Monday, April 30, 2007

Out here, you hardly know you're in the city

Gardner Marsh is a UW Arboretum jewel that's easy to overlook, perhaps because the access points are just inside the Mills Street entrance to the Arboretum, and most passers-by -- whether in cars, on foot or on bicycle -- have their minds on where they are going and head right on by without stopping. The first access point is this unassuming path into the woods, and there's also a boardwalk entrance about 100 yards to the west, just across from the Mills parking lot (click on map to enlarge).

Once inside, the city disappears and seems far away -- even though you are literally only two blocks from the urban hustle and bustle and traffic on Park Street. As you approach the actual marsh, a boardwalk makes a picturesque path throught the woods and leads to several observation decks.

The view from the observation decks seems to go on forever, and on a breezy day the marsh seems to soak up all the sounds from the surrounding, unseen traffic. It's possible to imagine you are all alone, a unique moment of solitude in the heart of a major city.

Gardner Marsh is also one of the best spots in the Arboretum for photographing birds.
For bird photography, the best places are the Gardner Marsh boardwalks and Curtis Prairie. Birds in the arboretum are often wary, so a slow approach is best. In the marshes you’ll likely find Redwing Blackbirds, Yellow Warblers, Catbirds, Sandhill Cranes, and Marsh Wrens. The more open waterways have many species of migrating ducks including Northern Shovelers and Blue-Winged Teals.
The warbler migration is going on right now and continues through the early part of May.

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