Saturday, March 19, 2011

Finding fish - alive - in the Menonomee River!

After reading on the Milwaukee Riverkeeper website about a die off of “thousands” of Gizzard Shad, a species of small fish, and the mobs of seagulls flocking to gobble them up, I headed down to the Menomonee Valley to check it out. I did see more than the usual number of gulls, but nothing to get excited about.

What I found more interesting were the live fish, fingerlings, that I discovered swarming around in the recently completed Emmber Lane River Access and Restoration Project. This is where a new pier has been installed, just off Emmber Lane, where it crosses the Menomonee River. I don’t know my fish species very well, so I could easily be wrong, but these little guys look a lot like the Sturgeon fingerlings I’ve helped Riveredge Nature Center restore to the Milwaukee River.

The barrier that was installed to keep this backwater clear of debris is not completely effective, as you can see from this shot. A bloated goose carcass floated amongst the more typical flotsam. However, it is much better than what I’ve seen in previous years. You can also see that the fingerlings are paying the debris no mind.

I took the opportunity to stroll along the stretch of Hank Aaron State Trail that runs west of Emmber Lane. The urban wilderness is stretched especially thin here. But when the sun came out it was quite brilliant. I scared off a flock of migrating ducks I couldn’t identify (white and black; possibly Common Goldeneye) before I could get close enough for a photo. I complained in a recent blog about the overwintering Canada geese and the lie they make of Aldo Leopold’s observation in A Sand County Almanac: “One swallow does not make a summer, but one skein of geese, cleaving the murk of a March thaw, is the spring.” Well, I’m happy to report that these are the kind of geese that prove its lingering truth. It is reassuring to know that they are too skittish to let me near, for it is that wildness in them that raises my spirits - as it did for Leopold.

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