June 23, 2018
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Nesting creatures are interesting to observe

By Judy Kellogg Markowsky

Birds build nests, but beavers, muskrats and people build a house or a lodge. Fish and turtles build nests, too.

Jane Rosinski, Gordon Russell and I went on a walk in Holden. We found a stream with sunfish, white suckers and fallfish. First we saw the sunfish at a nest. Male sunfish build a nest by using their fins to fan the bottom and remove mud that might smother developing eggs. The nest is a depression made in clean sand or small gravel. Females often deposit eggs in several nests. Males make one nest and guard the eggs and young. Some male sunfish stay at the nest for three or more weeks.

Next we saw the nest of a male fallfish. This large nest is made from pebbles, gravel and small rocks. First the fallfish excavates a shallow pit and moves gravel and small rocks into a pile. The fish can build a nest up to 6 feet across and 2 1/2 feet tall. Sometimes the top of the nest is dry after the water level in the stream drops.

Next we found a white sucker in the stream. They don’t use a nest. Instead of using a nest, the white sucker will pick spots that have a gravel or coarse sand bottom. The suckers match up and mate, usually two males to one female. She begins to lay her eggs while two males fertilize them on each side. The eggs are spread out by the current and the movement of the fish. Eventually the eggs sink to the bottom.

White suckers are bottom feeders. They eat all sorts of creatures they find on the bottom, including insects (mainly insect larvae), snails and small clams, worms and leeches. Suckers just suck up their food and swallow it. They have no teeth.

Like fish, some birds use no nest, such as whip-poor-wills and the common nighthawk. Whip-poor-wills lay their eggs on the forest floor on leaves, and nighthawks lay their eggs on gravelly ground or on a flat roof.

We saw some painted turtle nests in a sandy area near the stream. The turtle eggs had been eaten, probably by fox, raccoon or coyote.

Recently I found a tiny baby painted turtle, smaller than the size of a quarter. This turtle was stiff and dry, so I put it into the stream and hope that it recovered.

Nests and eggs are interesting.

For information on Fields Pond Audubon Center, call 989-2591.

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