2017 Mid-Winter Eagle Count at Bantam Lake and Vicinity

Bald Eagle at Bantam Lake with nesting material.  Photo by Leo Kulinski, Jr.

An annual count coordinated throughout North America is the Mid-Winter Eagle Count.  This count is coordinated by the US Fish and Wildlife Service, as well as various state and local agencies.  Observers conduct the count at waterbodies and watercourses while carefully scanning the shorelines for perched birds and looking skyward for gliding eagles.  This year's count was conducted on Saturday 14 January 2017.  We counted one adult bald eagle at Bantam Lake.  We also looked for birds at Pitch, Morris, and Wigwam Reservoirs but did not observe any birds.  Nearly 100 other localities are monitored annually.  This information is very useful for monitoring eagle populations and is a data source that was used when the US Fish and Wildlife Service reviewed the conservation status of Bald Eagle, which was delisted from US Endangered Species list in 2007.  Bald Eagles remained a protected species by many state endangered species lists and the federal act "The Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act".

Bald Eagles have been steadily recolonizing the state of Connecticut as a breeding bird.  New nests are being found throughout the state almost every year.  If we are lucky, we may be able to report that they will be nesting at Bantam Lake soon.  Until then, you can see them hunting for fish on Bantam Lake and River usually each spring, late summer, and into the autumn until the ice covers the lake.  When ice coverage is nearly complete, Bald Eagles fly to nearby rivers that don't tend to freeze, especially at the foot of large dams that constantly discharge water.

Cyanobacteria activity detected under ice in Bantam Lake

Lyngbya, January 4, 2017 Bantam Lake, Litchfield, CT.

Coelosphaerium, January 4, 2017 Bantam Lake, Litchfield, CT.

Aphanizomenon, January 4, 2017 Bantam Lake, Litchfield, CT.
There are few studies that explore the aquatic microbiotic community during the winter season especially under the ice.  Bantam Lake is almost completely covered with ice; I observed an average of 3 inches thick in most places around the lake on January 4, 2017.  I wanted to see if any cyanobacteria was active under the ice.  I broke through the ice at Litchfield Town Beach and performed a vertical sample with a plankton net.  It is important to note that there was no snow on the ice, which can influence the amount of sunlight that penetrates into the water column.  I detected several cyanobacterial groups (images above).  Although no bloom was observed, it surprised me to detect the diversity of cyanobacteria remaining active under the ice.  I also observed one plankton and diatom species from this sample (images below).

Asterionella formosa, a diatom, January 4, 2017 Bantam Lake, Litchfield, CT.

Synura, a plankton, January 4, 2017 Bantam Lake, Litchfield, CT

Northwest Connecticut Ends 2016 in Extreme Drought Conditions

The U.S. Drought Monitor is jointly produced by the National Drought Mitigation Center at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, the United States Department of Agriculture, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Map courtesy of NDMC-UNL.

The drought that dominated the growing season of 2016 persists and is now categorized as an "Extreme Drought".  Little rain or snow is in the forecast so this will likely persist and could impact several wildlife habitats, especially those that rely on seasonal precipitation such as vernal pools, cold freshwater streams, and inland wetlands.  These habitats are typically influenced by melting snow and spring rains, while during "abnormally dry" or "moderate drought" seasons these habitats can be influenced by groundwater supply.  Groundwater supplies have been impacted by this drought that it leaves me to ponder the viability of these critical habitats and the wildlife populations that inhabit them during the growing season of 2017.