Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Riparian Reserve

The City of Gilbert, which is just to the south of Mesa, has done a very interesting and unique thing with their waste water. They decided they should use it to recharge the underground aquifer. They are doing this by having it percolate down to the aquifer from the surface. After it has been treated and is relatively clean, they put it in streams, shallow ponds and wetlands which they have created in a 110 acre plot of land. They have planted trees and other vegetation along the banks that you would find in riparian areas in the Sonoran desert. There are still a few natural riparian habitats in Arizona, but most of them have been damned and therefore turned into reservoirs or dry stream beds. They have placed fish in the ponds to eat weeds and insects. Some of the birds then eat the fish. There is one small lake where fishing by humans is allowed. There are some 3 miles of paths for walking, bicycling and horseback riding. There are benches and places to observe fauna, primarily birds. The photo above is a view of one of the ponds, with an egret on the far bank.

A red winged blackbird, seen below, welcomed us to his world.

Long billed dowitchers are common working the shallow waters for food, below.

There was a small flock of ring necked ducks the morning I was there, below.

Below is a photo of a great blue heron slowly walking across one of the ponds, stopping frequently. I presume he was hunting for breakfast.

Here is a photo of a great blue heron standing on top of a pole. I wonder if he is contemplating building a nest there.

The last photo is a cormorant. We watched him dive and return to the surface with this fish in his mouth. There was a problem, however. He was holding the fish in the middle, crosswise. In order to swallow it the fish needs to be lengthwise and go down head first. Any other way it will hang up because the fins need to go down flat, which they won't do if it goes tail first. So he tossed it in the air until he got it going right and then he swallowed it. Amazing to watch. The photo below is the flip where he gets it going head first. Serendipity at work allowing me to capture the action.

This is a great place for a morning walk. The only fly in the ointment is some fools have dropped cats off there which of course are now feral. The authorities are struggling with how to deal with this. I think a few red tail hawks and great horned owls would solve the problem.


  1. That last photo is a prize-winner!

    How nice that Gilbert created a man-made riparian area.

  2. Stupid cats!

    I also love the picture of the cormorant -- it reminds me of one that we followed on the Riverwalk in San Antonio. He was working so hard to find a fish, and when he finally did, he dropped it when he tried to flip it. It was funny and sad at the same time. He looked so disappointed in himself. Great picture.

  3. Oh, and I'm also excited to take Peanut on a walk there next time we're in town!

  4. Gorgeous last photo. I agree, it would win awards. We also liked seeing the horses at the homes next to the park. Very nice place.