Monday, March 15, 2010

Capturing Clues of a Waning Winter (3/4/10 - 3/10/10)

With the exception of the sound of waves crashing against ice along the coast, the drumming of woodpeckers as they drill into trees, and the occasional hum of snowmobiles off in the distance, the eastern shore of Lake Ontario is quiet in winter. Recently, I, Steward Liz Wolff, took a trip to Deer Creek Marsh Wildlife Management Area (WMA) to check for signs of human recreation and to capture images of the winter landscape. Though my snowshoe tracks were the only ones around, I did see plenty of animal tracks in the snow, some of which may have belonged to the skunk I could smell lingering in the area. The most incredible sights and sounds, however, were along the cobble shoreline of Deer Creek Marsh WMA. Ice buildup on the water's edge created huge mounds--mounds that were quickly melting as the sun beat down, ushering in early signs of spring.

Top: Ice and snow build up on the shore of Deer Creek Marsh Wildlife Management Area. Bottom: North facing view of Deer Creek. Photos: Liz Wolff, Eastern Lake Ontario Dune and Salmon River Stewardship and Habitat Program

Steward Greg Chapman has been enjoying the sun and warmer temperatures along the Salmon River Corridor. At the Salmon River Falls Unique Area, Greg noticed that the ice sheet which once covered most of the falls has melted allowing the water to cascade into the gorge once again. On a much smaller scale, Greg was fascinated by the sheer quantity of stoneflies emerging along the Salmon River. Close inspection of the snow, rocks, and bridges around the river revealed at first a few, then dozens, then hundreds of these small flies. Anglers wishing to "match the hatch" (a popular artificial bait selection strategy for catching trout) took note of these emerging adult insects, as well as their immature aquatic nymphs. These nymphs can be found by looking under river rocks this time of year.

Warmer temperatures have begun to melt the ice, allowing water to flow over the Salmon River Falls. Photo: Liz Wolff, Eastern Lake Ontario Dune and Salmon River Stewardship and Habitat Program

Stoneflies are an important source of food for larger inhabitants of the river, including steelhead and brown trout. However, the flies are also an indicator of the river's water quality. Stoneflies in general are sensitive to pollution, and their presence is a sign of clean, unpolluted water. The Salmon River, whose waters flow from a 285-square mile drainage basin consisting largely of undeveloped, forested Tug Hill Plateau lands, is considered a high-quality cold water fishery. Therefore, the abundance of these stoneflies along the river is to be expected as an indicator of the river's continued health and cleanliness!

This is a stonefly, which belongs to the scientific Order Plecoptera. All stoneflies belong to this order. Photo: Greg Chapman, Eastern Lake Ontario Dune and Salmon River Stewardship and Habitat Program

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