Cape Ann Vernal Pond Team

Millbrook Meadow and Mill Pond Restoration

The Town of Rockport has decided to dredge the Mill Pond in Millbrook Meadow in order to remove sediment and invasive species of plants in and around the pond. Years of sludge (estimate 4,000 pounds), overgrown flora, caved granite walls, and the rerouted brook have damaged the area. Concerned residents have raised private funds and petitioned the city and federal government for money and support. Plans are now underway to enact the restoration.

That said, there are turtles and fish in there that are going to need someplace to go. So... a few people from the Cape Ann Vernal Pond Team, Kestrel Education Adventures, NOAA's Relocation Specialist Eric Hutchins, Rockport High School Teacher Eric Sabo and his students, Essex Tech Teacher Tony Wilbur and his students, Glen Urquhart School Teachers Laura Doyle and Kelly Zaval and their students, and a few others will be involved in moving turtles and fish to the Loop Pond, which is about a half mile upstream from the Mill Pond.  We also hope to make an educational opportunity out of this and the public is invited to these activities.


Cape Ann Vernal Pond Team Activities at Mill Pond... with photographs below

Friday, September 8 - we set turtle and eel traps in Mill Pond.
Saturday, September 9 - we hauled all the traps and did some netting too. All the animals we caught were transported and released at Loop Pond about a half mile upstream.
Wednesday, September 13
 - we reset turtle and eel traps in Mill Pond.
Thursday, September 14 - we hauled all the traps. We had school classes from Essex Tech and Rockport High who helped seine net and dip net fish and other critters out of the pond. They also did water quality tests and measured and documented everything we took out of the pond. The wildlife was transported to Loop Pond. We reset all the traps again.
Friday, September 15
 - we hauled all the traps. We had three classes... Essex Tech and Rockport High, which both had a different group of students than yesterday, along with a fourth grade class from Glen Urquhart School. Students worked hard with seine nets and dip nets and hundreds of fish and other aquatics were captured. Water quality and animal measurements were taken and logged about everything that came out of the pond. The captured critters were moved to Loop Pond.

Photographs of these Activities by Victoria Rolf, or otherwise acknowledged.



Friday, September 8th, 2017
Setting Traps

It was a great day and we set 11 turtle traps and 6 eel traps. Lots of muck to get stuck in. Doing the work was Eric Hutchins from NOAA (the overseer of the relocation project), Rick Roth from the Cape Ann Vernal Pond Team, and Clayton Kern from Kestrel Education Adventures. We got the turtle traps ready and used canned herring and sardines in oil. For the eel and elver (baby eel) traps we used chicken and chicken livers. There's a bit of an art to all this... just so you know.






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Bull frog, Painted turtle and Elver eel (young eel)... found along the way.








Saturday, September 9th, 2017
Retrieving Traps

It was such a beautiful day and we had no idea what was in store for us. It was like we were on a scavenger hunt and it was just so exciting for everyone. I think the best part was having about 5 people who really knew a great deal about different facets of the wildlife we caught. Most fascinating was the American eel and its 2,000+ mile trek from Rockport to breed down in the Sargasso Sea. It is one of the few forms of life that migrate from fresh water to the ocean to spawn in a process described as catadromous. You really must learn more about this cool creature so we added a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service information bulletin about the American eel as a subpage to this one. The total count for the morning was 15 painted turtles, 1 twenty to thirty year old snapper - we think it was Fluffy, a few sunfish, a catfish about 8 inches long, baby eels and an adult eel about 1.5 feet long, along with some leeches and a fish that snuck out of the net during retrieval. Each of these was measured, sex identified (when possible), and the turtles were notched. Then they hitched a ride by automobile up to Loop Pond and released. It was a glorious day and a fascinating opportunity to be a part of this adventure!

Photographs from today will be presented in order of discovery and you will see the cool animals we captured as the morning progressed. It really was suspenseful and exciting!



Retrieval Team Gets Ready


While the Spectators
fill with Suspense







Eric Hutchins from NOAA 
overseeing the relocation project.

Eric is holding the first
critter we trapped.

Rick Roth from our
very own
Cape Ann Vernal Pond Team is assisting with the project.

Rick is teaching the ago-old art of turtle notching below.







Kestrel Education Adventures
also assisting with the project and
providing some educational info.



Painted
Turtle
Hiding

Turtle shells are made of many fused bones. The smaller sections are hard scutes, also called shields, which protect the shell. Scutes are overlapping pieces of keratin - same substance as your fingernail.

The top shell is called Carapace which is made up of about 50 bones - the ribs and vertebrae. The Bridge fuses the top and bottom shells together. The bottom shell is called Plastron.




Eric Hutchins pulls the first American eel trap...
it happens to be empty.



These little cuties in pink are here with their grand friends in pink checking out all the cool and unusual animals.






8 Painted turtles
in this trap!!!

Look at the Carapace and Plastron...
they are unique and beautiful - hence the name Painted turtle




Pumpkinseed from the Sunfish family...

These sweet little fish are called Pumpkinseed
They are multicolored and iridescent with shades of orange, blue and yellow. They have a small little strip of red at the bottom of the gill...although in the babies it can be tough to see without cheaters!


Bullhead catfish

We caught a nice size Bullhead but some folks were unfamiliar with them. Bullheads have flat broad heads, compact bodies, rounded fins and a squared-off tail. They range in length from 8 to 14 inches and typically weigh 1 to 2 pounds. Their fins contain saw-toothed spines that they use for defense and can cause an uncomfortable sting upon contact. The back is darker brown and the belly is yellow. Bullheads are omnivorous and rely on their taste buds to locate food. They feed on insect larvae, aquatic insects, crayfish, snails, clams and seaweed. Bullheads spawn in late spring to early summer in mud or sand and lay their eggs in rounded depressions in the gravelly bottom. They can tolerate low-oxygen, high-carbon dioxide and prefer the acidic muddy bottom where they "breathe" through their skin.

A little catching, measuring, viewing black whiskers, and into the aerated bucket until release.






American eel

The crowd assembled to open the Elver trap (baby eel trap). It is the only trap in Massachusetts that is monitored by NOAA throughout the accessible seasons. The information is documented daily in order to better understand the American eel migratory patterns from the Sargasso Sea into fresh water.





Six more pretty Painted turtles













Adult American eel

Check out the subpage
 
U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service Fact Sheet for some informative reading about this crazy creature.







The crowd and locals were pleased we caught FLUFFY !!!
They were pretty worried about her.
And what's a mother not to love ??? A little nose and chin whiskers.
But be careful of her long neck, sharp claws, and finger loving bite.







Big Ancient Creature


Elegantly sharp claws


Bottom shell that doesn't cover well.

Incredibly long and flexible neck.


Pretty eyes and prehistoric tail.

Observe the scales on her legs.


Check out the holes in the mouth...
Then gaze into her beautiful eyes.

We heard she had a companion and we hope to save him too!!!






Wednesday, September 13th, 2017
Setting Traps

Well, we don't happen to have any photographs of today but the work was similar to September 8th so check it out. We set eleven turtle traps and six eel traps. The setting team was Eric Hutchins from NOAA and Rick Roth from the Cape Ann Vernal Pond Team... and we were too busy working in the water and muck to take any photographs.


Thursday, September 14th, 2017
Retrieving Traps and Resetting Traps

Such gorgeous weather for our work at Mill Pond today. We spent the morning and early afternoon with a few local residents that were observing what we were up to, along with a class from Rockport High and Essex Tech. Rick and Eric pulled the turtle and eel traps and had a few really great discoveries. Kestrel set up three stations for Rockport High which included water quality testing, netting and statistics, and fish migration and grounds exploration. Essex Tech kids focused on capture by dip and seine nets and documenting those statistics. It was great seeing the Tech kids in waders... literally jumping right in. The kids from both schools quickly became motivated and vested in the project once we were underway. It was a rewarding day watching the kids learn and get involved in this hands on project where they had a direct benefit on wildlife. The photographs tell it all.

And let's just start off with something important. Once we heard that Fluffy had a companion, we became highly motivated and interested in catching him... you know... preserve the species and the love... and all that. Big snappers are really so unique and ancient. They make you think about their species - how old it is, how well they've adapted, and how tough... and yet how beautiful they are. 

Meet Franklin !!!










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The American eel





American eel

These photographs depict the eel ladder, elver trap, and eel traps we're using at Mill Pond... along with a couple eel we captured to move to Loop Pond upstream.



When the spring water is running the baby eel slither up the astro turf into the pond. In the fall, when they're 20-30 years old and they're ready to spawn, the adults wait for a big rain and they head to sea... the Sargasso Sea !!!





Rockport High Teacher
Eric Sabo


Rockport High Students




























Saving the world one critter at
a
time!

Essex Tech Teacher
Tony Wilbur


Essex Tech Students





















Just another day at school...



Mill
Brook
Meadow
and
Mill
Pond...

It's
quite
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little
hidden
gem
of
a
park
in
down
town
Rockport!














Eric Hutchins from NOAA and Rick Roth from Cape Ann Vernal Pond Team
Out catching some wildlife to relocate and save...








Turtlin and Seinen !









Makes you just want to give him a little hug... 

The delicate beauty of the Painted turtle 







Turtle net, and the age old notching method to mark the turtles. We also document the size and sex.



Lots of creatures hitch a ride on the carapace and plastron (top and bottom shell). Note the double peace sign !



Friday, September 15th, 2017
Retrieving Traps

Another splendid day and the weather sure cooperated for us. Three classes participated in the Mill Pond rescue and relocation effort today... Essex Tech and Rockport High, which both had a different group of students than yesterday, along with a fourth grade class from Glen Urquhart School. The kids came in working gear and/or as statisticians. We hauled 11 turtle traps and 6 eel traps, plus the elver trap. Students recorded everything and then worked hard with seine nets and dip nets and hundreds of fish and other aquatics were captured. Water quality and animal measurements were taken and logged about everything that came out of the pond. The captured critters were moved to Loop Pond.

Some of the finest moments were seeing the kids actually in the pond from all three schools - some had waders and others had boots. A few youngsters had boots filled with muck and the kids were digging with their hands in the black goop looking for things to save. The best part was seeing them get wet and muddy. Some of them weren't used to it and kept looking for permission and anticipating someone telling them not to get dirty. It was simply the BEST !!!

Teaching Stewardship is Priceless 
Teaching Peace is Priceless 
 Teaching is Priceless 









It's all in their HANDS...






Field
Notes,
pencils,
muck
boots,
blue
back
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Pond Schlepping ...













We caught Colonel Mustard today. What an unusual Painted turtle. One scute (section) of his Plastron (bottom shell composed of keratin) was a beautiful bright mustard color so Rick and the GUS students named him Colonel Mustard. He seemed to really like it and henceforth let all the fourth graders hold him and pet him before his relocation. It was super sweet.


Colonel Mustard









Just another day at school...  
Can't think of any where I would rather be today !  












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