NANFA-- Day3 Snorkle Post Huntsville
Tue, 1 Jul 2003 11:14:09 EDT

Day 3
Studying the map i found my error. What i thought was an interstate exit was
not, so had started to far east. Reorienting i quickly found myself at the
remembered site from several years prior. As i parked on the bridge and made a
faltering mobile phone call an overall clad fella walked out to me along with
his dogs. He began telling me how everything was posted, and about snakes and
about a boy dieing in a diving accident just downstream off some bluffs. A very
odd fellow i thought him to be a bit touched as they say in these parts. Nice
enough but a wee bit unsettling in his manner and questions. He gave me
permission to park but at the same time warned me of his brother and the fella down
the way who owned the property were the boy had been swimming. I knew there
were a couple more crossings upstream and i told the fella i would scout ahead
and would likely return later. A short distance upstream another crossing
provided a more inviting opportunity. I parked and jumped into clear water. Nearly
every site during these 3 days had provided excellent visibility and i was
very grateful. I worked my way up and down the stream checking out pools and deep
flows. A submerged car filled with silt lay in one upper bend. Haunting as i
approached it, ffirst i saw the tire, then the door and Oh my! its a car!
Nearby i was able to clasp the large branches of a submerged tree and peer 10 or
12' deep into the slabbed depths. I hoped to see a HellBender searching out
crayfish but Rainbow Trout and Red Horses filled the deep water. Masses of
Rosefin Shiners, a few more Blenny Darters and all the regulars from the days
before. I had remembered more confusion from unknown species in my past visit but
believe my identification skills have much improved. i was only miffed a few
times in all. I found a creeping outflow a ways downstream and eased into it.
Clumps of an tighter Anacharis type plant were about. The water was not much
cooler but very calm. I pulled myself through the water just inches above the fine
silty substrate being very careful not to disturb it. The habitat felt
leechy, snakey. I carefully peered ahead and a Pickeral raced by me. Only 6 or 8"
but at home in his lair. I had caught a tiny grass pickeral in this stream,
downstream at the first bridge in the prior visit years before. The Duck River is
just a few miles downstream so probably offers some unusual river fish coming
upstream at times. I kept my eyes alert, more dense clumps and finally lush
growths of the plant covered the bottom. A few Snubnosed Darters scimpered about
and very quick Newts dashed by. The Newts would not allow me to get anywhere
near them. I suspect they were Red Spotteds as i see them at other regional
sites to the east. I worked my way back out to the main stream and noticed a new
species of fish. I think they were Creek Chubbsuckers. I have seen these but
only once or twice before in mid and south Alabama. Their dorsal fin's black
leading spine flicks straight up and the fishes body is short and stubby. This
was a school of juveniles it appeared numbering about 8 or 12. I did not
observe them as much as i should have as the creepies were a bit unnerving in this
tiny back water. A interesting microhabitat that yielded a couple more
I headed upstream in the van and snorkled another site that yielded the same
species more or less. I decided to try to visit the convergence of the Duck
and Tumbling Creek. No trespassing signs and the wide flow of the Duck river put
the fear in me from attemping to swim across to the joining. I returned to
the first site i had visited the evening before during my scout run. Again a
pretty site on the same stream though no new species. I did note that the River
Chubbs were actually Red Tailed Chubbs. The smaller one's tails and fins were
very red. I collected a few and some of the Tennessee Shiners. I loaded up and
headed to a smaller trib of this creek known as Sugar Creek. It passed just
under the freeway and hosts a Trout farm and spring just upstream. In it were
even less diversity though a very healthy population of fish and crayfish
resided. Greenside, Snubs and Rainbow Darters. A proliferation of Rosyside Dace and
Stripe Shiners. I collected a couple Rosysides to observe and a fella from the
Tennessee Water, Conservation and Environment drove up. We discussed the
species i had observed, the health of the stream and the concerns of the proposed
landfill upstream. I had read about it in the local paper the night before and
how the community was riled up against it. Several folks claimed how the
project was going ahead without the proper permission. He assured me it had not
begun and in all likelyhood the land fill would not be permitted. The land
upstream at the proposed site had already been clearcut but the streams substrate
seemed healthy silt free. I certainly hope it remains so and that the little
town of Bucksnort will prosper with such a cool name and beautiful water flowing
through it.
The day was wrapping up and i wanted to be back home and in my bed by
midnight. I stopped at Rudy's Restaurant and had one of the finest catfish dinners i
have ever sat down to. These 3 days had been the best snorkeling foray i had
yet experienced. 3 days of clear water, many new species and the pulsing orange
orb. Very fine. I would like to strap on a snorkel cam to share some of these
images. A autofocus digital motion camera strapped just above my face mask
with a flexi cabled switch and a small flip down monitor beside my mask. :)
Something i saw a few streams back was a full tilt Fantail Darter. Intricatly
and distinctly pattered along his side as if by an ultra fine tattooist. His
head was black and his dosal fin was tipped w/ egg mimics. When i came across
him he was darting about a beautifully patterned Crayfish. He repeatedly
darted in and nipped at the crayfish. The crayfish had backed into a small crevase.
The darter plunged into the crevases shadows and the crayfish would jerk and
twitch. Out would come the Fantail his head jet black and then circle back in.
Eventually he found the tenderspot on the crawdad and sent him on his way. I
carefully lifted the rock and underneath laid neat patterns of egg clusters.
The Fantail had been hard at work defending his nesting site. The whole
episode took several minutes. The Fantail's head would blacken intensely at times
and after the crayfish had left the black head faded to the straw color of the
body. An impressive and defensive display, that would have made a cool video
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