NANFA-- Quick collecting trip, flame chubs!

Bruce Stallsmith (
Sat, 15 Mar 2003 14:38:11 -0500

I just did a two hour collecting trip to Indian Creek, just to the west of
Huntsville. This upper region has been relatively pristine until recently,
now much of the surrounding woods are being cleared for a planned "urban
village"(!!!) and a new school. I went with another biologist who lives
close to it. The whole experience reinforces to me how important habitat
preservation has become. The land is privately owned and has survived fairly
intact through benign neglect. The creek is at high water levels after
several rainstorms, so much of it was impossible to even pull a two man
seine through. But, in some spring-fed back pools in the broad flood plain
that has been recently flooded, we found a species I hadn't even thought to
look for--the flame chub, Hemitremia flammea. This species is endemic to the
Tennessee, Coosa and Cumberland drainages. It's certainly gone through a
population decline from anecdotal evidence, probably enough to deserve some
sort of low-level protected status. There are probably a fair number of them
in this stretch of Indian Creek, but Indian Creek itself is about to
decline, I'm afraid. The area is about to be another victim of suburban
sprawl, which I think is now more American that SUV's (my apologies to those
of you who actually use these vehicles as SUV's... we drove in to this site
in my friend's Land Rover that he uses uses on his dinosaur digs).

We also found several orangespot sunfish, Lepomis humilis, a more
predictable find since they seem to be easier to locate in seasonally
flooded channels. This stretch of creek is also rumored to have my favorite
amphibian, hellbenders, although it would have taken a crack team of NANFA
seiners to get them today. The flood plain landscape itself was wildly
beautiful, mature oak, ash and beech trees growing up over a carpet of
dogtooth violets (a.k.a. trout lilies), several species of Trilium, and at
least one species of toothwort (pepperroot to many).

So it's really Spring locally, a "cool" day with temps in the high 50s F. I
feel better already!

--Bruce Stallsmith
Huntsville, AL, US of A
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