Dave and I are back from flying Tangier Sound. The news is good. The beds in Back Cove, Terrapin Sand Cove, Twitch Cove,
Shanks Creek, between South Point Marsh and Goose Island, in the Little Annemessex River,
southeast of Cedar Island, and in the Cedar Straits are in good shape and very dense.
The only exception is the bed due East of Drum Point,
which we could not see.
Particularly encouraging was beautiful, extremely dense growth at the North side
of the mouth of the Little Annemessex close to the launch at Crisfield, and the
South shore of the Big Annemessex off of Janes Island. The beds in these areas
looked as good or even better than the Smith Island beds, and will provide a great
break from any North or East winds we may get, allowing us to work on days we
otherwise might need to miss due to weather.
We weren't able to look at the beds just south of Crisfield due to a line of
storms which we danced around all morning. We will need to look at these by boat,
which we will do next week to check the flowering stage of the plants themselves.
What a nice ride we had, just a beautiful morning despite the weather.
This year for the first time in 2 years I am able to get out and start sampling and groundtruthing in the spring on the APG waters. Good news we are finding plants starting to come up all over already.
On 5/4/2004 we found Myriophyllum and possible Elodea canadensis but this
cove was full of Hydrilla verticillata last year so possibly it was just
young Hydrilla in Doves Cove.
Small amounts of Myriophyllum was found in Redman Cove.
On 5/6/2004 we found Potamogeton perfoliatus, Myriophyllum, Potamogeton
crispus and some small floating pieces of Vallisneria americana in
We also found Myriophyllum and cripsus at the mouth of Canal Creek.
CBP Fellow Kenna Oseroff and I canoed on Muddy Creek and the Rhode River
today, so I could prepare for a field trip I am leading there on Friday
and show her some local SAV. We saw bald eagles, water snakes and
thrashing carp along the way.
The Rhode River has had no SAV mapped since 5.9 ha were mapped there in
1978, so our expectations were low. Some patches of widgeongrass (Rm) and
horned pondweed (Zp) have been reported by citizens (most recently in
1998, see http://www.vims.edu/bio/sav/sav98/quads/sr030.html) but no
other species recently. Coontail (Cd) was reported in upper reaches of
the river in 1991, and Sago pondweed (Ppc) from the same area in 1986.
We were pleasantly surprised that in about 2 hours on the water we found
numerous patches of 3 species of SAV growing in murky water, starting
right at the canoe launch. Secchi depth was 0.45 to 0.5 meters and
water was chocolate to reddish brown. We
found Milfoil (Ms), Sago pondweed (Ppc), and horned pondweed (Zp) in the
lower, tidal portion of Muddy Creek. The creek was about 0.8 m deep or
less at low tide in this portion and the SAV occurred across the creek
with Zp more limited to the shallows. The Ppc was long and green with
large bayonets but no flowers or seeds. One plant we collected still
had a turion attached to the roots. It is surprising that sago has not
been reported from the Rhode River with a ready source of propagules in
this creek draining into it. I suspect that sago has been
mis-identified as widgeongrass (Rm), since it rarely flowers in the
mesohaline waters where I have seen it, and Rm was reported from the
tidal fresh portion of Muddy Creek in 1993 and Rm is rarely found at
salinities less than 5 ppt in Chesapeake Bay (although it grows in fresh
Farther downriver the SAV were more limited and we found very sparse Ms
and Zp in a few shallows, but no Ppc. In Boathouse Creek we found a more extensive dense bed of Zp in the
shallows; mute swans and mallards were nearby and probably feeding on it.
Greetings from South River, Maryland. Horned pondweed is all over the River.
While it is present in shallows, it seems to be the healthiest with
dense coverage in the 2.5-5 foot contours. In the deeper water, it is
growing almost up to the surface. Virtually the entire River is thick
with it, which may explain the large number of commercial trotliners in
the River. A nice widgeon bed is up with moderate coverage east of Long
Point in Selby Bay, I noted widgeon in the shallows (<2') at Cedar
Point. Large amounts of Zannichellia washing up on shore as water
I have also noted quite a bit of Eurasian watermilfoil in the head of Duvall
Creek off South River. Last year was the first time I'd ever seen it in
South River and it is quite a bit more dense this year.
06/27/04 Fred Kurst
Chester River (Shippen Creek and Robin Cove) (Quads
It is interesting that I have not seen any quantities of SAV in Robin Cove. It
is pretty well protected and difficult to get into. Also, in the past there have been a couple of
large fish nets almost in front of the entrance to the cove. I will check
it out again.
Yesterday, I went to Shippen Creek and did see SAV there. No where near what we saw last summer but
it is early. Today, at the mouth of the Corsica I could see 24 inches to
the bottom. A lot of large green leaf algae, or at least that is what I
call it, at the sand beach about a half mile from the mouth on the north side.
I will be interested in how Church Creek right adjacent to
Eastern Neck Narrows is this year. This is pretty well protected and the land on both
sides of the creek has good buffer area before there is any farm land.
There are very few houses in that area and not much boat traffic there that I have
I have begun 2004 SAV surveys in the Chester River area. Water in the
Chester and around Eastern Neck is clearer this year than for many years,
and there are grasses in places I've never seen before. Most of the areas are
not dense growth, but it is better than I've seen for a while. I'm seeing
that redhead grass, widgeon grass, sago pondweed, and milfoil have
returned. I'm also seeing a lot of coontail around the bay side of
Eastern Neck Island. There are two really large dense areas of several
acres extent. I have not seen coontail here before. I believe it likes
lower salinities. Measured salinities here have dropped this year from
12-15 ppt to 10-12 ppt. In areas of grass the secchi depths are up to 1 meter.
06/30/04 Peter Bergstrom, NOAA
Magothy River (Old Man Creek and Cattail Creek) (Quads
The Secchi depth was 1.8 m in small tidal creek of Magothy (Old Man) near my house
today!! A record high for that site (I've sampled there since 1991) including fall
samples. Sadly nearby Cattail Creek (next creek downriver) had only 0.5 m Secchi depth.
Mainstem near Ulmstead had 1.5 m Secchi depth, which tied a previous summer record from
July 1993. The mixed SAV bed next to the Ulmstead pier appeared to be similar in size
and density to last year, still limited in depth (out to about 1 meter MLW) and mostly
redhead grass which was dense, to the surface and had stared flowering. There were
smaller amounts of horned pondweed (dying back), widgeongrass (not yet to the surface or
flowering) and sago pondweed (which never seems to flower on the Magothy).
I just got back from spending the week on Kent Island doing
shoreline survey. We saw quite a bit of SAV. Very large beds of
Zannichellia throughout, several species of Potamogeton, and what I suspect
was Ruppia which had died back for the summer. Water clarity was
extremely good in parts. We could clearly make out bottom critters in
more than a meter of water in areas.
One interesting note: Aside from your friends the mute swans and newly
resident geese and mallards, we saw quite a few other birds which should
not have been there. This included a flock of buffleheads, pair of canvas
backs, and a surf scoter. While the scoter and buffleheads aren't big SAV
eaters, there certainly seems to be a trend going in the Bay for migratory
birds to begin living here year round. This may in the future include
more SAV eaters like the canvasbacks we saw. It will be interesting to
see if this trend continues and if so, if it begins to affect the upper
bay grass beds.
I cannot confirm Ruppia blooming as I did not have time to pull up much.
When I did have time to pull up the various thin leaves grasses, it most
always showed Zannichellia fruits with the one exception, which was a thin
leafed Potamogeton. I never pulled up any Ruppia flowers. However, much
of the area was covered by a very low thin leafed grass, which may have
been Ruppia which had already flowered and died back for the season. Our
work load prevented me from spending the time on a proper ID.
PS. The Potomac at the 301 bridge was an interesting fluorescent pea
Magothy River Association volunteer Carl Treff organized redhead grass plantings on the Magothy in 2002 and 2003 that both used the same site, on the upper river at the Grachur Club near Cockey Creek. They were done in conjunction with CBF's Grasses for the Masses and I provided technical support. I visited the Grachur SAV site on 7/6 and 7/10/04. On 7/10 Carl and I also visited MRA's 2004 SAV planting site, farther downriver at Sylvan View near Grays Creek.
At the Grachur planting site on 7/6 and 7/10, the fencing was completely down around the 2002 redhead grass but the 2002 plants had 100% cover with only minor grazing!! The 2003 grass (in shallower water) was still mostly fenced but it had only 70% cover, and some of the shallows were bare. On 7/10 we saw mallards grazing the tops off the redhead grass, and they apparently also created the bare area in the shallows of the 2003 bed, which was opposite the point where the fencing was down. On 7/10 we removed the fencing around the 2002 plants and repaired the fencing around the 2003 plants. On 7/6, Secchi depth was 1.5 m (very high for summer on the Magothy) and salinity by refractometer was 4 ppt. The best news was that (1) the grass where the fence was down had not been ripped out by swans, just cropped somewhat by mallards, and (2) the redhead grass had spread about 100 feet downriver and 75 feet upriver from the 2002 plants. This spread was very encouraging.
The redhead grass that MRA volunteers planted in 2004 at Sylvan View was not as dense or long on 7/10 as the redhead grass planted at Grachur, but it had been planted only 2.5 weeks before. Percent cover was about 20-30% and there was some browning of the leaves. However using a view scope we could see new growth on several of the clumps, so the plants may fill in later in the summer.
Other SAV in the Magothy that was not planted has also been expanding in 2004. On 7/6 we found a new widgeongrass bed on the point just upriver of Cockey Creek next to red Marker 16 that appeared last year (this was mapped in VIMS survey in 2003 as bed HA3, see:
http://www.vims.edu/bio/sav/sav03/quads/rb023.html. There was also a new widgeongrass bed on the point next to the Grachur Club's totem pole, just upriver of the Grachur planting site, that was not there last year (not mapped in VIMS survey and not seen in ground surveys). This means that widgeongrass has spread about 1.6 miles (2.6 km) upriver in the last 2 years, from just upriver of North Ferry Point (bed A2 on this map) to upriver of Cockey Creek (bed HA3); the latter bed is fairly dense widgeongrass but it is quite shallow (see map). There are also reports in 2004 of small natural redhead grass beds inside Dividing Creek where it had not been seen before, and increased SAV in upper Cornfield Creek. I also found slender pondweed (Potamogeton pusillis) growing in two tidal Magothy creeks for the first time this year, in Grays Creek on 7/10 and Old Man Creek on 7/15. Two species I had found in upper tidal Old Man Creek in recent years, water starwort (Callitriche sp., probably C. palustris) and sago pondweed (Stuckenia pectinata), were much more abundant on 7/15 than in any past year, but in the same location (see map). I was able to get the attached photos of them through the water due to the continued better-than-usual water clarity (recent Secchi depths in Old Man Creek have been 1.6-1.8 m which are record
high levels; 1995-2003 July values were all between 0.5-0.9 m, median 0.72
The increased water clarity in the Magothy in 2004 follows a dramatic increase in the abundance of dark false mussels that started in fall 2003, as I noted in my report from 7/8/04 above. A photo I took of the mussels attached to the fencing used at the Grachur SAV planting can be seen near the middle of the page here: http://www.magothyriver.org/Who_We_Are.html
I have received about a dozen calls this spring from people in the upper bay
reporting a combination of more SAV than they have never seen before and clear
water. Just this morning I took a call from a woman who lives in a small tributary
of Main Creek (between the Patapsco and Magothy Rivers) who reported that her
shoreline was completely covered with milfoil that she has never seen before, and
that the water was so clear they could see minnows swimming in the SAV next to her
dock. She was calling to ask us to come remove the SAV, of course...
Most of the calls have been from the upper Western Shore from the Flats themselves
down to the South River. Every report seems to indicate that this will be a banner
year for upper bay SAV- and my own visits to the Bird, Gunpowder, and Sassafras
seemed to confirm this.
Things are looking quite interesting. At Mills island, in some areas the
eelgrass rhizomes of last year were about 1 cm above the compacted peat
(held up by the roots in the peat). Our theory: the area became colonized when the peat was
covered with sand but the hurricane washed away the sand and exposed the
rhizomes. New shoots were growing from these exposed rhizomes...
At Tangier, the sediment surface is much more irregular than last year.
Eelgrass is on elevations in areas that were a homogeneous sand last year.
Hypothesis: hurricane washed away the sand in areas where eelgrass was not
very dense exposing the peat. In contrast, in vegetated areas, eelgrass
was able to retain the sand leading to the irregular topography we have
now.... That agrees with the lower densities you are seeing. There are
some VERY dense patches (covering sand) intermixed with completely bare
We also observed such irregular topography (eelgrass elevated in
comparison to adjacent unvegetated area) at our SeagrassNet site at
Yesterday (July 8th) I visited the area adjacent to a 1/2 mile shoreline restoration
project inside the north side of the mouth of Selby Bay (bed A2).
There has been some Ruppia there in the past, but this year there is an area of
approximately 5 acres with large patches of very dense coverage. The plants
are relatively heavy with epiphytes but have gone to seed.
We have seen huge expansion of SAV coverage in the Gunpowder River over last
year. Around Battery Point there are large beds consisting of V. americana,
P. perfoliatus and N. guadalupensis with sparse P. crispus. From Maxwell
Point north to Hog Point at Reardon Inlet (the Edgewood Area shoreline),
there are patchy areas of V. americana, M. spicatum, P. perfoliatus, H.
verticillata, and C. demersum. The beds of V. americana and M. spicatum
become larger as we moved upriver. North of the Amtrack bridge there are
very large beds of V. americana and H. verticillata at 100% cover. This
area extends to Mariner Point Park and into Days Cove. There is also P.
perfoliatus in Days Cove. In Cunninghill Cove on the Eastern side of the
river, there is nearly 100% cover, consisting of P. perfoliatus, V.
americana, M. spicatum, P. pusillus and N. guadalupensis. Weir Cove has
sparse patches of P. perfoliatus and V. americana and a patch of Sago
Pondweed (possibly from Julie Bortz's plantings) Also, behind the break
waters on Carroll Island there is a good mix of V. americana, P.
perfoliatus, M. spicatum, H. verticillata and P. pusillus. Saltpeter Creek
also has a long stretch of large patches of V. americana running along the
western shoreline. We have had secchi depths over one meter at both
nearshore and midchannel sites in the Gunpowder River, Dundee and Saltpeter
The Bush River is shaping up very well also. There are many species present
in Doves Cove including M. spicatum, V. americana, E. canadensis, C.
demersum, H. verticillata, P. pusillus and dense spots of N. minor. There
was very dense filamentous algae as well. Towners Cove has sparse patches
of M. spicatum, while Redmans Cove has M. spicatum, H. verticillata, C.
demersum, V. americana and P. pusillus, all at a moderate density. The most
surprising observation to me is the amount of H. verticillata and M.
spicatum present in Lauderick Creek. Grasses extend from the ramp at
Skippers Point out to the marina. Last year there was almost zero cover,
and the increase is tremendous. There is also a small patch of V. americana
that may have survived from a small planting last year. The secchi depths
in the Bush have been lower, ranging around 0.5 meters at the nearshore
sites and slightly higher at the midchannel sites.
This afternoon there was a huge plume of muddy water coming down the Bush
Creek side towards the Amtrack bridge (from the storms last night), while
the Otter Point Creek side was much clearer, thanks to all the H.
verticillata at OPC. Hopefully both rivers stay clean and clear and the grasses continue to grow.
07/13/04 Bob Orth, VIMS
Field and Aerial Observations
THE 2004 SAV ANNUAL SURVEY
Listed below are the flight lines and the dates they were flown. Locations
of those lines are in our annual reports. Also, none of the beds noted here
in the 2004 photography have been mapped or digitized and these are simply
my first observations from the photography. They include notes on what I
perceive as effects on SAV by Hurricane Isabel which appear to very site
specific, as well as field observations VIMS has made in the segments.
BROAD BAY (CB Segment LYNPH)(Flight lines 102, 103 flown on June 21) (Quad
SAV is present in a
narrow fringe along the southern shore at the entrance to the bay. Other
beds noted in previous years along the north shore and along shoals at east
end are absent. (A field check here on July 4 noted eelgrass only. The
beds that are absent were dominated by widgeongrass).
LYNNHAVEN RIVER (CB Segment LYNPH)(Flight lines 102, 103 flown on June 21) (Quad
No SAV was noted and
none has been reported from field surveys.
LITTLE CREEK (CB Segment LYNPH)(Flight line 102 flown on June 21) (Quad 151
SAV (both eelgrass and
widgeon grass) continues to do well along the narrow shoal area in the
harbor area where VIMS and ACB had transplanted eelgrass between 1996 and
2000. This bed was field checked in June and the grass looked robust and
LOWER JAMES RIVER (CB Segment JMSPH)
(Flight line 101 flown June 21) (Quads 147,
We are going to refly
this line because it was flown past our tide window. However, some SAV is
still visible in areas of the highest density, notably just below the
Monitor Merrimac Bridge Tunnel (MMBT), which is the VIMS transplant site
from 1996 1998, and along the shorelines at the mouth of Hampton Creek,
beds that have been generally persistent over the last few years. Almost
all the SAV is eelgrass. The small bed adjacent to the shipyard just
upriver from the MMBT is still present. A number of beds were field
checked on July 13. Water clarity was poor with secchi readings not
exceeding 55 cm. Eelgrass was noted at the mouth of the James along the
north shoal adjacent to the Hampton Roads Bridge Tunnel heading east to
Hampton River. Interestingly, there is a small bed of eelgrass immediately
adjacent to the west tunnel directly across from the Chamberlin
Hotel. Eelgrass was also noted just east of Hampton River in the area that
was transplanted by VIMS in 1996. Also, small patches of eelgrass (less
than 0.5 m2) were noted in the general vicinity where eelgrass was planted
by CBF in 2001 by the planting boat (see Fishman, J. R., R. J. Orth, S.
Marion, and J. Bieri. 2004. A comparative test of mechanized and manual
transplanting of eelgrass, Zostera marina, in Chesapeake Bay. Restoration
Ecology 12:214-219.) Last, eelgrass was abundant just south of the
Monitor Merrimac Bridge Tunnel in the area transplanted by VIMS between
1996 and 1998.
DRUM ISLAND FLATS, POQUOSON FLATS AREA, including the BACK and POQUOSON
RIVERS (CB Segment MOBPH)
(Flight lines 96, 96a, 97, and 98 flown on June 21, 27) (Quads
SAV (both eelgrass and widgeon grass) still appears abundant in a
number of areas, notably the large shoal area adjacent to Plum Tree Island
National Wildlife Refuge, and along both shorelines in the lower Back and
Poquoson rivers. However, the beds along the northern shoreline of Plum
Tree Island National Wildlife Refuge and the beds adjacent to Crab Neck
appear to be substantially reduced from last year, most likely due to
Isabel. The very large bed offshore of Drum Island Flats on what is called
Poquoson Flats remains absent. We field checked the area last year in
mid-summer before Isabel, and found no evidence of it.
LOWER YORK RIVER INCLUDING GOODWN ISLANDS (CB Segment MOBPH, YRKPH)
(Flight lines 93, 95, 96, 96a, 97 flown on June 21, 27) (Quads
There are some very noticeable changes in SAV beds here in 2004. While SAV
along the north shore from Gloucester Point to the mouth of the river remains
dense, and is still patchy along the south shore to Yorktown, large
portions of both the dense beds adjacent to Allens Island and the very
large area around the Guinea Marshes are substantially reduced from what we
saw in 2003. In some sections almost all of the bed is absent. In the
field, we have noted the paucity of SAV with only small (5-10 shoots) to
larger size patches (1-2 m^2) clumps of eelgrass remaining. The same
appears to hold for the shoals around the Goodwin Islands. Some inshore
beds are dense while SAV in the offshore areas is very sparse. These
appear to be the areas most affected by Isabel.
MOBJACK BAY AND THE AREA ABOVE NEW POINT COMFORT LIGHTHOUSE (CB Segment
(Flight lines 91, 91a, 92, 92a, 93, 94; flown on June 21 and 27) (Quads
SAV (both eelgrass and widgeon grass) is still
abundant in many of the same areas highlighted in previous years. In the
Severn, Ware, North and East rivers, SAV is present in similar locations
and abundances as last year. However, a number of beds along the shoals of
the mainstem Mobjack are both significantly reduced in size and patchier
than last year, which appears to be a result of Isabel. In the Horn Harbor
area located on the mainstem bay just above New Point, the offshore areas
of the large eelgrass bed are gone, while inshore areas are very patchy,
with some fascinating features that appear to be scour "channels" cut into
the bed caused by Isabel. I'll try to get a photo up on our web
site. It's pretty neat!
PIANKATANK RIVER and MILFORD HAVEN (CB Segment PIAMH)
(Flight lines 89, 90, 91; flown on June 21) (Quads
the Piankatank and Milford Haven areas remain at low levels similar to
those reported in 2003. SAV continues to persist in the patchy beds along
the extensive shoal area at north end of Gwynns Island and in the dense bed
at the south end of Gwynns Island at "the Hole in the Wall". As reported
in the past, there is a lot of sand movement in this region, and more so
this past year, probably due to the hard hit this area took from
Isabel. There are some very patchy beds along both shores of the
Piankatank River up to Healy Creek; and the large bed reported in our
previous observations off Healy Creek is still present but appears smaller.
LOWER to MIDDLE RAPPAHANNOCK RIVER and CORROTOMAN RIVER (CB Segment RPPMH,
(Flight lines 87a,b,c,d, 88, 147; flown on June 19) (Quads
SAV really took a hit here last year with the loss of all the
widgeongrass beds mid-season, as well as the loss of eelgrass in plots from
previous transplant projects that we noted in spring 2003. These beds were
totally eliminated by September, before Isabel. There appears to be
limited recovery, with some very patchy beds (density class 1) along the
Corrotoman, and along the north shore towards Windmill Point.
The beds noted on the photography were field verified on July 11. The
small fringe of SAV in the Corrotoman and at mouth of Carters Creek is
widgeongrass. Very little flowering widgeongrass was noted. At Mosquito
Island along the north shore, the small patchy beds are dominated by
widgeongrass with only a few sprigs of eelgrass noted in one patch. One
larger patch of eelgrass was noted about 200 meters from the
widgeongrass. Further downriver off Windmill Point, the small bed there is
dominated by eelgrass. Unfortunately, it appears that all the eelgrass
transplanted by VIMS and CBF from 1996 through 2001 just above the Route 3
bridge, including the site where the planting boat work was done in October,
2001, is gone (see Fishman, J. R., R. J. Orth, S. Marion, and J. Bieri.
2004. A comparative test of mechanized and manual transplanting of
eelgrass, Zostera marina, in Chesapeake Bay. Restoration Ecology
12:214-219.) In our fall field observations of the site last year, we
noted that the few remaining eelgrass patches were gone before Isabel. As
of this summer, no eelgrass remains at the transplant sites. Thus, the
only eelgrass remaining in this river is what was observed off Mosquito
Island and Windmill Point.
WINDMILL POINT (mouth of RAPPAHANNOCK) to SMITH POINT (mouth of POTOMAC)
(CB Segment CB5MH)
(Flight lines 83, 84, 85, 86, 138; flown on June 19) (Quads
(both eelgrass and widgeon grass) is present in the same areas as in the
past surveys: Fleets Bay, and Dymer, Indian, and Dividing creeks, Dameron
Marsh. SAV beds are densest at Dameron Marsh. Very little SAV is noted in
the Great Wicomico River this year. However, many beds appear less dense
and offshore edges of some beds appear to be absent, most likely a result
CAPE CHARLES up to and including BIG MARSH and CHESCONESSEX CREEK (CB
(Flight lines 104-108; flown May 11 and June 19) (Quads
SAV (eelgrass and widgeongrass) is present at all
creek mouths (Old Plantation, Cherrystone, Hungars, Mattawoman, Nassawadox,
Occohannock, Craddock, Nandua, Pungoteague, Onancock, and Chesconessex
creeks), along the southern portion of Big Marsh, and adjacent to Parker
and Finney Islands. However, many of these beds at the mouths of some of
the creeks and those that are most exposed to the mainstem Chesapeake Bay
appear less dense while offshore edges of some beds appear to be absent,
both most likely a result of Isabel.
POCOMOKE SOUND (CB Segment POCMH, TANMH)(Flight lines 107,108, 109, 110; flown May 11, June 19, and July 6) (Quads
SAV (eelgrass and widgeongrass) along the north side
(MD portion) around Broad Creek and into Broad Creek going to Crisfield, is
present. Beds along the southern shore (VA portion) are very dense
especially Webb and Halfmoon Islands and adjacent to Big Marsh. The large
bed west of Webb and Halfmoon Islands (see quad 108) is still present but
very patchy. Other, smaller beds noted in previous years are still present,
with some denser, while others are more sparse than what was noted in 2003.
WATTS ISLAND (CB Segment TANMH)(Flight line 111; flown June 19 and July 6) (Quad 107)
SAV is still present but very patchy SAV on the east side of island.
GREAT FOX ISLAND (CB Segment TANMH)(Flight lines 109, 110, 111; flown June 19 and July 6) (Quad 100)
(eelgrass and widgeongrass) is dense along the east side of the Fox Islands
but they are still reduced from what was recorded in the late 1980s and
early 1990s. Abundance appears to be similar to 2003.
TANGIER and SMITH ISLAND (CB Segment TANMH)(Flight lines 112, 113; flown June 21 and July 6) (Quads
SAV (eelgrass and widgeongrass) is present in many of the same
locations noted in previous surveys. However, many of these beds appear
sparser this year especially in the large shoal areas between Tangier and
Smith. SAV appears to be reduced in the channel going into Smith Island
from Tangier Sound. On the other hand, the large shallow water area near
Ewell (the Big Thoroughfare) is densely vegetated. Eva Koch's field
observations of several areas in the Tangier Island area confirm some of
these aerial observations (see her notes here which suggests
significant scouring probably by Isabel).
LITTLE ANNEMESSEX RIVER (CB Segment TANMH)(Flight lines 110, 111; flown June 19 and July 6) (Quads
beds are present at the mouth of the river on the south side and the large
bed directly across from the harbor, as well as many areas in and around
Crisfield noted in previous surveys.
Yesterday (7/20/04) a small group of us visited two areas in the northern part of Eastern Bay- specifically Marshy Creek and the shoreline of Prospect Bay between Piney Point and Cabin Creek. The south side of Marshy Creek was very densely covered with SAV, consisting of watermilfoil, elodea, hydrilla, redhead grass, and widgeon grass (listed in order of decreasing abundance). The redhead grass was flowering, and was quite dense in several areas.The areas we visited in Prospect Bay were sparsely covered with widgeon grass throughout from close to the shoreline to about 5' deep, with just a few horned pondweed plants scattered around and lots of ulva. The exclosure established by Peter Bergstrom contained lush redhead grass covering about 40% of the exclosure. A few redhead grass plants were seen floating nearby, but it was unclear whether these were from the exclosure or not.
We visited the SAV harvesting locations on the north shore of the Little Annemessex River just west of Crisfield yesterday (07/22), and some nearby beds in which no harvesting had taken place. In all areas, there was abundant, healthy eelgrass and quite a lot of widgeon grass that was flowering. Quite a lot of ulva was also scattered in and around the beds. We spent a considerable amount of time snorkeling these beds, and there were no substantial differences in plant height, bed density, or apparent vigor of the plants themselves between the harvested and unharvsted beds.
Even with the poor visibility we had (2- 2.5 feet), snorkeling in these beds quickly reveals quite a diversity of fish and invertebrates. Within minutes, a careful observer will see numerous blue crabs, shrimp, several species of large isopods, sticklebacks, juvenile flounder, pipefish, and the occasional close encounter with a huge cownose ray.
Pope's Creek is FULL of SAV this year! It's thick enough where
the dock used to be that the SAV will hold the canoe in place even in a light breeze.
And its like that a lot of places. There's a small variety of plant types:
Horned pondweed; coontail; wild celery; widgeon grass; and, of course,
Eurasian watermilfoil. The problem (if it is one) is that at least 99.9% of
the plants are the watermilfoil. Is watermilfoil a real problem? I'm not
sure how much it's choking out any of the native species, they just seem to
grow in slightly different places. Any ideas why there is so much more SAV
this year than last (when there was so much more than the previous year,
when there were only a few plants in the creek)?
08/05/04 Jennifer Harlan, Maryland Environmental Service
HART-MILLER ISLAND DREDGED MATERIAL CONTAINMENT FACILITY
SUBMERGED AQUATIC VEGETATION (SAV) REPORT JULY 2004
Maryland Environmental Service (MES) personnel conducted a qualitative submerged aquatic vegetation (SAV) survey along the western shoreline of Hart-Miller Island (HMI) on June 24th and 25th. This was done to analyze and confirm the presence of SAV at locations indicated on the VIMS maps of HMI.
Field observation of HMI SAV:
All field verification was done on the western or lee side of HMI from latitude 39.14.482 north (N), longitude 76.23.091 west (W) to 39.15.677 N, 76.21.474 W. Water depths during the survey were 2 to 5 ft. and surveys were conducted 10 to 100 yards offshore depending on observed presence of SAV. Due to unusual water clarity, the SAV beds were mainly observed from the boat above the water surface. Additional observations were done using a swimmer with snorkel gear, as well as using a throw-rake. MES personnel identified SAV species present. No survey was performed on the eastern side of HMI as water depths are generally 8 to 12 feet which is probably too deep for SAV. Coordinates were determined by an on board GPS. Following are the areas surveyed and the observations of SAV present:
From 39.14.437 N, 76.23.014 W, the southern tip of HMI, to 39.14.523 N, 76.23.139 W, the HMI personnel pier, the following species were observed: wild celery and redhead grass. Wild celery was the most common, with smaller beds of redhead grass. Estimated coverage was 50 to 60%.
From the HMI personnel pier, 39.14.610 N, 76.23.117 W, to Drum Point 39.14.950 N, 76.23.215 W, wild celery beds were the dominant species in the area with small patches of redhead grass, curly and sago pondweed, and coontail. Large dense beds of wild celery were observed along the entire area. Coverage was estimated at 40 to 50% with the densest beds midway from the personnel pier to Drum Point.
From northeast of Drum Point 39.14.950 N, 76.23.221 W to 39.15.180 N, 76.22.503 W, just south of the first jetty near the flats of the first beach area, redhead grass was dominate with smaller beds of wild celery. Smaller beds of sago and curly pondweed and coontail were also observed. Total coverage was estimated at 50 to 60%. In some areas, green macro algae appeared to be smothering beds of redhead grass.
From the first beach jetty, 39.15.190 N, 76.22.511 W to about ½ mile north of the beach area, 39.15.703 N, 76.12.504 W, both wild celery and redhead grass were observed with redhead being the most common. Some redhead beds reached the surface. Other species previously mentioned also appear to be in the area, but not as common. The redhead grass beds were more common north of the beach area and gradually thinned out possibly due to increasing water depths in that area. Coverage was estimated at 30 to 40%.
Summary of HMI SAV Field Observations:
A total of 5 species of SAV were observed and identified during the July 2004 HMI SAV survey. Species observed in order of abundance were: redhead grass, wild celery, curly pondweed, sago pondweed, and coontail. The survey was done in an approximately 3-mile transect following the shoreline on the western side of HMI in 3 to 5 ft. of water, 10 to 100 yards from shore. The area covered was from 39.14.437 N, 76.23.014 W (southern tip of HMI) to 39.15.703 N, 76.12.504 W (approx. ½ mile north of the DNR beach area). Overall coverage in the area was estimated at 40% to 60%. Most of the beds appeared healthy and actively increasing biomass. The SAV off the western shore of HMI appears to be increasing in percentage and density compared to previous surveys done in 2001 and 2002. No survey was performed in 2003. However, this may be a seasonal variation, as previous surveys were done in late summer and early fall. The next survey will be conducted in the fall of 2004. Download powerpoint file with survey map here.
We've been out mapping the tidal largemouth bass habitats in the Elk/Bohemia
system for the last few days, and I can honestly say there is more grass up
there than we could ever possibly hope for! In my memory, the Bohemia was nothing
more than a shallow muddy mess, but now its home to much clearer water, and
grassbeds that in some cases extend 500 meters from shore! The Elk has always
had grass in the coves below the canal, but now almost the whole shoreline from
Grove Point to Elkton to Turkey Point has at least sparse grassbeds. Many of
the bottoms of the coves of the Elk and Bohemia are 100% covered with dense
celery beds. Some beds are in 5-6 feet of water!
The other note I wanted to pass along is the species composition. Several years
back, I remember hydrilla being the predominant grass in many areas of the Elk.
Now, wild celery is the dominant species, with eurasian watermilfoil as number
two. There still are beds of hydrilla, but now I think its species number three.
Curly pondweed, naiads and what looks like stargrass are also present.
After doing SAV surveys on the Magothy on 7/24 (upper tidal river) and
7/26 (Cornfield creek/Gisbon Island) and in Marshy Creek off Eastern Bay
near Kent Narrows (Horsehead/CBEC) on 7/27, I noticed the following
changes from recent years. Most or all are explained by the high
rainfall in 2003 and so far in 2004.
In Marshy Creek we found 3 species at most of the sites checked (Ppf-
redhead grass, Ec-elodea, and Ms-milfoil). One site checked also had Rm-
widgeongrass, and one had only Ppf. In past ground surveys the 3 higher
salinity species that we saw this year were also found there in 1999--Rm,
Ms, and Ppf. No Ec found in 1999 presumably due to drought and higher
salinity. In 1997 I helped lead SAV ground surveys there and we found
the same 4 species we found this year including Ec, as well as sago
pondweed Ppc and horned pondweed Zp, 6 species total. In 1996 someone
also reported 6 species which were Ms, Zp, Ppf, Ppc, Rm, and N-naiad.
More Elodea than I have seen in these areas since 1998. At both sites I
saw much more common waterweed (Elodea canadensis) this year (starting in
July) than in the past few years. In the Magothy it is usually fairly
rare and mostly in deeper water where it is hard to find. This year it
is mixed in with other species in the shallows, and then extends out into
deep water by itself. Elodea had a similar increase in 1998 after
several years of high rain, in the Magothy and Queenstown Creek on the
Chester, then died back in 1999 and later years as salinity went up.
More Callitriche in upper tidal Magothy areas, probably Callitriche
palustris, as seen in previous wet years (1998) but also dry years
(2002). The Callitriche in upper Old Man Creek was the most abundant I
have ever seen (see photo on the VIMS SAV web page with my second report
from 7/8, http://www.vims.edu/bio/sav/2004obs.html#noaa070804)
I found ribbonleaf pondweed (Potamogeton epihydrus) in the upper tidal
Magothy; first Magothy report since 1999 when it was in Cattail Creek. See attached photo. I found it about as far upriver as you can go in a kayak, near the head of tide. This species has smallish floating leaves
(2-4 cm long, smaller than those of some other pondweeds with floating
leaves), and the limp, pale green ribbon-like underwater leaves have a
clear center stripe on both sides of the midrib, created by rows of
lacunae (visible with a hand lens and in this photo). It was growing
with Callitriche and Ludwigia at the edge of the channel.
First records of slender pondweed (Potamogeton pusillis) in the tidal
Magothy (see attached scan). It was only known in the Magothy (to me at least) from Otter Pond on Gibson Island which is only tidal during a
storm surge, yet this year it is dense in Grays Creek (east arm) and
sparse in Old Man Creek, far upriver of Grays Creek. How it appeared in
these 2 separate locations in the same year I have no idea, but like Elodea, Callitriche, and dark false mussels, it favors salinities a bit
lower than what we usually find in the Magothy.
Modest expansion of wild celery to more sites in the Magothy. Always
near the upper limit of its salinity range in the Magothy, I only knew it
from South Ferry Point and sometimes Cornfield Creek, and it was brown
and less extensive during the drought years. On 7/27 I found it growing
lush and green at 2 sites in Magothy Narrows where I had never seen it
Less sago pondweed, which favors higher salinity. I have only seen it
this year in Old Man Creek near the head of tide where I have found a
small bed almost every year. That bed had expanded this year (see photo
on the VIMS SAV web page with my second report from 7/8, http://www.vims.edu/bio/sav/2004obs.html#noaa070804) but I have not seen
it elsewhere in the Magothy or in Marshy Creek, where it has been fairly
common in past years, especially during the drought (2001-2002).
Dark false mussels (Mytilopsis leucophaeata) are almost everywhere in
the Magothy; I did not see any in Marshy Creek but did not really look
for them. In the Magothy they are reaching nuisance levels on oyster
gardening cages which are becoming too heavy to lift out of the water. I
have heard they are all over the South River and also in the Chester but
I have no confirmed reports from the Severn (please me send any if you
have them). We pulled an oyster scrape over the Priest Point restored
oyster bar outside Weems Creek on the Severn yesterday, and all I saw on
the oysters (and Rich Takacs concurred) were ribbed mussels (Geukensia
demissa), not dark false mussels. Dark false mussels may attach to
rocks, branches, lines, or crab pots more than to pilings, so you have to
check objects other than pilings if you don't see any on pilings at low
tide. Look for a story about them in the Magothy soon in the Baltimore
Sun. You can see drawings of Chesapeake mussels in pp. 36-37 of Lippson & Lippson's "Life in the Chesapeake Bay" and see photos of dark false
mussels here: http://www.dnr.state.md.us/irc/zebra/zebra_dark.pdf
08/10/04 Jason Miller, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
We found grass at 44 out of the 282 sampling points randomly chosen for the
July episode. In July 2003 we found grass at 10 of 282 different random
sampling points in the Harbor.
Most of the grass was horned pondweed. Our sampling was mid- to late July.
From casual observations prior to the sampling, there was likely a great
deal more horned pondweed in the Harbor during June than what we sampled in
July, as one would expect.
On 08/15/04 a SAV survey was performed in Shipping (Shippen) Creek in the Chester
River. At 39-07.5" N/76-06.5W we found up to 10 acres of dense growth of
elodea, virtually covering entire creek. Secchi depths ranged from .75-1
m or better. Salinity was 7.5ppt. We have been seeing salinities this
year that are several ppt lower than in the recent past.
Stan Kollar, Nancy Rybicki, Nancy's student Allison Roche and myself spent yesterday boating from Havre de Grace to Fishing Battery to the Elk River to Furnace Bay and back to Havre de Grace. Sort of a big circle around the Susquehanna Flats for those of you not familiar with the area. What we saw was nothing short of spectacular.
I spent a lot of time surveying SAV for a haul seine survey in 1996, and Stan has been doing regular work there since the 1970's. The changes that are occurring in the Flats right now are just incredible. The large central bed of the Flats- the biggest single SAV bed in the entire bay, has gone from being an extremely low density milfoil bed to a high density wild celery bed in just a few years. We saw near continuous wild celery coverage (not 100% coverage, but a patchwork of SAV at maybe 25-75% cover) from the Southeast corner of the Flats bed all the way to the channel at Stump Pt. on the north side. Tens of acres of wild celery or more- so much that the whole surface of the water was covered with wild celery pollen. Interspersed with the wild celery were patches of water stargrass and the ever present watermilfoil. I can't wait to see the VIMS photos of the area.
Once we arrived at Stump Pt., we were greeted with one of the most diverse beds I've ever seen. In an area maybe 4 times the size of my office we saw wild celery, water stargrass, elodea, Potamogeton nodosus, slender pondweed, sago pondweed, coontail, milfoil, Najas minor, southern naiad, and hydrilla. I surveyed this area very intensively three times over the growing season in 1996, and all we saw was wild celery, Najas minor, milfoil and hydrilla. Just an amazing and very positive improvement in the abundance and diversity of native species.
And today, the icing on the cake was receiving two phone calls from people who keep boats in Baltimore harbor- one in the North Branch and one in the South Branch of the Patapsco- complaining about how SAV is fouling their propellers. It seems that even in the harbor itself, areas that are shallow are growing SAV like crazy.
08/19/04 Laura Murray, UMCES Horn Point Laboratory
Chester River, Corsica River, and Broad Creek (Quads
I have been in communication with people in the Chester and Corsica and
they are reporting elodea in many areas... and best is that for the
first time in several years, our transplants of redhead grass has not
only survived but is up to the surface and doing very well. This with
all the rain we've had. John Melton's
transplants from 2001 are also alive and doing very well in Broad Creek
off the Choptank.
For the first time we have found large beds of Elodea canadensis
(common waterweed) in the Corsica river. The Elodea is occurring on at
least 2 miles of the shoreline out to a depth of 3 feet at low tide,
and at low tide the plants are tall enough that they actually reach the
surface. Since July we have experienced extremely clear water in the
Corsica and we are also observing massive amounts of black false
mussels. Earlier in the season (June and July), we have also seen
Zannichellia palustris (horned pondweed) in large amounts in small
For the past five years we have been running, through the Chester River
Association, an underwater grass growing/planting program in
conjunction with the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, Chesapeake Bay Trust,
and Horned Point Facilities. The first four years resulted in all of
the redhead grasses planted surviving only about 3 weeks. This year
all of our plants are thriving. All of the plantings were done over
the years in various locations in the Chester River and the Corsica
I am a resident on the western most reaches of the Piankatank River in Middlesex County. My location is just east of where the Dragon Run opens at Turk's Ferry to become the Piankatank. We have owned the property for 6 years and never have seen the SAV growth that we had seen this year. In fact, previous years had no SAV whatsoever. I don't believe it's Hydrilla, but my best guess is Water Stargrass Mud Plantain Heteranthera dubia, but being a novice, I don't know. According to the USGS National Map my pier is at -76 degrees 32' 07" and 37 degrees 33' 38" .
We have been out doing some habitat mapping and saw very little grass between the southern tip of Smoots Bay up into Oxon Creek. The beds that were normally thick around the bridge weren't noticeable while we were there (mid-tide). Broad creek had grass but it didn't seem to be near as thick as last year. The beds in Piscataway were thick, but they were also covered with algae.
08/29/04- Eastern Neck Narrows and Church Creek (39-03.5'N Lat/ 076-13'W Long
at the mouth of the creek).
Many patches of elodea on both the bay side
of the narrows and the Chester River side, sparsely covering many
acres. In Church Creek itself there are patches of millfoil on the west
side, progressing up the creek. Near the head of the creek there are
patches of wigeon grass on the west side. At the head of the creek and
along the entire east side out to a distance of 40-50' from shore there is
a dense growth of wigeon grass which at this time is going to
seed. Maybe-5-10 acres in extent, at a minimum.
I believe extra growth on this side (east) due to afternoon sunlight.
Secchi depths in the creek ranged from.6-.7m, salinity was 9 ppt.
Clarity appears to have decreased some from what is was earlier in the season.
John Flood and I recently visited Widgeon Bed labeled A2 in the 2003
survey (quad 30). The size of the bed is more like 15
acres with density very close to 100%. The plants are to the surface at
low tide, and in flower. There is a quite a bit of plant material in
the wrack line on the beach, perhaps due to the concentration of Canada
Geese (approximately 100) and Mute swans (2) that are continually present on
the site. In addition some attrition to the marsh (S. alterniflora) is
evident from the concentrated waterfowl.
I also surveyed Loden Pond on the North side of the river, east edge of
quad 30 just below the words "Hillsmere Shores". The pond is densely
covered with Eurasian Watermilfoil with Widgeon Grass mixed in. Also
observed Widgeon Grass at Melvin Point, Limehouse Cove, Glebe Bay, and London Towne.
In the mouth of Duvall Creek, (quad 31) I have seen sparse beds of Widgeon
Grass. Also, South River Federation planted Redhead Grass in Duvall with
a Grasses for the Masses program and CBF/DNR planted it with Grasses for
Classes. Both areas have about 40-50% coverage, plants appear vigorous,
flowering and to the surface.
09/08/04 Charles Gallegos, Smithsonian Envrionmental Research Center
Summary of June Results The majority of SAV found during the survey was Zannichellia palustris (Zp, horned pondweed). A dense bed of Zp was found in Sellman Creek In the upper portion of Muddy Creek, in both main and north branches, there was also Stuckenia pectinata (Ppc, formerly Potamogeton pectinatus, sago pondweed) and Myriophyllum spicatum (Ms, eurasian watermilfoil). Ms and Ppc occurred along the channel with Zp restricted to the shallower sides. Bear Neck Creek had evidence of a Zp bed in the upper reaches, but most was already dead or dying by the time of the survey. The water and sediments were noticeably warmer (temperature not recorded) than in the other creeks, likely causing the earlier decline in this location. There were frequent observations of mallard ducks and mute swans during the entire course of the survey.
Summary of September Results
Sites which had dense beds in June were revisited. All of the Zp which had been present before was gone, and there was no evidence of regrowth. In Muddy Creek, the channels were clear of SAV and the Ms was found mostly along the sides; the Ms was flowering. Zp was not found, and a small plant of Ppc was found only at one site. Floating plants of flowering Ruppia maritima (Rm, widgeon grass) were found in Cadle Creek. The wind and waves were pushing material up against the shore at the time of the second survey. It is not known from where the Rm originated.
We had a chance to get up the Patuxent this week and were able to check
out that location on the north side of Broomes Island. There was indeed
Ruppia all over grapevine cove. However, there did appear to be a large
amount of macro algae as well. I'm not sure of the species, but it was
browish-green and had a highly branched morphology. It seemed intermixed
with the SAV.
Scott and I met up with Karen McGlathery of UVA and her staff yesterday (9/19) to
look for potential eelgrass transplant sites in Hogg Island Bay for this
year's Seaside Heritage work. We came in from Quinby Inlet and plopped
ourselves east of High Shoal Marsh. We anchored so we could look at the
sediments for their suitability for this year's transplants. And to our
surprise, we found not just 1 but about 1/2 dozen patches of naturally
occurring eelgrass!!!!!!!!!!!!!! These patches were not quite a meter
squared but the plants were robust and had to be at least two years old.
This is an extremely exciting discovery as it lends evidence about the
suitability of this very expansive area to potentially support eelgrass,
similar to our South Bay site. Water depths at this particular area were
very uniform meaning a very large area potentially available to seagrass
These are naturally occurring patches and we believe there may be many
more. We hope to go back and do a more thorough search.
This is really neat and we will keep you posted on any additional findings!
09/23/04 Geoffery Jay, Aberdeen Proving Ground
Susquehanna Flats Post Conowingo Dam Flood (Quads
On Tuesday the 21st of September, I came out of Swan Creek to take a few samples and
wanted to pass on to everyone what was observed. First off as expected
there was debris floating everywhere and large quantizes of dislodged
vegetation floating down stream. At our two sample locations Secchi
depths of only 0.15 and 0.19 meters were observed. The amount of
sediment flowing through was astounding.
Mike Norman and I visited Shallow Creek near North Point at low tide on
Wed. 9/22, which is the point on the north side of the mouth of the Patapsco. In
the VIMS survey it is on Quad 19, Sparrows Point, and the latest map
(2003) is online here: http://www.vims.edu/bio/sav/sav03/quads/sp019.html
We were there to check on survival of SAV that we planted in 2000-2001
and also a small planting DNR did last summer (2003). We also removed
all the fencing and poles in response to a request from someone living
on the creek.
What we found was a fair amount of floating broken wild celery leaves
and whole plants, probably similar to the "dislodged vegetation" that Geoffrey mentioned from
Susquehanna Flats. These plants were getting darker and appeared to be
starting to die back, making them more fragile. Shallow Creek would
receive little direct Susquehanna flow but get some
of the extra turbidity after heavy rains in PA since it is right off
the mainstem. Secchi
depths were 0.45-0.5 m (not especially low for this creek) and salinity
was 2-3 ppt, same as it was last August on my last visit. We have
measured salinity there as high as 15 ppt in a dry year (9/26/02, 27
months after planting) so it has quite a wide range of salinity.
Redhead grass was getting a bit darker but did not seem to be dying
back as much as wild celery, and as usual in Shallow Creek, there was
dense milfoil in the upper ends of coves.
In terms of the SAV we planted, most of what survived from our June
2000 multi-species planting was wild celery. Current coverage is about half
of each exclosure that we planted 4 years ago, about twice as much as
there was at planting. We had planted 1/2 wild celery and 1/4 each of redhead grass
and sago pondweed. Initially the redhead grass survived best, but
after we took down the fencing late in 2002, there was much less
redhead grass and more wild celery in 2003 and 2004, with about 5%
cover of redhead grass on 9/22. There was much more wild celery in
2004 (9/22) than we saw in 2003. Both wild celery and redhead grass
had started to spread outside the planted area in small clumps; since
we found no redhead grass in the whole creek before planting, we are
pretty sure that the pioneer redhead patches came from seeds from our
plating. A graph of species % cover over time shows the
need for long term monitoring of SAV planting projects.
Possible explanations for the decline of redhead grass and increase in
wild celery between 2002 and 2003 include:
dramatic decrease in salinity from values at which redhead but not
wild celery can survive (15 ppt in 9/02) to values that favor wild
celery (2-3 ppt in 8/03 and 9/04); and
possible preference of grazers (waterfowl) for redhead grass over
wild celery, since the fences were removed on 9/26/02.
Since we have data on salinity and do not have data on grazer
preferences, it seems clear that the dramatic salinity change is at
least partly responsible for the shifts in species abundance.
We also did a smaller Fall 2001 planting in the same area that was just
redhead grass, because at the time it seemed to be surviving better
than wild celery. Only patches from this planting could be found on
Wednesday so we could not estimate % survival. In this and other small fall
plantings I have done, they do not seem to do as well as spring
Thanks to all who helped us with this project, especially Denny
Klosterman for funding and Mike Norman and Jen Kujawski for supplying
We were in the field all last week and the water was very turbid and extremely high in most places we were working. We were in Mattawoman Creek on Monday (9/20) and Thursday (9/23), Nanjemoy Creek on Tuesday (9/21), and Aquia Creek on Friday (9/21). Vegetation is robust everywhere, especially in Aquia (Myriophyllum and Hydrilla). Vallisneria has made an incredible comeback to Blossom Point at the mouth of Nanjemoy Creek and there's an enormous bed in the mainstem Potomac downriver of Nanjemoy.
10/05/04 Bob Orth, VIMS
Some of you have been inquiring about the status of the 2004 SAV annual
aerial survey given all the interesting field observations that have been
reported to date. Since my last aerial update on July 13, we have been
unable to acquire much photography. I have commented on the high degree of
difficulty in acquiring the aerial photographs for the last few
years. This year has been no exception. While water clarity has been
reported as generally good for most of the summer in some upper bay areas,
the quality of atmospheric conditions have been the reverse. It's been
either overcast (= rainy) or windy. In addition, on some of the clear and
calm days, we have had to contend with abnormally high low tides that
prevent the acquisition of a clear SAV signature. Check out the NOAA tides
and winds web site: http://tidesonline.nos.noaa.gov/geographic.html
. It really shows just how much the wind can alter the predicted tides.
Through mid-September we acquired very little photography of the upper bay.
However, since then we have acquired photography of the Elk, Sassafras,
Bohemia, Chester, Choptank, Little Choptank, South, Severn, Patapsco; parts
of the Potomac, Middle, Gunpowder, and Bush rivers; portions of Eastern
Bay; as well as the shoreline from Eastern Neck to the Sassafras. The
photographs show some very interesting patterns and mirror the field
observations. As soon as I get a chance, I will provide you with more
details. SAV abundance in the Elk, Sassafras and Bohemia can only be
described as "incredible". SAV has returned in abundance to the Eastern
Neck narrows in just one year! And the reported SAV in the Corsica River
(tributary of the Chester) is visible on the photography. Some areas in
the Potomac appear to have an abundance of SAV (e.g., Aquia Creek) while
SAV in other nearby areas appear to have declined (e.g. Potomac
Creek). SAV has remained in somewhat similar locations in the Severn and
Magothy rivers. Abundance in parts of the Eastern Bay is very low (e.g.
Parsons Island, the Romancoke area of Kent Island) while SAV in other areas
appear robust (e.g. Marshy Creek). SAV, normally abundant in Trippe and
Brannock bays, appears significantly reduced in cover. Reports of SAV in
the Patapsco appear to be confirmed in our aerials.
So, it has been quite a year, and of course the big question remains as to
why SAV continues to do so well, and is even increasing, in many areas of
the upper bay, despite what appears to be a second consecutive year of lots
We are looking at some good atmospheric conditions over the next few weeks
and hope to wrap everything up by the end of October. We still face
obstacles in the Aberdeen Proving Grounds where we must have an APG
observer on the plane when it flies over APG and the film is held by them
through the entire development process. But APG is doing their best to
help out given their security concerns. This year we are facing more
obstacles regarding air space over Washington, DC. Not only must we get
approval from the FAA and TSA but we must have approval from the Secret
Service due to heightened security concerns. We hope we can quickly get
over this last obstacle as our request is cnow pending with them.
It's amazing to see the amount of grass out there this year. I have not seen it this good since 2001, but this year is probably better than 2001 for distribution/coverage however the communities have changed. In the Gunpowder, there are tremendous Potamogeton perfoliatus beds all over and spreading like I've never seen. Also, lots of Vallisneria; both Vallisneria and Potamogeton perfoliatus occuring as new, VERY dense (shoot count) beds; I've never seen them so dense and healthy. But less Elodea and Najas guadalupensis. The Carroll Island area isn't quite as spectacular as 2001 (in part due to the lack of the latter spp) but I just think it is still recovering from the 2002 drought. One of my concerns is how far down the Hydrilla is into the Gunpowder. It's clear below the state park (Cunninghill Cove). I can't remember seeing it much below Mariner Point Park above the railroad bridge on the river. It's definately helping clear water but filling a niche that Elodea or Najas guadalupensis did previously. Clarity out in the Gunpowder was still close to 2m secchi readings in the middle of the river. The plants are still visible and don't seemed to have lost much if any biomass yet. The Hydrilla in the upper reaches of the Bush (ie Otter Point Creek) has been declining in biomass rapidly.
In my recent travels I have been locating small Widgeon beds in South River by observing where Mute Swans are feeding. Invariably, there are grasses present where the birds are. On 10/6 I observed 17 adults and 5 cygnets on South River. Just west of Lake Hillsmere there is approx 1 acre bed. Plants were in 2-3' of water. Melvin Point at the mouth of Aberdeen Creek has a several acre bed with dense coverage. Inside Aberdeen Creek on the west shore there is sparse coverage of Widgeon Grass. In Duvall Creek on the west Shore NE of Hill Point there is sparse coverage along the shore moving NE past the community beach. On the shoreline east of Warehouse Creek, in the area in front of an occluded pond there is moderate coverage of Widgeon Grass. In the South-west corner of Limehouse Cove, there is a very small channel that goes into an occluding pond. In the Southwest corner of the Pond there is a very dense bed of Eurasian Milfoil. Milfoil and Widgeon were growing throughout the pond (sparse coverage).
On 10/1, I also had the pleasure of visiting the Redhead bed on the Severn River that runs from the mouth of Asquith Creek south to Chase Creek. This bed is nothing short of spectacular. There was a light chop on the River and the water turned glassy as soon as you got into the bed. Coverage was very dense in large patches with Widgeon growing in the patches. Water clarity improved remarkably as you moved further into the bed which was to the surface in about 4+ feet of water. I was collecting seeds to spread in South River. Approx 75% of plants had lost their seeds. Of the seed pods remaining, most had only a few (4-8) seeds present. Perhaps 10% were loaded with seed.
10/20/04 Bob Orth, VIMS
Since that last brief aerial update I sent out on Oct. 5, we were able to acquire additional photography during the week of Oct. 4-8 of the entire lower Potomac River (both shores) from Port Tobacco Creek to the mouth, the Virginia tribs including the Pamunkey, Mattaponi, and James rivers, and the flightlines that cover the tribs of Choptank (Broad and Harris Creeks, and the Tred Avon River) as well as the western shoreline of Eastern Bay including the Miles River.
SAV (predominantly widgeongrass) appeared very abundant in many areas of the St. Marys River and St Georges Creek but was patchily distributed on the Potomac River side off Piney Point, the site of the Woodrow Wilson bridge transplanting project. SAV was abundant in Herring Creek, in the lower portions of St. Clements Bay and Breton Bay and was especially dense along the shoreline of the mainstem Potomac River just down from Breton Bay. SAV was not as abundant in the Wicomico River as in past years but there were still bands of dense SAV in some sections. SAV was abundant around Cobb Island and Neale Sound, just above Cobb Island. SAV was once again abundant in Cuckhold and Picowaxen creeks. Some SAV beds were present in small fringing beds in Port Tobacco Creek but not as abundant as we have seen in some years.
Along the Virginia side of the Potomac River, very little SAV was noted along that entire stretch from just above the 301 bridge at Mathias Point to the mouth, including all the tribs (e.g. Upper and Lower Machodoc creeks, Rosier Creek, etc). Very small pockets of SAV were noted in several locations notably Popes Creek and at the mouth of the Yeocomico River along the west shoreline. But generally, this is substantially less than what we noted several years ago when many creeks had abundant SAV beds dominated by milfoil.
MATTAPONI AND PAMUNKEY RIVERS SAV was noted in the upper portions of these two rivers in the same regions noted in all previous surveys
CHICKAHOMINY RIVER SAV beds were noted in Nayes Bay as well as in dense fringing beds along the mainstem from Buzzard Bay to Walkers Dam.
LOWER JAMES TRIBS
SAV beds were noted in small fringing beds in the upper portions of Upper Chippokes, Grays, and Wards creeks and much less than what had been noted several years ago.
LOWER CHOPTANK RIVER
The most significant SAV beds were noted in Harris, Broad, and Irish creeks; of the lower reaches of the Tred Avon River. The presence of SAV beds in these areas contrasts with the almost near absence noted from aerials of the southern shoreline from Cook Point Cove to the bridge.
EASTERN BAY AREA The Miles River has very few beds with those present noted in Leeds Creek. A number of portions of the Wye River were heavily scarred from hydraulic clamming. SAV beds were present along the eastern shoreline from Woodland Creek to the mouth of the Wye, and from just below Greenwood Creek to Marshy Creek where beds were still very dense.
We were able to get a couple of lines flown over the Susquehanna Flats and re-did some lines over Bloodsworth and South Marsh Islands this past Monday. I 'll send something out soon about that but will say the Flats looked GREAT!
We have a few more lines to fly and am hoping to complete the acquisition effort in the coming week. However, it does look like we will not be able to fly over Washington, DC down to Piscataway Creek as we still have not gotten permission from the Secret Service as of this writing. Real Bummer!
I just looked at our maps, Potomac Creek had SAV at the north mouth (Myriophyllum), in the Acokeek Creek mouth in 1 cove, and in 2 coves in the upstream end of Potomac Creek, on south side, upstream of the Marshy Point (Hydrilla).
I recently revisited the widgeon bed labeled as A-2 on the 2003 quad 30. Earlier in the summer this bed was approx. 15 acres and had very dense coverage. Every day I have been on the South River, (2-3 days/wk since April) there have been mute swans and resident Canada Geese feeding on this bed. On November 1, there were 38 mute swans feeding on the bed. The bed is now very sparse, with approx. 10-20% coverage. It has been hammered.
12/17/04 Bob Orth, VIMS
This will be my final update on the 2004 annual SAV aerial survey. While I was away the last month, a lot of very positive things happened for the 2004 program. If you recall from past updates, I mentioned the security issues we had to deal with in getting access to airspace in areas over Washington, DC. While we were not able to get clearance, Air Photographics flew a mission in early October at an altitude of 18,000 feet over the DC area for another customer. By flying higher, they were able to avoid the security barrier that prevented us from acquiring our regular photography. We lucked out because the flight was conducted close to low tide and had minimal sun glint. We reviewed the photography and found we could detect SAV, which means we have complete coverage of the entire Potomac River this year. The photography showed almost no SAV in the DC area, similar to what we observed in 2003, with SAV appearing downriver from the Woodrow Wilson bridge. And that big bed around the bridge is still absent.
Our luck also held out over the Aberdeen Proving Grounds (APG). As you recall, we now have to have an observer on the plane when it flies that region and when the flight is complete, APG retains the film until processing and then "blacks out" all APG areas. Since we can only get access to the airspace on weekends, having all the right conditions for good acquisition is a major challenge. However, this year it all came together on Nov. 7. From what we can tell from the photography that was not censored, taken just outside of the APG area, SAV shows up with a very distinct signature as water clarity was superb.
Some notable points from that Nov. 7 photography:
The backside of Hart-Miller Island and the shoreline between the Back and Middle River is peppered with SAV. You can see almost every patch along that entire shoal area.
The lower Middle River has SAV everywhere.
SAV is abundant in Saltpeter, Seneca and Dundee creeks
SAV can still be noted in portions of the Patapsco
The big bed on the Flats is still present and still remains really dense
There are patches of SAV at the mouth of Back River.
The resurgence of SAV this year around Eastern Neck Narrows is still noted. My only comment WOW! What an increase over last year!
The bottom line for the 2004 SAV survey is that we have a complete picture this year except for one very small line in the mid- James River (which has very little SAV anyway) and that the most notable, positive changes are in the upper Bay area above the Bay Bridge. And, as we all have been hearing, and is again evident on the aerial photos, that big bed on the Susquehanna Flats continues to get denser. Pretty amazing!
We are in the throes of orthorectifying, mosaicing and photointerpreting the 2004 photos and have a goal of providing EPA 2004 numbers by early May (and with a little luck, maybe a bit earlier). However, if have any questions on a particular area, just give us a holler.
We here at the VIMS SAV program wish you all a very Merry Christmas and Happy New Year. It has been another really interesting year tracking SAV changes (somehow I think I say this every year). It looks like 2005 should present us with some really exciting information and it will be interesting to see if the resurgence in the upper Bay continues, as well as what happens mid-Bay where all the widgeongrass took a hit in 2003 and had not rebounded in 2004.