Who Stole My Gully?

Who stole my gully? It was there yesterday! And what happened to the two retention ponds? Now there’s one large pond with dreams of becoming a lake!

I’m shocked by how much our little landscape can change overnight. Take a look at this recent video of me walking through the gully that begins not far from the Nicholas Drive pedestrian bridge in Wheaton.

Where did my gully go?

Now get a load of me standing next to the same gully today. Where did it go? It’s lucky for me that I have been spending so much time here that I know what the landscape looks like even when it’s underwater. Sligo Creek is a fantastic place to explore but I would advise people, especially children, not to venture too far off the paved path during and after hard rains or snow melts. Let Eye On Sligo Creek be your virtual guide when the weather is dicey.

If I spot a safe place that offers the chance for me to get filthy, though, there’s only one thing I can do! I hope you do the same.

Go around and stay dry, or tromp through the middle of a muddy pool? That’s an easy one.

You may be an adult who is a well-respected member of the community, but that doesn’t mean you should be afraid to tromp through a creek like you’re 12 years old. Maybe even teach your kids how to cook up some good old-fashioned mud pies! They’re way better than anything they can make with their phones.

Mud crossing complete, I meander back toward the dam-end of the unified pond. A belted kingfisher is hanging out on the top of a dead tree that’s still standing. It’s always better for trees like this to remain upright whenever possible because even a dead tree still provides a lot of good eats to insects and other creatures. They also make for great hunting perches for kingfishers.

I point my binoculars at this one and feel a little bit of pride: I can tell that this kingfisher is not the same one I saw last time out. This one is a bit rotund, no offense. I begin to draw her orange markings in my field notebook. It looks like she’s wearing a bowtie. (I’m generally guessing on gender; I have years to go before I reach that level of knowledge. I also use the word “drawing” loosely. I’ve written about 1.5 million words in my personal journal in my lifetime but I can barely draw a straight line or a circle.)

Won-ok and I move around to the far side of the pond and hide in a thicket. We hope the geese will put on another concert for us like they did recently. Not a lot happening at the moment, though. What gives? They’re all slumbering through this Sunday morning. I do see the adorable mallard honeymooners from last week. I would faint if they were any cuter. I hope their passion burns bright for years to come.

Stormwater runoff created landscape changes overnight -- filling this gully.

A pair of humans bound just as tightly as the ducks catch my attention. A man wearing a big black cowboy hat and his wife have dropped down from the dam so that their dogs can prance along the water’s edge. “Dogs” might not be the right word for them; “horses without saddles” might be better. Either way, I’m happy to see people getting off the paved trail for even a few minutes. It’s a different world out here.

An actual horse passes by on the trail just as the humans and dogs return to it. It’s carrying a policeman. I’m always grateful for the mounted police who are keeping an eye on Sligo Creek. I’ve never encountered much of a problem on the trail in the dozen years I’ve spent on it, but perhaps that’s because everyone knows that law enforcement is around.

I have often thought about the idea of creating some sort of volunteer park ranger/neighborhood watch program to provide additional safety. I always look out for people in distress when I’m riding my bike from Wheaton to Lake Artemesia and back. Give a group of volunteers some flashy vests, a direct line of communication to police and other volunteers, and some basic training – maybe that would be another way to encourage even more people to get out on the trail. That could actually be a great volunteer project for a group of concerned citizens to take on. You could certainly put me down for some shifts.

That’s probably enough random rumination for today. Let me just make one more video to sum it all up!


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