The 2014 alewife migration on Long Isalnd is underway! Byron Young, a retired DEC biologist, made the first report today. He didn't see a fish, but he did spot the tell-tale sign of shiny scales on the shore. The scales, which could only be from alewives this time of year, are left behind on the shore after an alewife is consumed by a predator - often a raccoon or herring gull. Byron, who has been working on alewife restoration across Long Island for more than a decade, noticed the scales while surveying the pool below the Woodhull Dam on the Little River, which is a tributary to the Peconic River in Riverhead. Based on past surveys, Long Island's alewife runs usually start on the East End and move west. Unless anothe prolonged cold snap hits the region, we can expect to see fish moving into tributaries across the island within two weeks.
And we'll be ready for them! Seatuck and its partners, including Cornell Cooperative Extension, Long Island Sound Study, and NY DEC, have trained dozens of volunteers to participated in the 2014 Long Island Volunteer Alewife Survey, which commences this weekend. Volunteer surveyors will be watching for the alewives' return at streams and rivers across Long Island. Seatuck and its partners are also in the process of installing video-based and electornic fish counting systems in four Long Island tributaries: Peconic River, Carmans River, Carlls River and Massapequa Creek (the photo below shows members of the partner organizations intalling counting equipment in the Peconic River last week). With this tremendous team effort, the 2014 alewife runs promises to be the most carefully monitored on Long Island ever!
it's that time of year. All of the animals in the forest are 'twitterpated' and have started raising youngsters. So far, I've seen newborn fawns and a den of six red fox pups. The quail we raised last year, and overwintered in the coop outside, are no different. They have laid over forty eggs and ten have hatched so far! All of the eggs that hatched are from last year's quail and we're still patiently waiting on the other newcomers to break out of their shells.
The first egg discovered in the coop on April 10th, was moved to the indoor incubator and hatched a month later on May 6th. We moved most of the eggs indoors because the outside quail did not appear to be caring for their eggs. However, we have since had over ten eggs laid in the coop with a very motherly quail watching over them. We are hoping they will hatch and prove to be the first quail-raised chicks at Seatuck!
If you come down to take a look at their progress, I'm sure one of the first things you'll hear as you exit your car, are the quail calling, with a loud "bob-white." We have released several adult quail and still see them wandering around the property. There have even been reports of quail sightings in the surrounding neighborhood yards. We're very hopeful that a population will start to sustain itself in the coming years.
Years ago, many of Long Island's coastal tributaries would be shimmering with excited activity this time of year as the annual alewife runs returned. The small, silver-sided river herring would herald the arrival of spring as they raced in from the open sea to spawn in the cool, clean freshwater of our rivers and creeks. Alewife, like salmon, are diadromous, which means they hatch and spend the early part of their lives in freshwater before moving out to live the majority of their lives in the ocean. When they reach maturity they return to the freshwater systems of their birth to spawn and start the cycle over again. Along the way, alewife play a vital ecological role -- they are one of the most important forage fish in the sea, feeding larger predators such as striped bass, bluefish, ospreys and seals.
Unfortunately, alewife, like all diadromous species, have suffered greatly from impacts to coastal freshwater habitats, including blockage of migratory pathways, habitat degradation and declining water quality. While some alewife runs remain on Long Island, they are only a trickle of what they once were.
Seatuck recently joined a coalition of organizations working to restore alewife runs on Long Island. The first step is to learn more about existing alewife populations, which is why the coalition will be running the 3rd Annual Alewife Monitoring Survey this spring. Seatuck is coordinating this year's survey.
Volunteers are being sought to watch for alewives during the peak of spawning season, from April 1 to May 31. Individuals from observer teams will take turns looking for fish for fifteen minutes a day (ideally everyday, but at least once each week) in a river or creek near them. No experience or fish expertise is necessary; a training will be provided for all volunteers. If you're interested in getting involved please contact Seatuck at (631) 581-6908. More information about the survey is available here at the South Shore Estuary Reserve Office website.