Story and photos by Derek Doeffinger
The Main Pond at Montezuma (officially Montezuma National Wildlife Refuge) is being drained down to its muddy bottom. As you start the Wildlife Drive you will see acre after acre of wet, gooey mud. But wait, there’s a good chance you’ll also see several great blue herons and a few eagles searching the extensive mud flats.
They’re looking for carp and other fish recently swept in with waters from the adjoining canal. The receding waters have stranded the fish (and other small water creatures) in a few landlocked narrow pools or beached them in the mud flats.
And the herons and eagles have been feasting on them. If you want to see them, start on the Wildlife Drive just past the Visitor’s Center before 8 or 9 a.m. There’s a good chance you’ll spot several birds on your left and a few on your right. As you look left also look just below the bank beside the road, where a channel may still be holding water-and a heron or two.
But why did they drain the water in the first place? To improve habitat for migrating birds. For several years now they’ve begun draining in early May to be ready for migrating shorebirds stopping over on their northward journey. In addition, the absence of water through mid summer encourages a greater variety of plants to take hold for foraging waterfowl that will arrive during the fall migration. Officials will add back the water before the fall migrants splash down.