Tuesday, June 30, 2009


Save the Sound is getting $1.5 million in federal stimulus money for two projects that seem important.

"The West River tide gate project in urban New Haven is the longer running of the two projects with a start date of July 2009 and an anticipated end date in the summer of 2010. Originally built to protect upstream infrastructure from flooding, these outdated and degrading colonial-era tide gates now protect Memorial Park for the many residents and park visitors. West River’s gates allow water flow in only one direction which creates marsh stagnation, a thriving habitat for invasive grasses, and poor quality water that cannot readily sustain marine life. The NOAA grant will allow construction workers and scientists to replace the existing gates with self-regulating tide gates that will allow water from Long Island Sound to flush the marsh, freshening the habitat, restoring the original ecosystem balance, and allowing fish easier passage to breeding grounds.

"Bride Brook, the second project, is part of Rocky Neck State Park in East Lyme. Despite its small size, Bride Brook is a wholly unique marine system that hosts the second largest migration fish run in the state, bested only by the Connecticut River. The Bride Brook project will restore a salt marsh system and spawning ground for alewives and herring by replacing a collapsing and occluded culvert with an open channel and large box culvert that is more hospitable to fish and marsh wildlife. The Bride Brook project is of a larger scope - in addition to the culvert replacement, over 20 acres of dune habitat will be replanted with native vegetation, and a new pedestrian and emergency vehicle passage will allow access to the eastern part of the park."

See the Dolphins Swim

The Dolphins are "the Most Incredible Sight."

Monday, June 29, 2009

What Does It Mean that Dolphins are in the Sound? Who Knows?

Three marine biologists quoted by Newsday today don't necessarily think that the presence of 200 or so bottlenose dolphins in the western end of Long Island Sound in late June means that the Sound is cleaner. But that didn't jibe with Newsday's conception of the story, so they wrote it the way they wanted.

"Scientists: Dolphins' local swim a good sign for LI," reads the headline. And the lede paragraph says:

The bottlenose dolphins who swam into the Long Island Sound while they chased fish are a good sign that the sound's waters are clean and well stocked with herring, scientists said Monday.

But here's what the scientists actually said ...

Scientist number 1:

"They will go where herring are in higher numbers," Sanford said, adding that if there are more herring in the Sound, "it could be suggested that water quality has improved."

Scientist number 2:

The dolphins' appearance could indicate a return to a former habitat, or it could be a flukish occurrence, Wise said.

"It's not as if we have an animal here that's never been here before. It's just that in recent times they haven't been abundant in this part of their range," Wise said. "Does this mark a reversal of that trend? Too early to say."

Scientists number 3:

"They might've just taken a left turn," Auster said. "They'll make their way out again when their plates are empty."

So which scientists exactly think that the dolphins indicate that the Sound is cleaner?

Which doesn't mean we shouldn't be pleased and delighted that they're here. But we should characterize it for what it is, and we should acknowledge that we really don't know why they're here now.

Summertime Dolphins in the Sound

Hundreds of bottlenose dolphins have been feeding in Long Island Sound in recent days, off Long Island, in some of its bays and harbors, and apparently around City Island. Of course as son as hypoxia starts to hit, in a month or so, the amount of food fish will decline and the dolphins will have to leave, but for now it must be a great sight. Apparently the only news outlet that knows about it is Newsday, here and here.

Old Oyster

My daughter and I were taking photographs along one of the docks in east Norwalk yesterday and I found this oyster shell in a pile of discards -- big by today's standards, I think.

I wrote in my book that 400 years ago, oysters grew to be a foot long and lived in beds that stretched for miles. This one was six inches long (I took the smaller one next to it from Bailey Beach, in Rowayton). Judging from the grwth rings, it was at least 27 years old.
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