River Herring and Shad

By Mathew D'Alessio

Shad and river herring are "anadromous" fish which means that they spend majority of their lives in the ocean, and only return to freshwater in the spring to spawn. Traditionally, these fish spawned in almost every river and tributary along the East Coast.

Reptiles from the Late Triassic

By Amanda Simms

Turtles Basking on the Anacostia

I’m not talking about dinosaurs; I’m talking about turtles. It may surprise you to know the turtles existed when the last of dinosaurs were evolving in the late Triassic period, about 230 million years ago. Turtles can be found all over the world and there are approximately 300 species living today.

In the Anacostia watershed, we have 19 species of turtles. The most common in suburban areas (your backyard) is the box turtle. In coastal plain areas musk and mud turtles are most common. In different types of water, from freshwater to brackish (a mix of salt and fresh water) we see more snapping turtles. And in larger bodies of water like the Chesapeake Bay and the Atlantic Ocean, sea turtles lurk.

Wonders on the Water: A Welcome

Whoosh! The flap of the cormorant’s wings lifted it away from the water. It didn’t seem too perturbed by its missed catch. It would have another shot. Twenty yards downriver a snowy white egret stood perfectly still, a lesson in elegance and poise. Red-eared sliders, true to their name, slid one-by-one from their sunning logs into the water at our approach. A bald eagle, barely visible from its great height, surveyed all below.

This is just a glimpse of my first trip out onto the Anacostia River and from this experience, I could tell the watershed and I would have a full year’s worth of adventures and stories to tell by the end of next August.

A cormorant's lunch

Lunch for a cormorant.

5 Good Nature Field Guides for your Smartphone

Smartphones can be extremely helpful when you are working in the field and you need to document with pictures, do some quick species ID or peek into your surrounding landscape with bird's-eye-view aerial imagery -- even for individuals like me, who at some point in our lives have been one of those cell phone rebels seemingly skeptical about the usefulness of all these cell phone technologies. Well, it turns out that now I'm an iPhone hog and my smartphone has really helped me at work and even in the field -- who knew!

There are a number of apps you can download for free or for very reasonable prices. Here are five I use regularly and I recommend to you:

Creatures from the River: Bryozoa

Yesterday, while out conducting routine water monitoring, our Water Quality Specialist Masaya Maeda found this blob in the water near Bladensburg Waterfront Park. Not as pretty as some of his other photos but it's still part of our river's ecosystem, and a nifty specimen at that.

It's a colony of Bryozoa, which is a group of organisms that has been around for approximately 5 million years! Most of these critters live in marine waters, but there is one class from the Bryozoan phylum that lives in freshwater: Phylactolaemata. The colonies form on submerged logs, branches, etc. and can be 2 to 7 feet in diameter.

The Wildlife of the Watershed

With the help of our outstanding stewardship interns last year, we started an exercise of compiling checklists of the wildlife reported in the watershed, for which there is a considerable amount of information available out there. We were able to determine the conservation status of the species, at least on a state level (for Maryland and DC) by using NatureServe's Conservation Status Ranks. We consulted several sources including the District of Columbia Wildlife Action Plan, the National Park Service, the Anacostia River Watershed Restoration Plan, the website of Friends of Sligo Creek, the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, and others.

Support the Highways Bee Act

What is the Highways BEE Act?

The Highways Bettering the Economy and Environment Act, H.R. 2381, or Highways BEE Act is a national legislation that was introduced in the House of Representaatives during the National Pollinator Week, on June 23, 2011.  The Highways BEE Act proposes important economic and conservation benefits through integrated vegetation management (IVM) practices on Federal and state highway right-of-ways (ROWs) managed by State Departments of Transportation (DOTs).  There are about 17 million acres of ROW's where the proposed reductions in mowing and maintenance could reduce costs for State Departments of Transportation.  No new monies are requested and the proposed bill is actually designed to save $$$ for states.

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