My Bubbles!
Tuesday, August 18, 2009 | Author: eventer79
Helloooooooooo from Lake Waccamaw, wanderers! As promised I have lots of pictures from one of my favourite places in this lovely state. I am still working on sorting and uploading, but thought I would post this very silly little video of me saying hullo from my office. Bloggers are often shy of posting pictures of themselves for fear of IRL identification, but I have decided to just let 'er rip. ;-P

I will continue with my picture sorting, oh, I mean WORK and post more later today.

Ready or not, here they come....

This lake is one of our TWO natural lakes in North Carolina. The rest are all manmade reservoirs, i.e. dammed sections of rivers, a process that destroys the native life in the river and causes endless problems for the system. As a result, we almost never work in lakes (since we deal with native species and habitats, there is no point in working in reservoirs given that they are such heavily altered environments) so it's a unique experience to swim around in this one.

This type of lake is called a Carolina bay, named historically for the bay trees that line the shores of many of them. Carolina bays actually rarely have water in them year round, Waccamaw is the exception rather than the rule. About 1/3 of the shoreline is state park (easy to identify, it's the nice part NOT dotted with a bazillion houses and a thousand ugly docks and boathouses) and it is drop dead gorgeous. Sandy shores lines with beautiful cypress trees dripping with Spanish moss.

Here my boss searches for broadtail madtoms, a rare species in the catfish family.

We never did find any, but we DID find one tadpole madtom (Noturus gyrinus), a fiesty cousin found in the signature habitat of madtoms:

And he enjoys opera: "!" Madtoms are just freakin' cute.

Waccamaw is also home to several endemic species (found no where else in the world!). One makes its home in maiden cane beds near the lake shore like this one (the cane is the grassy stuff).

It's the Waccamaw darter (Etheostoma perlongum) and you can see they are perfectly adapted to their habitat -- can you find the one in the first picture??

We wrangled other endemics that day including the Waccamaw killifish (Fundulus waccamensis), a lovely little tiger-striped fish,

...and the federally threatened Waccamaw silverside (Menidia extensa; yes, the folks down there ARE the most uncreative species namers in the world).

Another reason I LOVE working in this lake is that it is one of the few places left in the state where you can still find a LOT of native freshwater mussels. A LOT. As in, I can't take a step without landing on two or three of them. A LOT. I hope to put together a post just about mussels for you soon -- they are fascinating creatures with surprising levels of complexity to their lifestyle, definitely having more to them than meets the eye. When you are in the water, this what a mussel looks like, you can just see the water siphons they use to breathe and feed resembling a row of eyelashes.

Once you pull them out of the bottom, you can get a better look at them to identify them. This is my favourite species there, the rayed pink fatmucket (Lampsilis splendida; now THAT'S a good name!).

All in all, I spent two weeks down there, surveying for fish and mussels. We were happy to discover that many species are doing very well in the lake these days and populations are healthy. Now, if we can just find those pesky madtoms....we may have to start a campaign to get people to throw their empty bottles and cans into the water (I'm not kidding, these fish LOVE to hide in those things!) -- they've done too good a job picking up their trash!

I will leave you with this excited and curious school of coastal shiners (Notropis petersoni) who were intent on investigating me while I searched for darters. Wander in wonder!!

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On August 19, 2009 at 4:49 PM , lifeshighway said...

Great pictures. Thank you for sharing your day with us.

I want a madtom.