Wetlands & Waterways

by | Apr 1, 2020 | Parks Department, Programs & Education, Wildlife


Wetlands & waterway habitats are teaming with an abundance of life! From cattail marshes and muddy, forested swamps to frog ponds, bubbling streams and fishing lakes, we are surrounded by water here in Michigan! Below you’ll find a list of wetland & waterway resources including scavenger hunts, stories, art ideas, fun videos, and much more. Let these resources guide you the next time you go exploring in our wetlands & waterways habitats!

Table of Contents

Use the links below to help navigate to the information you are looking for:

Story Time: Over and Under the Pond

Over and Under the Pond by Kate Messner with art by Christopher Silas Neal

Scavenger Hunt

Explore a local wetland area using this scavenger hunt as your guide (click to see it larger). What else can you find?

Video: What’s that Bird I Hear? Wetlands (Part 1)

Have you ever wondered what birds you’re hearing when you visit a wetland? This video is a virtual guide to help you learn 10 common bird songs of wetlands & waterways, including marshes, swamps, lakes, and rivers. Each bird includes a song and a description of what you’re hearing.   After watching, try practicing what you’ve learned by watching the corresponding Soundscapes video below!  Watch for Part 2 of this video in the future.  For more on birds, their songs and how to identify them click here for a free online bird guide.  We hope you enjoy learning while you listen!

Video: Wetlands Habitat Soundscape (Part 1)

After Listening to the “What’s that Bird I Hear?” Videos above, try listening to these corresponding soundscape video that includes the same bird songs.  See how many you can identify before the answer pops up on the screen!  For more of a challenge, see if you can hear and identify the bird songs in the background of the soundscape.  Watch for Part 2 of this video in the future.

Video: Frog Calls of Ottawa County, Michigan

Learn more about which species of frog live in Michigan and sing in the spring! This video will help you identify species by sound.

Here are some additional resources: The Frogs and Toads of North America, book & CD by Lang Elliot, Michigan DNR – Frogs & Toads, Michigan Frog Calls

Video: Virtual Wood Frog Walk

Now that you can identify a wood frog song in the wild, join Parks Naturalist, Curtis Dykstra on a virtual walk to wood frog habitat!

Video: Wildlife Encounters – The Wood Frog

Amphibians of the odd and unusual sort are not reserved for just the tropics. In fact, the end of winter in nearby woodlands and wetlands reveals one of the most bewildering of all: the Wood Frog. Watch the video to learn how this “frogcicle” survives winter and comes back to life in the spring!


Virtual Bird Walks

A special thank you to Kestrel Imagery who created these video (as a volunteer!) for us to share with you.

Join Ottawa County Parks Naturalist, Curtis Dykstra, as he goes birding on April 15, 2020 at Upper Macatawa Natural Area in Zeeland, Michigan. Explore the variety of habitats and the birds they contain at this favorite birding location. In particular, the marshes abound with waterfowl and other wetland birds. Come along to see what birds turn up!

Join Ottawa County Parks Naturalist, Curtis Dykstra, as he goes birding on April 1, 2020 at Bend Area Open Space in Jenison, Michigan. Tune in to relax while you watch and listen to several “soundscapes” at this lesser-visited property along the Grand River Greenway. How many bird songs can you pick out or identify? A list of the birds heard in the video will be given at the end. Want to learn more about which birds the sounds you’re hearing belong to? Click here for a free online bird guide.

Join Ottawa County Parks Naturalist (and resident bird nerd), Curtis Dykstra, as he goes birding on March 26, 2020 at Maplewood Park in Georgetown Township, Michigan. Maplewood Park is not managed by Ottawa County Parks. However, since it’s close to home and a hotspot for migratory waterfowl in spring, a visit here seemed fitting. In the near future we’ll be visiting some Ottawa County Parks as well!


Additional Resources

In addition to the wetlands & waterways habitat activities from Ottawa County Parks, we also want to share other excellent resources with you. All of the following videos and activities have been reviewed by our Naturalist Team and you can be sure the information is accurate and appropriate for children. Use them to dive deeper as you explore our wetlands & waterways habitats!

Water Rocks!

Wetlands Have Really Important Jobs to Do Music Video: Call them wetlands, marshes, swamps, fens, or sloughs – these ecosystems have many really important jobs to do! Learn about wetlands’ many roles, including acting as the kidneys of the landscape, a sponge to soak up the water, and a highway rest stop for birds, plus meet the unique creatures that call wetlands their home. Check out this video by Water Rocks!

There are also some great worksheets and to go with the music video above. Check out the worksheet for Grades K-2 or Grades 3-5. Need some answers for the Grades 3-5 worksheet? Click Here!

Do you have older kids? Water Rocks! created another video geared toward grades 6-12 and up. It focuses on the diverse nature of wetlands and the vital role they play on Earth.

Here are a couple of other videos from Water Rocks! that we recommend:

Incredible Wetlands – IMPA Award Winner

Vernal Pool Kids Video – What is a vernal pool and what kinds of critters live there? Watch this 4 minute video to find out and test your knowledge at the end!

Other Sources

Beavers, Wetlands and Keystone Species – Beavers are critical for creating wetlands that many other animals live in. Join Cornell University Naturalist Outreach students to better understand the importance of beavers AND wetlands.

Trail Camera Highlights: A Michigan Creek – Water attracts wildlife. Check out this short documentary of a busy little Michigan stream showing the diversity of life it supports. Looking for more highlights? Check out: Watershed Wildlife Highlights!

60-Second Snakes: The Northern Water Snake – The Michigan DNR’s 60-Second Snakes video series talks about identification tips and information about Michigan’s snake species. This episode features the northern water snake. Learn more about the northern water snake.

The Grand River: Heart of a Land – Dive into the history and culture surrounding the Grand River, Michigan’s longest river and one that runs through many of our communities. The documentary visits the rich history of the river as told by area Native Americans, historians, recreation enthusiasts, and local city officials.

Wetland Animal Identification Guides

If you find yourself inspired to get out and look for some of the creatures you were introduced to in the previous videos, we found some handy identification guides that will help you identify some of the animals that live in our lakes, streams and ponds.

Check out the BioKIDS Invertebrate Identification Guide for the smaller creatures and the BioKids Field Guides for the larger animals.

Dive Deeper!

Ready to dive deeper? The Michigan Natural Features Inventory has some great informational pages on a variety of habitats found here in Michigan.

Check out these wetland habitat pages:

Get Creative!

Rainy day at home? Can’t get outside to explore? If you enjoyed learning about wetlands, wildlife and nature, these animal models created by Conserving Canada’s Wetlands make a great indoor activity. The instructions come in English as well as other languages.

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