Wednesday, April 22, 2009

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.

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6 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