By Howard Meyerson
When Doug Klein goes birdwatching along the Thornapple River near Nashville, he often is pleased about what he finds. Birds are numerous, particularly at the nearby Nashville site where a 155-year-old dam stood until 2009, when it was removed.
Wet meadows now grow upstream, an area formerly under water. Wetland birds visit marshy areas and waterfowl are plentiful in the river. For Klein, an avid birder and eBird lister, Nashville is a very productive spot.
“It’s a pretty nice place to go,” notes Klein, a mechanical engineer and Hastings resident. “Fifty-nine species have been reported there on eBird. I’ve seen 57 of them. We see Trumpeter Swans, Rusty Blackbirds, various songbirds, and Sandhill Cranes. One good find last May was a Philadelphia Vireo. Those are getting hard to find. On some mud flats you might see Killdeer or Lesser Yellowlegs. It’s an interesting place to find a variety of birds.”
Old dams coming out
Aging dams around Michigan are being removed with regularity. Some are torn down to improve fish passage, or to reduce water temperatures for species like trout. The Nashville Dam was removed to improve water quality for warm water fish. Others are demolished because they outlive their purpose and may be expensive to repair and maintain.
No matter what the reason, proponents of dam removal maintain that river restoration is good ecologically. Allowing a river to resume its natural flow, depth, and width yields benefits for fish and stream organisms, for animals in the area, and for regional biodiversity. Yet some birdwatchers say they worry when dams come down, when impoundments are drained, and when the landscape is radically altered. Flooded areas provide homes for important or favored bird species. Continue reading