What You Can See on May 30
Submitted by Ted Williams on Tue, 05/30/2006 - 06:32.
From Audubon’s Earth Almanac by Ted Williams and compiled in “Wild Moments,” edited by Connie Isbell, Illustrations by John Burgoyne, Storey Publishing, 174 pages. Underwater Artist If the United States had a national fish, it would be the ubiquitous bluegill sunfish, alias “kivver” or “sunny”—a native or transplant in ponds, lakes, and dawdling streams almost everywhere in our nation. In May—when the belly of the male turns sunrise orange—he eases into the shallows to scoop out a plate-size depression with his tail in sand, mud, gravel, or clay. Then, with the flair of a French impressionist, he adds a leaf here, a stick or pine needle there. Step onto the masterpiece with your bare feet, and you’re apt to get bitten on the toe by the volatile but toothless artist. He fertilizes the female’s eggs as she deposits them in his nest; then he guards them jealously. When they hatch, he protects the fry for almost a week, until they have absorbed their yolk sacs and struck out on their own. Few freshwater fish provide better table fare than bluegills, and none are easier to catch. Usually that is a prescription for disaster, but so prolific is this species that the main management challenge is thinning out populations to prevent stunting.