Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Bowfin Problem Solver

After all the rain in December and January, we did not think we would be discussing low water levels at the Audubon Center at Francis Beidler Forest by the end of April.  Canoe trips are no longer feasible and the swamp looks less and less swamp-like as the water level continues to drop.  The light rain we received yesterday did little to change that situation.  However, the shallow water is a boon for some predators.

The the water level in the swamp drops, some of the shallow channels get cut off from the deeper channels.  Without water flowing in to replenish water lost to evaporation or transporation, the cut off channels become smaller and smaller pools of water.  Any fish or crayfish caught in those shallow pools become easy prey for owls, raccoons, herons, ibis, egrets, otters, snakes, and other fish.  Other fish?

While on the boardwalk observing Prothonotary Warblers (Protonotaria citrea) for Project PROTHO, we saw a Bowfin (Amia calva) moving up a shallow channel.  A third of the fish's body was out of the water when it met an obstacle to its upstream movement.  A log across the channel caused the fish to stop and probe the length of the log in search of upstream access.  We're not sure what the large fish was seeking in the increasingly shallow water, but we have observed Bowfin eating crayfish and there are plenty of crayfish in the diminishing water.  After finding no path through the water, the Bowfin leapt over the log and continued on its way.  The video below consists of a series of still images showing the event.

Images and video by Mark Musselman

No comments: