Saturday, July 30, 2011

Roanoke logperch

Roanoke logperch Percina rex

The "king" will soon be at the VLM! The king of what? The king of darters! Darters comprise several Genera of the Family Percidae (perches) and are typically small stream fishes but may inhabit swamps, ponds and lakes as well. And the king is Percina rex - "rex" literally means king - the Roanoke logperch. This fish is not only beautiful, but is one of the largest darters in North America, reaching up to 6 inches. It also is one of the most endangered. Listed as a Federally Threatened and Endangered species, P. rex inhabits only streams in the Roanoke River drainage, but even this small system is losing ground. The Roanoke logperch requires a clean stream bottom to feed and reproduce and many of its native streams are being degraded by sedimentation and human activity.
 Mountain redbelly dace from the Mountain Cove exhibit

We have been lucky enough to acquire some of these rare specimens to display through a loan from the VDGIF's Aquatic Wildlife Conservation Center. The fish were part of a freshwater mussel study and cannot be released into the wild, so they have generously agreed to let us display 10 of their beautiful animals. The aquarium staff and I will be revamping the Mountain Stream exhibit, which currently contains many darter, dace, sculpin and shiner species, to remove many of the darter-eating sculpins currently in the exhibit and add some specialized habitat to accommodate the logperch; they like to overturn rocks with their snouts to search for food. We will also be adding a great deal more darters and dace (such as the mountain redbelly dace pictured above) to the exhibit. Look for the changes around the end of August.
A banded sculpin in the Mountain Stream exhibit, they often prey on smaller stream fishes

Friday, July 15, 2011

Chippy the barn swallow

Juvenile barn swallow

One of the benefits of the museum is that we are exposed to a wide range of animals, not just fish. As a licensed wildlife rehabilitator, I have the opportunity to care for many types of local wildlife from red foxes to barn swallows and everything in between. This swallow (pictured above) was found at Little Creek Reservoir dehydrated, malnourished, and exposed on a very hot day. I have mentored staff member Patrycja Lawryniuk on its care and she thankfully shares the duties caring for it. Birds are often mistakenly picked up by humans who assume they were abandoned - most are not - and people quickly realize that they take an extraordinary amount of care. This little guy is fed every 45 minutes from dawn to dark. Because of its high metabolism it has grown quickly from a fledgling (above) to a flighted adult (pictured below) in less than two weeks.
This handsome bird, nicknamed "Chippy" has thrived primarily on insects, and will soon be released back into the wild to catch his own bugs. When you get an up-close experience with a bird, and I am reminded every time, you realize how delicate, beautiful and complex birds are. And what a joy it is to watch them fly off into the wild. 

***Wild animals, especially birds should only be cared for by licensed caregivers or animal medical professionals. If you do find an injured/orphaned bird here is a helpful website;