Missouri’s Stream Fish

And now for something completely different…  I have been working on the following video off and on for most of the summer.  I’ll post it up here, and will speak a little about it and share some stills and other photos below.  I would love to hear any thoughts you might like to share.

Working on this video has been educational in more ways than one.  All the footage used was taken with the GoPro Hero 3 (gifted to me by my lovely and generous wife, Sarah.  Thank you!).  Although capable of tremendous quality, there are challenges and many things to learn when making this type of video.  Although I improved with a little practice, a few problems are still apparent in the final cuts.  There is a back available for the GoPro that allows you to see what is being filmed in real time. However, this piece cuts the already limited battery life by a lot, and I do not own one.  This resulted in the fish being partially or fully cut out of the frame more often than desirable.  I partially corrected this problem by finding some prescription swim goggles (quite cheap!), snorkel and swim shoes.  This combination allowed me to get in the water and behind the camera.  After a little practice, filming the different species in such a way as to not intimidate them became easier.

Another issue that I had is obvious at different parts of the film – early stage hypothermia.  Although these clips were made on some of the hottest days of the summer, these spring-fed streams cooled me down so much that I could not control my limbs from shaking.  I am considering investing in a wet suit to avoid this in the future.

This activity helped start me on knowing Missouri’s fishes a bit better.  I had never given much thought, but so many species have to be in-hand in order to get a proper identification (at least by me).

Long-eared Sunfish
Long-eared Sunfish

The Long-eared Sunfish were incredibly brilliant.  When filmed in less than three feet of water under direct sunlight, the colors dazzled.

Smallmouth Bass
Smallmouth Bass

The Smallmouth Bass were quite common, slowly patrolling the pools that were their private hunting grounds.

Hogsucker
Hogsucker

The bottom feeding Hogsucker were one of my favorites.  Quite colorful and contrastingly patterned, they could still disappear easily on the sun-dappled stream bottoms.

Green Sunfish
Green Sunfish

The Green Sunfish were one of the most common and surely the least shy stars of the film.  Quite often they would inspect the camera and our skin with their mouths.

Minnow
Minnow

Even with field guides I find it impossible to name some of the minnows.  These guys were surprisingly large.  I think they may be a shiner species, but am unsure.

Red Horse
Red Horse

There were many large Red Horse species found in deeper stretches of the streams.

Spotted Bass
Spotted Bass

This was the only Spotted Bass individual we were to come across.

Darter
Darter

Greenside or Johnny Darter?  I just can’t say.

Yellow Bullhead
Yellow Bullhead

The star of the film?  I think so…

Wood Duck Drake
Wood Duck Drake

The out-of-water footage was taken via canoe along the upper stretches of the Jack’s Fork River.  A terrific trip we had, back in May, where the weather was fine and the birds were plentiful.  Getting to know the underwater vertebrates really helps to appreciate the roles many of the birds play along an Ozark stream and how all the members of this intertwined ecosystem make their respective livings.  This Wood Duck drake posed for a short time towards the end of the day.

Osprey
Osprey

Finding an Osprey is a telltale sign that there is a quality fish community below our seats.

Broad-winged Hawk
Broad-winged Hawk

The high-pitch sound of the Broad-winged Hawk almost always precedes a look.  This was no exception.

Green Heron
Green Heron

Green Heron know where the fish are to be found as well.

Spotted Sandpiper
Spotted Sandpiper

Typically, if you spot a shorebird along an Ozark stream bank, it will be the Spotted Sandpiper.  Look for the indicative bobbing of the tail as it makes its way along the rocky shores.

Common Map Turtles
Common Map Turtles

Common Map Turtles were found anywhere they could get a surface on which to bask.  They were so keen on heating themselves up that we were allowed to float by at pretty close distances before they took the plunge back into the water.  These guys will feed on the invertebrates such as mollusks and arthropods as well as any fish they are able to catch.

Bald Eagle
Bald Eagle

Finally, it just isn’t a trip out to any significant Missouri waterway without finding a Bald Eagle or two.

 

 

 

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A Warm Winter’s Day in the St. Francois

With forecasted highs near 60F, there was no question what I would be doing this past Saturday.  The only problem was where to take a hike!  Being mid-January and a warm, sunny day, I knew that Lower Rock Creek would not disappoint.  As expected, the Ozark Witch Hazel was in full bloom and beautifully fragrant.  The sky was completely clear and the lighting harsh for much photography of the many water features the area has to offer, but of course I had to try.  Ultimately I just tried to enjoy the hike and experience the wilderness that life continually rips from my fingertips.  There were a good number of ice formations still left on north-facing canyon walls and this particular patch was beginning to melt, releasing its maker into a mirror-like pool that ultimately fell down this drop and married with the rest of the stream.  I looked for ways to get closer to these formations but could not find a safe passage.

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Technical details: Canon EOS 5D Mark II camera, EF17-40mm f/4L USM @ 40mm, ISO 200,  f/11, manual blend of two exposures

On the way upstream, I stayed off the trail as much as possible; I preferred following the creek bed although wet and icy rocks often made this a challenge.  A couple of times near bends I was forced to go up and over a ridge because of lack of good foot or handholds above the creek.  After about three hours of rock hopping with my 30lb pack, fatigue started to creep in and I twisted my ankle bad enough to cause a minor sprain/strain.  This was very close to this wonderful swimming hole, so I pulled my boot and sock off and dunked my foot into this spring-fed water… for about 30 seconds.

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 Technical details: Canon EOS 5D Mark II camera, EF17-40mm f/4L USM @ 25mm, ISO 100,  f/11, manual blend of two exposures

 On the way back downstream I followed the trail most of the way, shedding layers as the temperature rose over 5oF.  Along the route I was fortunate to spot a coupling couple of Eastern Garter Snakes.  These light-bodied snakes, much like grasshoppers and Morning Cloak Butterflies, will often wake up and see what’s happening on a warm winter day.  And usually, the males have something other than food in mind.  As can be seen in this image, the female was about two thirds larger than her mate.  Following a successful copulation, the female can store sperm until closer to the warmer months, and many snake species can and do copulate several times and will actively select sperm of her choosing.  I tried my best not to disturb this pair too much.  They were rather laid back and didn’t seem to be alarmed, even when I lowered the diffuser mere inches from them.  When I left the male was still busily making his intentions known, while she kept her eye and tongue focused in my direction.

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Technical details: Canon EOS 5D Mark II camera, EF100mm f/2.8L Macro IS USM, ISO 400,  f/11, 1/40 sec

 After having some lunch at the car I tried my best at finding the John James Audubon Trail that I have been wanting to visit for a while.  After some fruitless searching I was unable to find a single trail-head, placard, sign or blaze marker that I was confident in.  Unless I hear otherwise I will consider this a defunct trail.  So I decided to visit the Castor River Shut-ins and spend the remainder of the daylight hopping around on even more rocks.  The lighting was still rather poor and I had little inspiration for finding a composition so I experimented a bit, focusing on the effect of minute changes in exposure time on capturing the movement of flowing waters.

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 Technical details: Canon EOS 5D Mark II camera, EF24-105mm f/4L IS USM @ 60mm, ISO 320,  f/7.1, 1/13 sec

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Technical details: Canon EOS 5D Mark II camera, EF24-105mm f/4L IS USM @ 80mm, ISO 400,  f/6.3, 1/40 sec