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Or download the PDF here.
October 18, 2018
Thousands of small, shiny fish are making their way from rivers to smaller creeks this time of year, and biologists are determined to find out why.
In order to gain a better understanding of what triggers this annual migration, Mainspring Conservation Trust is collaborating with Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) on a project to study these minnows. Mainspring’s biologists are also analyzing what creeks or habitats the fish are searching for and how long they remain in the creeks after then find them – before swimming back to the rivers.
Shiners and minnows can be found almost anywhere, but many of the minnows in western North Carolina prefer free-flowing waters instead of the standing water found in lakes. The type of free-flowing water matters too; some species of shiners prefer small creeks while others prefer larger rivers. However, in the fall, there is a mass migration of the river shiners into the smaller creeks. The federally Threatened spotfin chub is one of the species that have been documented to move from larger rivers into small creeks each fall.
In creeks where shiners have been observed before, Mainspring’s biologists are currently surveying every week to determine when this migration starts. Although it varies slightly from year to year, the week of October 8th marked the first indication that the migration had started for 2018, when Whitetail shiners, found mostly in the river, began to outnumber Warpaint shiners, a creek dweller.
Why are shiners important? Anglers are well aware these shiners make up a large part of the diet of our gamefish such as bass, catfish, and walleye. Lots of shiners mean more biodiversity and more and larger fish to catch for all anglers – both locals and tourists.
What can you do to help with their migration? Fish move to small streams for reasons we do not understand, but rarely does any species do something without purpose. Small streams are often the most neglected, and, while they are always ecologically important, they are even more so during certain times of the year. Shading your stream and providing alternative watering sources for livestock are just two ways to take care of what you may consider an insignificant little branch. That’s important because that branch may, in part, play a role in the life of the fish that you or your loved one may catch on the river next summer, or in the life of the one that got away.
Dedicated to saving the nationally significant places in the Southern Blue Ridge, Mainspring Conservation Trust serves the six western-most counties in North Carolina and northern Rabun County, Georgia. Learn more at www.mainspringconserves.org.
By: Kelsey Richardson
August 8, 2018
Mist settled over the Valley as Mark Hopey and Kathy Gunther walked through the tall dewey grass of Welch Farm, monitoring birds to put toward the station’s last set of data for the year.
Hopey and Kathy, who work for the Southern Appalachian Raptor Research, travel to four stations across western North Carolina every summer. For the past four years, the organization has gathered research at Welch Farm.
For 10 days, Hopey, Kathy and other members of their team have taken measurements of mostly songbirds to send to the Institute of Bird Populations. Welch Farm is one of about 500 stations nationwide that gathers such information.
“Our goal is to collect data in different habitats to see what’s breeding and what’s surviving,” Gunther said.
She said the four stations her organization monitor encompass different habitats. Hopey describes Welch Farm as relatively “feral.”
Owned by Mainspring Conservation Trust, the farm is not managed for agriculture. The undeveloped land’s thick brush and river allow for birds to thrive and return every year.
Hopey said unlike the other three stations, Welch Farm’s habitat provides a home for Louisiana waterthrush and willow flycatchers. This year’s most common species of bird found at the site included the gray catbird.
Hopey and Kathy catch the birds through setting up 10 nets around the farm. Each year, the nets are placed in the same locations.
Once removed safely from the nets, they take the birds’ measurements, then release them back where they were found. If the bird has a numbered band on its leg, they mark down its identification. If not, they usually place a band around the bird’s leg.
In addition to members of Southern Appalachian Raptor Research, volunteers contribute to the Welch Farm bird monitoring.
Trekking through the farm during the early morning hours on July 30, Bob and Lynn Appleget took their bird-watching to a new level. Lynn said she mostly watches birds from her property, but never receives the opportunity to get hands-on experience with them.
“It’s just cool,” she said. “I learned about the worm-eating warbler. This is a good reason to be outside.”