away from where it launched. This duality of doing, chaos amongst the peace, is oddly reminiscent still of mankind’s cities. Where different modalities of life can coexist in one reflective and metropolitan pond.


About the Author:

A born and bred East Coaster, Sadie is excited to be returning to the Truckee Meadows as a Lead Restoration Technician with the Parks Foundation. Although she hails from Vermont, Sadie has had the pleasure of calling many places home; from the Eastern Townships of Quebec where

she went to boarding school to the sunny coast of St. Petersburg, Florida where she graduated from Eckerd College with a B.S. in Biology. Her favorite pastimes include playing rugby, creating artwork, or spending any kind of quality time outside enjoying nature. Sadie is looking forward to using her role as a Lead Technician to have a demonstrably positive impact on her new home and help make positive changes to the Reno-Sparks community.


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