Articles of Interest
Annual Fish Migration
Yes, Connecticut has fish migrations! The alewife, blueback herring, sea-run brown trout, Atlantic salmon and shad journey up the rivers and streams to spawn each spring. During the 18th and 19th centuries over 1400 dams were built in our state to capture water power that fueled the wheels and turbines for gristmills, textile mills and sawmills. Unfortunately, the dams cut off the migration of the spawning fish.
Some of the smaller old mill buildings are now owned by private homeowners who treasure them as picturesque and a reflection of local history. However, many old dams are falling apart or serve no useful purpose. There are 16 dams on the Connecticut River, 12 of which are hydropower projects and over 1000 smaller dams on its tributaries. Fish have been deeply impacted by centuries of dam building, particularly anadromous species like American shad, sea lamprey, blueback herring, alewives and Atlantic salmon that return from the ocean to spawn in our rivers, streams and lakes. The dam on Mill Brook, near Rogers Lake was built in 1672. Completed in 2013, The Connecticut River Watershed Council partnered with the Town of Old Lyme and the Connecticut DEEP on a project installing a fish ladder at the dam impounding Rogers Lake.
The dam caused a dividing line across a species. On one side the alewives continued their old seagoing life, but on the other side, in Rogers Lake, other members of the same species became landlocked. The landlocked fish are now just a third the length of their foot-long seagoing cousins. David Post of Yale University states that these alewives are not nearly as sexy as Atlantic salmon or as funky as eels, being silvery and nondescript (on the sexiness question, one theory holds that the name "alewife" derives from their big-bellied resemblance to a female tavern keeper), but, to the ecologist, the alewife is a keystone species. As predators, they "drive the ecosystem" of every coastal lake and stream from the Carolinas to Maine. As prey, they, along with other forage fish are the basic food stock for the entire Atlantic fishery as well as for seabirds, whales, dolphin and other species. Post has been studying the effect of mingling the larger seagoing alewives with the smaller landlocked variety.
We wait and see whether we can undo the harm that the dams have caused.
~ Linda Clough
Recycling, not wasting water is a well-known action for living sustainably. Here are more: When picking up dog poop on your property or as you walk your dog around the neighborhood, be sure to put it in a reusable plastic bag. A plastic bag from your newspaper is ideal. Put the bag in your regular household garbage where it will be burned in a trash to energy facility. Never put dog poop on your compost pile! Dog waste contains harmful bacteria and parasites that do not degrade in a compost pile. These harmful substances can pollute your well water or they can wash to street drains and pollute Long Island Sound.
If you have leftover paint, varnish or wood stain, they can be recycled at several locations. Check out for more information. The Essex Transfer Station will take paint but only April through October. During the winter months home improvement stores will take paint. One is Ring’s End in Niantic. Call 860 739-5441 for more information. If you go online there are many other locations. Store your household hazardous waste for the Essex Transfer Station when it opens in April.
If you would like to receive the DEEP winter newsletter on line let me know and I will send it to you. You can then decide if you want to sign up for other issues.
~ Diana Blair, Conservation
After sweat & tears (no blood) a Climate Agreement in Paris was signed on by all nations. The Agreement sets a 1.5 degree Celsius of warming as a top for each nation, not to exceed 2 degree Celsius. Each nation will set up its own priorities on how to lower CO2 emissions reporting back voluntarily to a commission on progress. Now fingers are crossed that countries will implement the necessary steps to a safer planet.
Recently all East End supervisors and mayors of Long Island endorsed a statement opposing a plan by the General Services Administration to sell Plum Island to the highest bidder. There are now over 63 organizations in favor of permanently saving the island for nature by donating it the Fish and Wildlife Administration or other conservation entity.
Piping plovers nests were up this year to 62. However, young fledged were down slightly, 112, versus 116 the year before. Predation by coyotes, raccoons, skunks, dogs, cats, gulls, crows, and humans (stepping on nests or creating stress) were suspected. Piping plovers share ever popular beaches with human activities such as parties and fireworks. Only so many plovers can nest on a beach as they defend a territory for each pair. Now you can have your outdoor cat collared with a device called Cat Tracker and find out where kitty spends her time and what she is doing. How far does a cat travel? How many birds and small mammals are captured? What dangers are there? Google Cat Tracker and find out what your cat is doing. Do not include indoor cats!
~ Diana Blair, Conservation
Plum Island’s 843 acres, located directly off the coast of Southport, Long Island is known to most of us as the place where the Federal animal disease lab operates. The lab area acreage is a small portion of the island. However, casual visitors have been prohibited from landing on its beaches. As a result nature has flourished virtually untouched by humans since World War II. It is comprised of a remarkable diversity of habitat types, wetland, coastal forest, scrub, marine inter-tidal and more.
The island is an important stopover for migratory birds as well as a bustling nesting area. Plum Island’s secluded beaches provide a safe breeding area for piping plovers, osprey, common eider and other at-risk birds. In addition there are at least sixteen rare plant species including a large population of the orchid, Ladies Tresses.
Despite the ecological value of Plum Island the General Services Administration intends to sell the island to the highest bidder when the Federal Government plans to move the lab to Kansas. Connecticut Fund for the Environment and other environmental & community organizations are leading the way to challenge this decision when the lab moves. Senators and representatives in Connecticut and Long Island have written to the General Services to protest this action and instead have insisted that the wild part be turned over to the Fish and Wildlife Administration. This plea so far has fallen on deaf ears.
While this drama plays out, the public can enjoy the photographs of Robert Lorenz and paintings of John Sargent of Plum Island at the art gallery at Essex Meadows during the months of November & December. They will also be at the Old Lyme Library next fall in September, October & November.
~ Diana Blair, Conservation
Take a Hike
Be sure and check out the Old Lyme Hiking Trails’ map in the latest edition of “Old Lyme Events”. There are so many beautiful preserves in our town to explore.
Most preserves have a more gentle path to follow and more difficult ones depending on your walking abilities or energy level. It’s easy to print out a map. Simply go to the web site for the Old Lyme Land Trust or the Old Lyme Government & follow instructions.
If you want a view, the Lohmann Buck Twining Preserve has a great one of the Connecticut River plus a walk along the Lieutenant River. The John Lohmann CT River Preserve has great views of the river. Watch Rock Preserve offers water views and bird sightings. But whichever one you select from the map you will enjoy Old Lyme’s natural features.
Many of the preserves are there because of the generosity of residents of our town. The Land Trust benefited from a generous bequest making it possible for them to buy land or partner with other to do so. Our town government has received gifts of land or easements from people who love their land and wanted to see it saved from development.
~ Diana Blair, Conservation