This is an island of mystery and awe. A few weeks ago an 8-10 foot long, cylindrical animal was reported washed up near the breakwater. Investigation revealed that it was in fact not one organism, but three, American eels, above the tide line situated in such a way that they looked like one continuous serpent. How did this happen? The eels’ heads were buried in the loose rock where a freshwater drainage runs down from the art barn ponds. The last full moon was almost two weeks before and the eels were pretty dried up. It had been a wet spring with high fresh water levels.
If eels were an anadromous species like salmon, spawned in fresh water and spending their youth and adulthood in saltwater only to return when the mating frenzy was upon them, then this would be a relatively easy mystery to solve. These eels had found a source of freshwater and were trying to swim upstream to spawn. But that would be fake news!
The American eel is a catadromous species. It migrates from saltwater to fresh, only returning to its breeding grounds in the Sargasso Sea when it is adult and ready to mate. Rachel Carson described their incredible migration in her first book Under the Sea Wind.
So the mystery remains. Why would three adult American eels wiggle themselves up on the rocks on the night of a full moon in May? What watery scent drove them to their deaths? Is there some elixir in the pond water that drives eels mad with desire? Are they the succubi of the white lady who walks these shores? Only the Vaughan Cottage curator can answer that question.
I’m Alex, one of the two Nick Mahoney interns sharing time between Appledore and Star Island, I thought I’d tell you a bit of what I do. I’ve been out on the Isles of Shoals since June 14th, and I know I’ll miss it once I leave this Monday. Since June I’ve been learning a lot about the culture, history, and natural science of the Isles of Shoals, and I use this knowledge to help give tours on both Star and Appledore Island. On Appledore I participate in the UNH Marine Docent program, and on Star I help out Arthur in the Lyman V. Rutledge Marine Lab. In addition, Ana (my co-intern) and I have also been working on our own project. During the month of July we surveyed children and adults on their opinions on Gulls. This information helped us create a Gull education program, and if you return to the Isles of Shoals next year, you will see the fruits of our labor in the form of informational posters, signs, and pamphlets around the island. Ana and I find the Gulls to be fascinating, charismatic, and at times, humorous birds. We hope you can learn to feel the same way. I’ve learned a lot and really enjoyed my time on Star this year, and I am truly grateful to have been one of your Nick Mahoney interns this year.
For those of you who missed it, one of our fellow shoalers had a busy summer (at least part of it) diving in the U.S. Navy-owned Deep Submergence Vehicle Alvin and living aboard the R/V Nautilus (based out of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution).
Check him out during his pre-cruise interview where he describes his research into the impacts of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill on deep sea ecosystems:
Erik Cordes, an associate professor at Temple University, is a collaborator in the ECOGIG project which works to understand the impacts of oil and gas—naturally occurring and accidental—on the deep sea ecosystems of the Gulf of Mexico. Find a photo album and description of their work on the Nautilus web site here.
As for Erik’s summer—which may also have yielded footage for the film he is working on with other Star Islanders, Acid Horizon—his quote on the Nautilus Web site summarizes it well:
“I have loved exploring the oceans since I was a kid playing on my grandfather’s boat in the Gulf of Mexico and in tide pools on the Isles of Shoals in the Gulf of Maine. I am always excited to join the Nautilus as we go more places that no one has ever seen!”
Follow the Nautilus all the time here: http://www.nautiluslive.org/
Find the ECOGIG album here: http://www.nautiluslive.org/album/2014/06/25/ecogig-beginning
Find Erik on the Nautilus here: http://www.nautiluslive.org/tr/node/6487
Just in time for Star’s September birding weekend, we bring you an interview with Eric Masterson, a land specialist for the Harris Center for Conservation Education. He also happens to be a birding expert (author of Birdwatching in New Hampshire) and leader of the Island’s birding weekends.
A snowy owl.
This interview about a recent influx of snowy owls to the state aired on March 20 in the “Word of Mouth” section of New Hampshire Public Radio. But island naturalist, Arthur Eves, recently witnessed a snowy owl at work on Star this past week during LOAS I. An unusual time of year to see one for sure!
We’ve also seen evidence of their work during the winter, with a Red-breasted Merganser left on the tennis court and eaten over the past year undoubtedly by a snowy.
Hope you listen in and enjoy. Find the story here.
When you’ve finished listening, remember to sign up to see Eric this September 19-21 on the Island as well. Sign up for the conference here. You can also find out more about Eric’s conferences this past May by reading his blog or talking to folks in Natural History Week when he served as the theme speaker.
Find the link for Star’s conference page here: http://starisland.org/conferences/2014-conference-listing/birding-weekend-september/
Find the interview link on NHPR here: http://nhpr.org/post/snowy-owls-granite-state-and-beyond
Find Eric Masterson’s Web site here: http://ericmasterson.com/