Beekman Creek is tiny stream located in Oyster Bay about where West Shore Road intersects Mill Hill Rd. It is just west of Mill Pond and actually empties into Mill Creek, which in turn empties into the Bay just west of the Waterfront Center after passing through a culvert that runs about 500 yards from West Shore Road to Mill Creek. What distinguishes this creek is that it may contain honest-to-goodness heritage brook trout that are sea run! The last time it was surveyed was in 2007. Today CSHFH (Steve), NYSDEC (Heidi and Bob), LITU (John), Friends of the Bay (Barry Lamb and Paul DeOrsay), and the Hofstra team (Maryanne, Brian, and I) electrofished the creek.
Steve DeSimone electrofishing
We started at the entrance to the culvert on West Shore Road, which you can just make out in this picture amidst the trash and brambles.
Culvert under West Shore Road.
We then moved upstream towards its passage under LIRR.
Looking upstream to tunnel under railroad.
Some of the stream looked pretty good:
But there has been significant degradation of the stream habitat.
John stands in the middle of tree limb cuttings dumped into the stream.
Dammed for ducks.
One section of the creek has been so dammed up with debris that it has become an impassable pond. Unfortunately the survey turned up only a few sticklebacks, eels, and a tadpole (and no brook trout):
One of our few catches: a tadpole.
Perhaps we were just unlucky this time and we haven’t lost another remnant of Long Island’s glorious brookie past. But clearly Beekman Creek is in need of some TLC.
Steve operating the electrofishing equipment
On Tuesday, March 11, we conducted an electrofishing survey of Beaver Brook. Steve DeSimone of CSHFH operated the backpacker, Heidi O’Riordan and Bob O’Connell of NYSDEC collected data, Maryanne Grey, Brian Bartlett (my Hofstra U grad students), and John Fischer (LITU) took on the netting responsibilities, while I helped with PIT-tagging captured brook trout.
Our biggest find was the collection of two YOY brook trout, each about 2 cm length. These guys were probably about 3 weeks old. Last year we didn’t detect brook trout during the electrofishing survey which occurred the first week of March. Our first observation of YOY last year was 3/11/2013 so that’s pretty close to the same time as this year. At any rate YOY have become a pretty regular happening at Shu Swamp.
Our first Young of the Year!
We also caught 18 one year or older trout (last year we caught 19). For the first time we PIT-tagged wild trout before release. Now we will be able to see if there are any differences in their movements downstream. We also mapped the position of all captures. The online map will be updated to include these positions.
A yearling brook trout captured in our survey.
None of these fish had PIT-tagged. This was the same result we got last year. The 230+ hatchery fish we have PIT-tagged and released thus far have simply vanished!
Heat of swamp cabbage melted the snow in its vicinity.
Over the past two years we have PIT-tagged and released over 200 brook trout into Beaver Brook in the Shu Swamp Sanctuary. There are two detection antennas: one at the entrance of the brook into Beaver Lake (“SS”) and the other at the spillway at the other end of the lake (“BL”). The spillway empties into the estuarine Mill Neck Creek. The distance between the two antennas is about 1 km. You can learn more about the release sites and antenna positions along with a cool map through this link: PIT-Tagging Data.
Here is a summary graph of detections at the two sites broken down by season of release. (We don’t have winter since there are no winter releases or detections).
A lot of fish make it downstream to the SS antenna particularly in the spring. A much smaller number make it to the Beaver Lake antenna. In the summer only one trout was detected there likely because of lethally-high temperatures.
Here is breakdown of detections by days following release.
The vast majority of detections occur right after release. It looks like our hatchery fish are on the move right after release. I suspect this behavior is not typical of a wild trout acclimated to its natural environment.
This study was initiated to explore the feasibility of providing access to saltwater habitats for sea run brook trout. As a first step we wanted to see if trout in Shu Swamp could reach the Beaver Lake spillway using hatchery trout as a proxy for wild trout. These results show that they can. However there is no evidence that the results we observe are “sea run” in behavior. It is known that sea run trout enter estuaries in early winter and return to streams in the early spring. We have never observed any detections at the BL antenna in the winter.
Winter is almost over and we are getting ready for a new season of tagging and tracking. We kept the Beaver Lake spillway antenna going through the winter largely running on its solar panel (which recharged marine batteries so it could run through the night). There hasn’t been a detection since early November. These are the same results we got last winter – no detections in the winter. These are some pictures I took in late January after one of our many snowfalls. As you can see from the slideshow, snow and solar panels are not a good combination. The lake has been frozen since mid January and still remains so. Lots of geese collected below the spillway as this one of the few spots that wasn’t frozen. In the midst of that crowd are some orange-collared geese from Canada. The same Canucks were here last winter too.