Here at the Rye Nature Center, terrestrial denizens are more commonly seen by visitors and documented by staff. However, this summer two aquatic species made an appearance to curious campers and counselors.
In early July, there was excitement on the banks of the Blind Brook when someone spotted a large fish in the central channel. We know there are carp inhabiting the waters on Rye High School property where the salinity is higher due to the influx of high tide.
Our counselors insisted this fish was an eighteen-inch-long bass with a silver body and lateral stripes. With further research, we learned Morone saxatilis is a carnivorous, salt-water fish that ventures into freshwater bays and streams to spawn. Stripers, as they are commonly called, eat smaller fish and a variety of crustaceans like crabs and shrimp.
We surmised this fish must have passed under the Route 1 bridge onto the Nature Center side during a high tide. Camp groups access the brook at low tide onto a sandbar that is exposed near this bridge where the brook widens and is only a few inches deep. Maybe there are young stripers somewhere along the marshy banks of Blind Brook near Playland Parkway!
This spring and summer we also caught baby American eels, dragonfly larvae, and inch-long crayfish. Which brings me to the other interesting find located in the main pond further up the hill. A camper noticed a four-inch lobster-like creature in the mud at the edge of Nanderwhere Pond.
Cambarus bartonii or crayfish, is a member of the crustacean class with eight walking legs and two claws. It uses its long tail to escape predators by swimming in reverse. The crayfish diet consists of plants, detritus, and smaller invertebrates like worms, copepods, and insects.
It was remarkable that we found the burrow excavated from below the pond mud as there was quite a quantity of clay around the entrance. Crayfish apparently can live for extended periods of dry weather underground but until now the burrow has escaped notice. This specimen must have survived many summers avoiding snapping turtles and herons. Its longevity is probably due to its swift swimming ability and its great camouflage.
With Autumn around the corner we look forward to more discoveries in our neck of the woods!
--Mary Gillick, Program Director
"Field Guide to New England" - 1998 Knopf,Inc. (National Audubon)
"Water's Edge" -2012 National Geographic Field Guide