My first assignment as the newest member of the Eye On Sligo Creek team? Go for a walk on the Sligo Creek Trail near my Silver Spring home, take some photos of wildlife and watersheds, and share a little knowledge about what I see. I’m an environmental science major at the University of North Carolina Wilmington with a love of photography. What a great way to get my summer internship started!
This daffodil flower was the first thing that caught my eye. In a densely packed forest, there is competition all over. Plants are fighting for a space to receive sunlight. This flower, found along the edge of the trail, has been able to grow with the right nutrients, sunlight, and water – three must-haves for a flower trying to thrive in dense brush.
Looking down on the creek, I thought about how often we hear the word “watershed” without always thinking about what it means. A watershed does NOT contain water; it’s the area of land that a creek or river draws its water from. For example, we are in the Sligo Creek Watershed. We are also in the Anacostia River Watershed because the water around us and in Sligo Creek will end up in the Anacostia River. Not only that, but we are in the Potomac River and the Atlantic Ocean watersheds because Sligo Creek flows into other Anacostia tributaries before making its way to the Potomac and out to the ocean.
The picture of the creek with the sun peeking through the Sligo Creek Trail shows the forest has a variety of densities. The sun is showing prominently through a thin line of trees. You might also notice that there is an outline of houses. Within a thin forest like this section, certain wildlife lacks the necessary habitat to survive. There have been instances where deer come into contact with the neighborhood. The close proximity of urbanization can limit the abundance of deer in this particular area.
Encountering wildlife is always one of my favorite parts of exploring the creek and trails. The picture of the deer looking at me was taken behind a thick area of brush a family of deer call home. I noticed them and came to realize this is mostly a safe haven for them. There is enough vegetation to provide food and enough coverage where they can be safe. There is wildlife all around us, even when we might not notice.
I wish every picture I take could portray only positive images and thoughts, but that’s not realistic.
As I was heading into Sligo Creek at the bottom of Belvedere Boulevard, I observed runoff water. Runoff is the draining of water that can carry all types of material. Here we have runoff from the street leading directly into Sligo Creek. Runoff can contain many types of pollutants that have a direct, negative effect on wildlife. There can be fertilizer, oil, trash waste, and many other things that have headed straight into the creek.
When fertilizers and other nutrient-rich materials end up in the water, eutrophication may occur. This is the process where water builds up the nutrient levels, which is food for algae. The increased plant growth due to nutrients eventually becomes a problem when there are no more nutrients for the plants. The plants die off, causing the DO (dissolved oxygen) levels to decrease. Organisms such as fish rely on oxygen to survive. When there is no oxygen available, the number of organisms decreases tremendously.