Thursday, July 14, 2011

Day 32: (Almost) all work and no play

Our customary pre-cleanup marsh exploration yielded a dead adult Atlantic silverside, found in the bay front channel. This photo doesn't sufficiently illustrate the brilliance of it's 'silver-side', a blinding stripe of chrome so impossibly luminous I took the fish for a brand-new lure when I first saw it.

It might have been swept in with the recent high tides. But it was so fresh, I suspect it died after swimming into the marsh. Cause of death: a pencil eraser-sized hole near the ventral ridge, in front of the anal fin. A hit-and-miss by a piscivorous bird? That's one theory. But how did the bird manage to stab the underside of the fish? It looks more like a hole bored by a parasite. I'll be eager to hear any other theories.

Last week I spent most of the day shadowing the nekton monitoring crew. It was fascinating and a lot of fun, but it left me with the guilty feeling of marsh neglect. So today was a day of heavy labor. Sarah and I warmed up by first clearing the west channel. Each new moon tide seems to push in less and less debris, which is encouraging.

We then turned to the most challenging cleanup site, an area I'd been avoiding for the past nine months. The dreaded middle marsh. This area is perpetually muddy regardless of water level, never wheelbarrow friendly, and buried in wood and debris.

Trudge-force was the only option. We removed wood by the armload to the nearest dry point where we could bring the wheelbarrow. And we tackled the wet, heavy debris by pitchforking it into trash cans, and hauling it out one load at a time. Effective if not hi-tech.

While moving logs we disturbed a few little fiddlers. He might look like a monster but this guy was only an inch wide, buried in Sarah's glove.

The camera trap has finally found its Goldilocks position. Not too low, not too high, and with the added benefit of expanded marsh coverage. It now captures both what lands on the platform, and what lurks below. Clockwise from upper left: great blue heron (first record for marsh), green heron, mallard, Moshe.

As for the platform, starlings (5 visits), osprey (3), red-winged blackbird (1) and a willet (1) were recorded. Perhaps this willet returned one last time to lose itself in a moment of retrospective contemplation. How's that for anthropomorphisation, Tony?

The osprey visits lasted for 10, 80 and 40 minutes. One drawback of the current camera positioning is that I won't always be able to see what the osprey is eating. But maybe they'll humor me now and then.

High of 89, max humidity 49%, average wind NW @ 14 MPH, 0.1 low tide @ 12:57 PM. Moon 93% visible.
Water level recorded at 8 inch mark.
Fish recorded in marsh: adult Atlantic silverside (dead)
Birds seen in marsh: great egret, spotted sandpiper, black skimmer, least tern, common tern, cardinal
Birds seen in bay: laughing gull, herring gull, common tern, black skimmer, least tern

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