NANFA-- Website Question Followup, 'bama

Bruce Stallsmith (
Fri, 19 Mar 2004 12:38:45 -0500

I took on a question from our website about a month ago through Nick
Zarlinga's good office. Someone who lives just east of Huntsville, in
Marshall County, AL, was concerned that he might have found a snail darter
in a local creek that it turns out is threatened by a proposed limestone
quarry in part of its headwaters (it was actually a sculpin). I finally got
out yesterday and met Dave on Little Paint Rock Creek, coming out of
Ledbetter Hollow on the edge of the town of Grant.

And I'm glad I did! The stretch of creek we visited, along with his 11 year
old son, was dropdead beautiful. Multiple species of wildflowers were in
bloom, including the local species of blood-red Triliium and a smaller
carpeting flower called toothwort. Wate rlevel has gone down to where it's
manageable with hip waders and a solid dipnet. This site is on a 400 acre
tract that isn't posted, so we hopped the outer gate and walked in 'bout a
half mile. If I'd known about this place last summer it would probably have
been a field trip site for the Huntsville convention.

With Dave's son running around the creek at high speeds we only caught two
species of fish in an hour of real netting, stonerollers and a local
Ulocentra darter, the black darter, Eth. duryi. The darter was a nicely
colored female (a few red dots on the caudal peduncle, no red in the dorsals
but pronounced black saddles on the body), obviously plump with eggs. We
also collected some aquatic insect larvae, dragonfly and caddisfly,
consistent with high water quality. I saw some other darters in the middle
of the stream but was unable to catch them with a dipnet. The bigger ones
looked like logperch. I hope to go back with a seine net next week and try
some darter dancing.

This creek runs along the base of a decaying limestone ridge that is rife
with caves and springs. The area is called Honeycomb because of all the
caves and underground springs. A cave colony of grey bats, federally
Endagnered, is allegedly in the area too which would seem to be a hurdle for
some invasive mining like a limestone quarry. And I didn't have a chance to
look for mussels in some likely looking habitat.

I'll check back later on this site.

--Bruce Stallsmith
Huntsville, AL, US of A
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