Category Archives: Fish

Fish

Nature at Olana

It could be argued that if ever architecture looked out-of-place for its location it is at Olana, in the Hudson Valley, New York State, on the east bank of the river, on the opposite side to the town of Catskill.  It’s origins, however, are of significant artistic interest.

Frederic Edwin Curch's Persian-style mansion at Olana
Frederic Edwin Church’s Persian-style mansion at Olana

Olana is a Persian-inspired mansion that was built for Frederic Edwin Church (1826-1900), an American landscape painter born in Hartford, Connecticut. He was a central figure in the Hudson River School of American landscape painters, and perhaps best known for painting large panoramic landscapes, often depicting mountains, waterfalls, and sunsets… Church’s paintings emphasise light and a romantic respect for natural detail…  [For more detail, go to Wikipedia.]

Rue Anemone
Rue Anemone

I paid two visits to the grounds (which is free on weekdays but costs just a few dollars for admission on weekends and public holidays), once in late April and again early in May.  As I was short of time on both of these occasions I limited my walks to a lap of the man-made lake     although there are several other walks available to visitors.

Hepatica
Hepatica

On both of my visits only a couple of spring ephemerals were present: Rue Anemones and Hepatica, although the latter was past it’s best on my May walk.

As for the lake itself, I have been here a few times but this was the first time I was able to see that there are some Koi carp present (either that or some very large goldfish, if that’s not the same thing!).  The other non-native that was present, but fortunately in very small quantities was the invasive reed Phragmites.

Koi Carp in the lake at Olana
Koi Carp in the lake at Olana

Much more interesting were the male Common Green Darner dragonflies that were patrolling sections of the shoreline, waiting for the arrival of females.

Several birds were present, though I didn’t get good photos of as many as I usually manage.

The ones not photographed included:

  • Northern Flicker
  • Red-winged Blackbird
  • Common Grackle
  • Blue Jay
  • Yellow-rumped Warbler
  • Palm Warbler
  • Golden-crowned Kinglet
  • Tufted Titmouse
  • Song Sparrow
A male Baltimore Oriole
A male Baltimore Oriole

I certainly expected to see more species of migrating warblers passing through but             disappointingly that didn’t happen.

The two species that did surrender to my lens were the      ubiquitous America Robin and the spectacular Baltimore Oriole.

My bird ‘stalking’ usually gets more prolific results!

Last but by no means least, the humble Inch Worm!
Corrected caption:  NOT an Inch Worm but likely a Noctuid moth caterpillar!

While I was there, though, what I took to be an ‘inch worm’ dangling in the sunshine caught my eye.  Most Americans undoubtedly have seen inch worms but after I got home from this walk I looked it up and was staggered to find the claim that there are, in fact, over 1400 different species of inch worm in North America!  To check further, I sent the above photo to someone vastly more knowledgeable than I about entomology and their response was that this was not even an inch worm – a fact     given away by the number of pairs of ‘sucker’ legs!  Instead, this is likely to be the caterpillar of a ‘Noctuid’ species of moth, and there are hundreds of different species of those, too!  My thanks to ‘Ask An Entomologist’ – on Twitter @BugQuestions – for this information.

For those people interested in Mr. Church, his home and his artwork, guided tours of the house are available on certain days. For details go to: www.olana.org/plan-your-visit/

Over the delightfully-named Rip Van Winkle Bridge in the town of Catskill, one can also visit the home of Thomas Cole – a famous English-born artist – which is now a National Historic Site. More info at: www.thomascole.org/visit-main/

 

Dastardly Deeds on the Delaware River?

THE MYSTERY OF THE DEPOSIT DEPOSIT!

A few days ago, I met up with my Swedish fly fishing buddy Peter Bjorkman, at Deposit, New York, for a day’s fly fishing on the West Branch of the Delaware River.  On this occasion, though, I had left my own rods at home and took my cameras, instead.

After a morning fruitlessly ‘swinging a streamer’, Peter switched to one of my own favourite techniques, that of ‘Czech nymphing’, and started to have success.

The 'scene of the crime' - The West Branch of the Delaware River, at Deposit, NY. All of the bodies were in the bottom-right corner of the photo!
The ‘scene of the crime’ – The West Branch of the Delaware River, at Deposit, NY. All of the bodies were in the bottom-right corner of the photo!

In the meanwhile, I was moving along the bank and occasionally in the shallow edges of the river, and while doing so I spotted the waterlogged body of what appeared to be a cormorant, floating among grasses.

The neck and skull ow what I believe to be a cormorant were bare bone but, as shown here, the body and feathers were just below the surface
The neck and skull ow what I believe to be a cormorant were bare bone but, as shown here, the body and feathers were just below the surface

Having gone closer, to take a look, I then found an equally sodden duck’s wing nearby.  And then some relatively dry, breast feathers from a lighter coloured bird — possibly also a duck.

The green 'speculum' on the dead duck's wing
The green ‘speculum’ on the dead duck’s wing

All of this was in an area no more than 12 feet in length, and it seemed too much to be coincidence.

Feathers, apparently from a third 'victim'
Feathers, apparently from a third ‘victim’

I changed my search and started looking for signs of a perpetrator, and almost immediately I got what I presumed was a result.  On a rock a few feet out into the water was some scat (about 1½ inches in length).

“That’s not otter,” I thought (though I’m only aware of what Eurasian otter scat looks like, not their American cousins, and I merely presumed it would be similar).

Scat on a prominent rock - typical behaviour for riverside hunters
Scat on a prominent rock – typical behaviour for riverside hunters

“Maybe it’s mink,” seemed like a reasonable conclusion, so I took photographs of all the bits of the various birds and of the scat, so that I could check my animal tracking books when back home.

My sleuthing didn’t pay off though, because according to my books the scat looked absolutely nothing like that of otters or mink, or of any other riverside predator I could think of.  If anything, it looked most like that of the humble musk rat — to my knowledge not a creature that’s likely to be inclined or able to kill and eat large birds.

If any reader happens to belong to that elite group of people who can recognise creatures by their after-dinner deposits, could you kindly let me know what the scat might have belonged to and thereby hopefully solve the question as to whether this was likely to have been murder most ‘fowl’ (sorry!) or simply a coincidental gathering of body parts.

Peter with a beautiful, very light coloured Brown Trout (which was immediately returned to the water, unharmed - 'catch-and-release' fishing)
Peter with a beautiful, very light coloured Brown Trout (which was immediately returned to the water, unharmed – ‘catch-and-release’ fishing)

And as for my friend Peter, he just kept on fishing, not at all interested in whether or not I had discovered the crime of the century. (And I can’t say that I blame him really!)    {;-)

A 3-minute PBS video about Tifft Urban Nature Preserve, Buffalo, NY

Presumaby shot as a filler for use in between various programs on the WNED television channel, I’ve just happened across a 3m 20s video about Tifft that is well worth watching.

In it, Lauren Makeyenko talks about the history and achievements of Tifft.  It would have been nice if there could have been mention of  — for example — the fact that the current bird list has 264 species named on it but I’m very aware of how editors often chop important information from news and documentary clips!

View it for yourself at: http://video.wned.org/video/2365212936/

WWNP group visit to the Montezuma National Wildlife Refuge [NWR], Seneca Falls, NY

Today’s WWNP group visit to the Montezuma NWR in the Finger Lakes region of New York State was a gem, both in terms of the weather and the 41 bird species seen.

About half of the group when we first arrived
About half of the group when we first arrived

When we arrived, about 8:00am, the sun was in a cloudless sky but there was still a fairly significant frost lying and large areas of the ponds were still under ice.  Initially we all went on the ‘Wildlife Drive’ around the Main Pool, which turned up a wealth of waterfowl, a solitary wader (lesser yellowlegs) and countless industrious muskrats.  After that, our five cars went their separate ways to various viewing areas and we re-grouped at noon, for lunch and a laugh, followed by a second trip around the preserve.

Trumpeter Swans. Copyright 2014, Eddie Wren, all rightes reserved.
Trumpeter Swans. Copyright 2014, Eddie Wren, all rightes reserved.

 

Northern Harrier (female). Copyright 2014, Eddie Wren, all rightes reserved.
Northern Harrier (female). Copyright 2014, Eddie Wren, all rightes reserved.

 

Lesser Yellowlegs. Copyright 2014, Eddie Wren, all rightes reserved.
Lesser Yellowlegs. Copyright 2014, Eddie Wren, all rightes reserved.

The birds seen were:

  • Trumpeter Swan
  • Snow Goose
  • Canada Goose
  • Green-winged Teal
  • Blue-winged Teal
  • Mallard
  • American Black Duck
  • Northern Pintail
  • Northern Shoveller
  • Gadwall
  • American Wigeon
  • Ring-necked Duck
  • Greater Scaup
  • Bufflehead
  • Hooded Merganser
  • Ruddy Duck (David G.)
  • Pied-billed Grebe
  • Double-crested Cormorant
  • Great Egret (Susan W.)
  • Osprey (at nest sites and flying)
  • Bald Eagle (including a surprising group of 11 immatures)
  • Northern Harrier
  • Red-tailed Hawk
  • American Kestrel
  • American Coot
  • Sandhill Crane
  • Killdeer
  • Lesser Yellowlegs
  • Ring-billed Gull
  • Herring Gull
Bufflehead (male). Copyright 2014, Eddie Wren.  All rights reserved.
Bufflehead (male). Copyright 2014, Eddie Wren. All rights reserved.
  • Rock Pigeon
  • Mourning Dove
  • Eastern Kingbird
  • Blue Jay
  • American Crow
  • Tree Swallow (migrating flock)
  • American Robin
  • European Starling
  • Song Sparrow
  • Red-winged Blackbird
  • Common Grackle
Muskrat. Copyright 2014, Eddie Wren.  All rights reserved.
Muskrat. Copyright 2014, Eddie Wren. All rights reserved.

If anyone who was with us at Montezuma has any more species’ names that need to be added to this list, please just let me know.

Similarly, would all the photographers who were in the group — i.e. most of you! — kindy forward two or three of your best shots to me so we can make a gallery of the day’s images that aren’t just by Andrea and I…. please!  {:-)

Speaking of Andrea, she has already sent me some great photos which I will be posting as soon as I can on page two of this day’s write-up and these will then be linked here.

  • Gallery of photos by Kathy Fenna, Esther Kowal-Bukata and Andrea Burke: click here

Eddie — 6 April, 2014

When Catching a World-Record Fish Ends in Heartbreak

On 8th February this year, retired navy captain Rob Scott, from Minnesota caught a 4-pound Lake Trout (actually a species of char, not a trout — Salvelinus namaycush) while hand-lining through ice on Lac la Croix, on the Minnesota/Ontario border.  Shortly afterwards, he was checked by an Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources officer who recorded the fact that Rob had kept his one permitted lake trout — the Ontario provincial limit.  Ironically, if the retired captain had been just a short distance away, on the same lake, he would have still been in Minnesota and would have been allowed to keep two lake trout, and — as you will see below — on this occasion this matters.

Retired navy captain Rob Scott and his 52-pound, world-record Lake Trout. February 2014
Retired navy captain Rob Scott and his 52-pound, world-record Lake Trout. February 2014

The problem came later that day when Rob hooked a second fish, which — at 52 pounds 3 ounces — was not only a new world record for lake trout but was a mind-boggling 77 percent larger than the previous, 18-year-old record of 29 pounds 6 ounces!

According to the book ‘Freshwater Gamefish of North America’, by Peter Thompson, the average weight of a lake trout is just 4-10 pounds, so at 52 pounds he probably thought he’d hooked a stray submarine!  In lake trout terms, it was a behemoth.

All went well until the same  Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources officer who had checked the 4-pound fish saw a subsequent newspaper report about the enormous laker, and regrettably this started an official ball rolling.  As a result, a Minnesota Department of Natural Resources officer confiscated the record-breaking fish from a Duluth taxidermist, and it was then destined to be handed over to Ontario officials.

As a retired police officer myself, I am very aware that rules are rules, and all that sort of stuff, but I really would like to ask Ontario officials just what they think they have actually achieved on this occasion, other than perhaps leaving a bad taste in the mouths of a lot of people.  Of course conservation is crucial, and the majority of fishehrmen I know and fish with would be the first to agree with that belief but in my own opinion, this time around, the Ontario people have scored a PR ‘own goal’ and have little, if anything, to actually be proud of.

Eddie Wren

How salmon help keep a huge, Canadian rainforest thriving

Canada’s Great Bear Rainforest is the largest temperate rainforest in the world. This huge and pristine wilderness depends on an unlikely source for its long-term survival – the salmon which spawn in its rivers and creeks….

In the linked video (see below), ecological economist Pavan Sukhdev, The Nature Conservancy’s lead scientist Dr M Sanjayan and camerawoman Sophie Darlington talk about the salmon’s unsung role in fertilising the forest. The bears who feast on the spawning salmon don’t eat on the river – they drag the carcasses far into the forest. The remains of the salmon contain vast quantities of nitrogen that plants need to grow. Eighty percent of the nitrogen in the forest’s trees comes from the salmon. In other words, these ocean dwellers are crucial for the forest’s long-term survival.

Watch the video, from the BBC, at: http://www.bbc.com/future/story/20140218-salmon-fertilising-the-forests