Skip to main content

Earth Day Darters

I've been wanting to swim a few more darter shots into the blogoshere since a successful fishing mission to Big Darby Creek on April 10. And what better day to float these than Earth Day? Although relatively few people will ever get to see a darter firsthand, these colorful little perch family members speak volumes about our water quality, and how well we've cared for our streams.

Capturing darters using the "kick-seine" method. Holding the seine in the fast-flowing riffles in which most darters occur is a challenge, and the effort is increased by the need to move upstream and shuffle the rocks about with one's feet. This spooks the bottom-dwelling darters into the net.

All goes well, and you're in a good spot, and this is the result - a net full of fish.

We quickly transport our captures to streamside aquariums, and drop them in. After the paparazzi do their thing, the fish are released unharmed back into the stream. This day was challenging, as leaden skies cast little light, and spit rain. Keeping all of the glass spot-free wasn't easy.

Beautiful Greenside Darter, Etheostoma blennioides. Rather shocking, these emerald-green beasts. Who'd a thunk such things would lurk below the surface of an Ohio stream?

A multi-colored Rainbow Darter, Etheostoma caeruleum, peeks from the cobble. This is one of the most colorful animals of ANY type in the Midwest. An underwater world Painted Bunting.

Rainbow Darters are often abundant, and probably in a stream near you. It's great that such wondrous fish are common, and let's keep them that way.

A lunker of the darter family, a Variegate Darter, Etheostoma variatum. A big one might tape out at three inches or so. There are other darters in the tank with him, which his aroused his ire. Makes for better photo ops, as the male's will raise their colorful dorsal fins, which are sort of like piscine war flags.

A hard beast to photograph well, the Spotted Darter, Etheostoma maculatum. This is a male, and in good light they show a multitude of bright orangish-red speckles on the side. This species is decidedly NOT common, and is listed as endangered in Ohio. It is also a candidate for federal listing, as Spotted Darters are not common anywhere. Big Darby hosts one of Ohio's few populations.

Spotted Darters are dimorphic; the males and females look different. This is a female, showing gorgeous round speckling on the fins. It was photographed by taking a white plate, and forcing the fish to the front of the aquarium. The effect is a bit stark, but offers a field guide-like view.
It's Earth Day. Please do something good for Mother Earth today. Go outside. Learn a new bird or plant. Join a group. Get involved. Our planet needs all the help it can get.

Comments

Janet Creamer said…
Very, very cool. It is a toss-up between the Greenside and the Rainbow for which I like best.

Happy Earth Day!
Jain said…
It’s true that relatively few people will ever see a darter in their lifetime – but the opportunities are there! The Franklin County Metro Parks system has terrific programs for viewing these firsthand and it’s a blast to get out in the creeks. A fun event for kids, too.

This was a gorgeous series of photos – thanks for posting them!

And happy Earth Day!
Scott said…
Great series of photos. I recently discovered your blog and I would like to say I have thoroughly enjoyed it. I live within walking distance of the Little Darby and I really enjoy these kinds of entries.
Anonymous said…
Jim,
This is such a great series of posts on Darters! There is sooo much to learn on such little fish - so colorful and interesting, relationship to the health of our streams. With your great help we learn and see what we probable would not have known about in life and would have never seen!
Thanks Jim.
Gary Wayne
Mary said…
Someone posted your blog on a plantcycle list I am on and I love it!

I was delighted with the post about darters. I am in Toledo, Ohio, and have a tank of all native, local-caught fish, and the darters are far and away my favorite.

That tank has been a super tool for promoting conservation and water clean up: so many people are fascinated that such interesting and colorful fish are right in their own back yards.

Anyhow, I'm glad to have found your blog.
Anonymous said…
i waz just out toda in december a seen one for the first time it was a rainbow an it was eating a crayfish is was beautyful hope to show my son oneday.elliot erllee vanhall

Popular posts from this blog

The Pinching Beetle, a rather brutish looking bug

The world is awash in beetles, and they come in all shapes and sizes. Few of them can match the intimidation factor of a Pinching Beetle, Lucanus capreolus, though. Those formidable looking mandibles look like they could slice off a finger.

Today was one of those coolly diverse days. I started off down in Fayette County, visiting the farm of a friend. He has restored about 25 acres of wetlands, and the response by the animal community has been nothing short of phenomenal. Blizzards of dragonflies of many species, amphibians galore, and nesting Blue-winged Teal, Pied-billed Grebe, and Sora. Among MANY other things. And all in a short two years. Add water and they will come.

Then, working my way home, I ducked into a Madison County cemetery that has a thriving population of Thirteen-lined Ground Squirrels, and shot images of our native prairie dog. Then, I stopped at a spot along Little Darby Creek, waded on in, and procured some pretty nice shots of various stream bluets and dancers. …

Calliope Hummingbird in central Ohio!

A hatch-year male Calliope Hummingbird strikes a pose. Small but tough, the hummingbird was feeding actively yesterday in 39 F temperatures. It frequents feeders and gardens at a home in Delaware County, Ohio, about a half-hour north of Columbus.

Fortunately, the wayward hummer appeared at the home of Tania and Corey Perry. Tania is a birder, and knew right away that the hummingbird was something special. For a while, the identification was up in the air, which isn't surprising. The Calliope Hummingbird used to be placed in its own genus, Stellula, but has recently been submerged into the genus Selasphorus, which includes Allen's, Broad-tailed, and Rufous hummingbirds. The latter two, especially, are quite similar to the Calliope in subadult plumage. Rufous is the default "vagrant" hummingbird here, with dozens of records and birds turning up annually. There is but one Ohio record of Allen's Hummingbird, from late fall/early winter 2009. Ditto the Calliope Hummi…

Ballooning spiders

Fear not, ye arachnophobes. The subject of this entry is indeed about spiders, but the star of the show is about as cute as a spider can get. And you'll want to know what we're about to learn...

On my recent West Virginia foray, we were strolling down a seldom-used lane, when a bright yellow object caught our eye. It was a goldenrod crab spider, Misumena vatia, on top of a post! Not only that, she - it is a girl - was acting extraordinarily goofy. The spider would stilt up as high as she could go on her legs, weave back and forth, jig side to side, and otherwise engage in what appeared to be spider break-dancing.

Click the pic for expansion, and you can see two columns of silk issuing from her spinnerets. This is an important point, as we set about determining what this non-web-making spider is doing.


So fixated was our spider on her task that she even rejected what would seem to me to be a perfectly scrumptious meal. This little caterpillar climbed rapidly up the post and dire…