Popular Posts

Monday, March 31, 2014

Significant Waterfowl Die Off Event in Lake Erie & Niagara River

New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) announced that thousands of dead ducks observed along the near shore waters of Lake Erie and the Niagara River died from starvation.

DEC's Wildlife Health Unit examined hundreds of dead birds and found that starvation is the primary cause of this die-off the result of extensive ice cover and cold temperatures that blocked access to the food diving ducks need to sustain themselves.

"This winter has been harsh to all wintering waterfowl, but especially to diving, fish-eating ducks, who can't access food in ice-capped waters," said DEC Senior Wildlife Biologist Connie Adams. "Wintering waterfowl usually need to eat an amount of food equivalent to about 20 percent of their weight every day, and in extreme conditions or harsh temperatures, they need to consume more to sustain themselves. Because of cold temperatures and iced over waters, many birds have suffered food deprivation since early winter, and are only now starting to die off in great numbers. The small pockets of open water can't provide enough food to sustain the massive concentrations of waterfowl."

DEC estimates that 150,000 to 200,000 waterfowl are wintering on eastern Lake Erie and the Niagara River.

Beginning the second week of January, unusual numbers of dead ducks were observed in the Niagara River, and then in areas of Lake Erie. Sightings of dead ducks have been reported as far east as Irondequoit Bay on Lake Ontario. Diving ducks in particular are drastically affected by starvation this winter, but most types of waterfowl species commonly found in this area have been impacted. The majority of affected waterfowl observed have been red-breasted mergansers and greater scaup, but the harsh winter conditions also has caused distress for other birds, including American coots, lesser scaup, common mergansers, long-tailed ducks, white-winged scoters, bufflehead, goldeneye, canvasback, redheads, pied-billed grebes, horned and red-necked grebes.

This die-off appears to be a natural, weather-related event due to the extreme and prolonged cold temperatures. Diagnostic testing by DEC's Wildlife Health Unit did not reveal any infectious diseases. Hundreds of weakened diving ducks have been recovered by private citizens and taken to New York State-licensed wildlife rehabilitators. The ducks are ravenous and also suffer from a lack of waterproofing, an apparent side effect of starvation. The rehabilitators provide medical attention and food, and most ducks are released back to the wild after their conditions improve.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Helicopters Assist to Reintroduce Brook Trout to Remote Adirondack Pond

Transport of Lime Part of Effort to Mitigate Effects of Acid Rain and Create Hospitable Habitat for Brook Trout in Hawk Pond

Helicopters delivered 34 tons of lime to an acidified pond in the Five Ponds Wilderness Area in the town of Webb, Herkimer County, New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Regional Director Judy Drabicki announced.

On March 6 and 7, approximately 40 DEC staff and New York State Police helicopter crews conducted the liming operation, which included 46 helicopter flights to transport 1,500 pounds of lime from a staging area near the boat launch at Stillwater Reservoir to Hawk Pond. The lime was deposited on the ice at the pond and later spread across the frozen surface. The liming of acidic lakes or ponds is a management tool used to neutralize the water's acidity and create water quality that is more favorable for fish and aquatic life. When the pond thaws this spring, the lime will enter the water and reduce its acidity level.

"Each year, fisheries staff select an Adirondack pond for liming to reintroduce brook trout in the Adirondacks," Regional Director Drabicki said. "This effort involves months of planning and coordination with DEC operations staff, forest rangers and forestry staff, along with State police helicopters, pilots and crews. This joint effort is critical to reclaim waters impaired by acid rain and restore native habitats to these Adirondack waters."

This operation is the first lime treatment for Hawk Pond. This fall, two strains of brook trout will be stocked in the pond: the Horn Lake strain of brook trout, and a heritage/domestic cross. Once the fish have had the chance to spawn, biologists will be able to use the genetics for each strain of the stocked fish to determine which parents are producing offspring and which strain is performing the best in the pond. This research will help guide future management decisions involving Adirondack brook trout ponds.

DEC fishery staff is optimistic that these operations will successfully return brook trout to some large Adirondack ponds and lakes. Larger water bodies in the Adirondacks maintain a deep cold water layer right through the summer (referred to as stratification), unlike the smaller ponds where water layers mix, which results in warmer water temperatures that are not as suitable for brook trout.

For additional information on DEC's liming program or a list of Adirondack trout ponds, contact the Watertown fisheries office at 315-785-2263.

Sunday, March 02, 2014

How's My Waterway?

The American Council for Technology and the Industry Advisory Council recently gave high praise for the Environmental Protection Agency's How's My Waterway?  website and App. This was the first annual Igniting Innovation awards, and out of 30 government agencies and finalists, nothing received more votes than this App.

Both the app and website make it easy to find your local waterways and quickly find their status as to water quality and more. It's all in plain English. The search function makes it easy to select data either via your physical location or by entering the city, state or zip code for the are you're looking for.

Check it out here: http://watersgeo.epa.gov/mywaterway/ and then go check out your waterways!