It holds true in the realm of physical science that every action has an equal and opposite reaction. Ecology is analogous — as seasons change, species interact, and resources ebb and flow, the delicate balance of the web of life becomes clear. At Richardson Bay, the best time to appreciate this harmony and observe the web itself is now: the periphery of spring.
Staggering rainfall of late December and January has been balanced by abundant blooms and newly-sprouting plants, already visible at the Center. The relationship between Pacific herring and wintering waterfowl, canon for the Sanctuary, becomes even more stunning as more fish attract more birds, occasionally tens of thousands of individuals at a time. Pellets from a Great Horned Owl on the Center’s trail indicate the steadfast relationship between predator and prey and announce the health of the ecosystem — with both hunters and hunted animals represented, life in all its forms at Richardson Bay is teeming.
However, in moments where life is abundant, loss is inevitable. A walk along the shoreline of Richardson Bay might reveal deceased animals, like birds and seals, that have been washed aground. Rain is critical to our drought-prone state, but the toll of recent atmospheric rivers was costly. As coyotes clash repeatedly and more frequently with humans, we are reminded of the realities of our place in this delicate dance — we are situated squarely in the middle of the web of life, not somehow removed from it or passively observing it. Importantly, loss is not always unfavorable in nature: yarrow in the Demonstration Gardens on site is brimming with seven-spotted lady beetles, devouring aphids that threaten the plant, while an abundance of primary consumers means rare visitors like Black Skimmers can sustain themselves in a place they do not often frequent.
With wildlife so easily visible this time of year, the relationships between individual animals, species, and resources become apparent. Noticing these links reveals truths about our own relationships with the world around us — when we tip the scales of nature, there will be consequences. At Richardson Bay Audubon Center & Sanctuary, we have the chance to tip them in our favor by cultivating restoration projects, education programs, and environmental research, and the community plays a critical part in helping these projects come to life.
To fully appreciate the beauty of wild places, one must understand that everything in nature has an equal and opposite force, and balance itself is what makes ecology so enchanting. At this moment, Richardson Bay is the optimal place to view and appreciate the flux of nature firsthand. We hope you come to see it for yourself.