4 February 2005

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at the dam in Oxford Mills,

south on County Road 18 from Kemptville, Ontario.

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76 Mudpuppies counted 4 February 2005!


mysterious lights below the dam


what's in the bucket?


slippery handful!


close up

[in bucket]

this is about the biggest we've seen! 325 mm !

We had an eclectic mix tonight, several from the Ottawa Field Naturalists, our local herpetologists, two from the Ottawa Amphibian and Reptile Association, and a group of university students, two from the McNamara Field Naturalists club in Arnprior, and a few who had come recommended by friends in Ottawa. 32 altogether!

When Aleta and I arrived, there were lots of folks standing about the bridge, with Major Wes von Papinešu and past-president Mike Rankin demonstrating the Mudpuppies along the west shore to a galaxy of other visitors. This is where I'd put a disk of frozen frogs in the water at 17h30, but there was no clear indication that the frog-bait had attracted any of the 16 Mudpuppies Wes reported in that area, because the freeze-dried frogs had floated at the surface. (MEMO: next time freeze a rock in the centre of the mass of frogs).

With Mike and Wes handling near-shore interpretation, and catching 3 medium-size Mudpuppies for the bucket, and Aleta on shore to interpret them, I was free to wade the whole width of the extensive open area and make a fairly good count: 48 seen in going across the upper flats, and caulked under the east-spillway ledge. The water coming through the centre and west spillways was probably too violent for there to have been many caulked there, though the water was so churned up I couldn't have seen them if there had been.

Then I went downstream and counted 10 on the lower flats, many of them half buried in moss, which is quite luxuriant in mid-channel this winter. Wes and I chopped about 20 sq m of the still very-slippery ice from the west side flats and revealed only 2 more Mudpuppies, so they mostly seem to have been out in the main current, and mostly well upstream. The total counted was 76, and any duplication between Wes' 16 and my 48 would have been cancelled out by underestimates of the number downstream. They averaged smaller than last week (perhaps because the small size-mode was better populated), but I caught one exceptionally large individual for the bucket from the downstream flats. Mike Rankin saw a Cottus (sculpin), the only non-mudpuppy animal noted.

Unfortunately, those on shore, even with lots of lights, were able to see only a few of the 'puppies, because the water was finely turbid (with a whiff of anoxic 'cat-farts' smell), and the observers mostly stayed up on the old ice ledge, which is now a full metre above the water level (ice on the flats is too fragile to support more than a couple people, and was too slippery to recommend).

When we retired to the Brigadoon, the 'puppy in the bucket was brought in for three sets of diners to exclaim over, so we probably reached in excess of 60 people with Mudpuppy lore and experience tonight.

(-10C, clear, calm, Vantage Point sheathed in ice, all spillways bridged by ice, ice not much extended beyond what was present last week, little foam, water boiling up from under ice at the west spillway and steaming below east spillway, no open water visible from the bridge.) Unless we have a major thaw, I anticipate similar conditions next week, when the Kingston field Naturalists will be the visiting group.

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