Friday, June 1, 2012

Note from Maumee: More of the Same

In the Preface of the book, I gave an account of a formative experience of change in the built environment focusing on a triangular field adjacent to the elementary school I attended. Because of a slow down in the housing market, the landscape was for a time frozen in the transition from agricultural production to suburban subdivision. It was, for a brief time, on its way to becoming a meadow that could support what seemed to me a surprising diversity of bird life.

That field was a short walk from the house in which I grew up.

My parents have moved twice since then, most recently to a new condo development in unincorporated Monclova Township, just outside Maumee. When I first visited them here, just over a decade ago, I heard a rumbling out back, some time after sundown. When I looked out the back window, I was surprised to see the words "John Deere" pass by, just a few yards away. The field behind my parents' place was then still in cultivation.

Since then, the same developer who built my parents' place has been at work preparing the surrounding fields for further construction but, as with the triangular field of my youth, the housing market has soured and the pace of development has slowed to a crawl. Once again, a landscape is stuck in transition from one state to another, and so is taking the opportunity to become something else entirely.

A short walk from my parents' place takes me to Strayer Road in Monclova Township, which here looks like any other gravel road out in the country, though one that is especially well graded.

Just ahead and to the left is a field still in cultivation: soybeans are just starting up.

Now, looking down and to the right from this spot, there is a kind of swale that in wetter years is more of a pond. Further to the right and back, just past the margins of the swale, are patches of marshy ground that sport cattails.

If all plans come to fruition, this could easily end up being a "water feature" in an industrial park.

Now, looking back and to the left from that same spot on Strayer Road, recent development seems to cling to the ground.

In the foreground is an artificial mound that will separate planned development from the road. Just past the mound, the ground has already been prepared with the infrastructure of a development yet to be built, including roads and electric and other utilities.

The evening before I took these pictures, I was out for a walk with my spouse. Even casual observation, unaided by binoculars or field guide, yielded quite a census of birds: barn swallow, red winged blackbird, song sparrow, goldfinch, mourning dove, killdeer, and mallard, just for a start.

From the top of a green electric utility box, a horned lark watched us walking by.

I saw the lark again the next day, in about the same place, and attempted to take a picture of it. To do the job right would have required a much better camera than the one on my smart phone! 

There is a lonely water feature in the background, waiting for the condos the value of which will supposedly be increased by its presence.

Meanwhile, I paid a brief visit to the neighborhood in the triangular field, to see how it looks nearly 30 years later.

It is now a mature suburban neighborhood, not without some charm.

This is near the spot on which I saw a ring necked pheasant, and the savannah sparrow I saw a few months later was perched, if memory serves, on a green utility box behind one of the houses on the left in the photo.

As I noted in the book, this newer neighborhood is very much like the neighborhood in which I grew up. The time that has elapsed since then has all but erased the differences between them.

For comparison, here is the street on which I grew up, a development only fourteen or fifteen years older than the one in the triangular field.

For further comparison, here is a photo of the street on which my parents now live.

I find myself wondering what it will be like in another twenty years.

[Corrected 6/7/2012: I had originally misidentified the horned lark as an eastern meadowlark, perhaps forgivable because I'm out of practice as a birder and didn't have by copy of Sibley with me!]


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