Last Sunday, CFL director, Steve Carpenter, happened to be out and about with his camera and spotting scope on the Lake Mendota shoreline. Out in the middle of the lake, where the ice edge met the open water, he spied a large gathering of migrating tundra swans. “There were several hundred of them in the center of the lake,” he reported. The birds were “too far away for my camera but visible in a spotting scope,” enabling Carpenter to get this shot. “It’s a great year for bird watching,” Carpenter says, because all the northern species are in town and we are a long way from [Mendota] freezing.” Continue reading
As fall gives in to winter, we thought we’d hold the long cold season off a bit more with a tale from open water days and the warming months of spring…
A number of years ago, CFL senior research technician, Ted Bier, got a call from a friend who had just biked in to campus from the east side of Madison. The friend had spotted a couple of large fish offshore and thought they might be carp or muskies. Bier had a different hunch so, on the way home, he brought his dive equipment and underwater camera. He knew it would be a long shot to find the fish sight unseen in Monona’s murky water, but Bier started at the spot his friend had identified and, after only 10 minutes of searching, spotted the 6-foot-long form of a lake sturgeon hovering over the lake bed. Minutes later, he spotted its companion. The video of his encounter is below.
As a species, lake sturgeon have been around a long, long time. Continue reading
A University of Wisconsin-Madison researcher says states should be looking to the skies in order to save fish.
Brenda Pracheil, a postdoctoral fellow at the UW-Madison Center for Limnology, thinks it’s time for fish to garner the same protection afforded migratory birds. Migratory birds are protected by the federal Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918, and state collaboration and federal oversight span borders and encompass large conservation efforts in migratory flyways, especially for waterfowl.
But many freshwater fish migrate, too, says Pracheil. In fact, she notes, some work their way through thousands of miles of water and cross half a dozen state lines in the process. And that’s why, she argues, fish need “swimways.”
An interesting scene has been playing out in Lake Mendota lately. Right outside the doors to Hasler Lab, common loons and common mergansers are busy fishing all day long. In January, this is undoubtedly easier than in the summer. Low productivity in the lake means crystal clear waters and the cold temperatures mean sluggish fish. It would be easy pickings, if it weren’t for one other variable – the gulls.
Herring and ring-billed gulls are what’s known in the animal world as “opportunists.” While the loons and mergansers are busy working for their meal, the gulls wait patiently for one of the diving ducks to surface with a fish in its beak – they then make a charge, scare the successful fisher away and gobble up any dropped fish.
The scene is one we at the CFL usually enjoy during the fall migration, so it’s definitely interesting to see it all unfold in the middle of January. By this weekend, though, temperatures should finally drop enough to give Lake Mendota its winter cover of ice. Then the fish will be safe from the mergansers and the mergansers safe from the gulls.
Until then, we’ll enjoy a view associated with an entirely different season.