I live on Mianus Pond — I mean, right on the pond, if I fall out my back window I practically land in the water — and every spring there's an uptick in the variety of nighttime animal sounds: Geese honking and splashing; raccoons, skunks and opossums screaming as they fight along the banks. These welcome though often unsettling disturbances are sometimes loud enough to wake me in the middle of the night.
But this year there has been another nighttime noise — quieter, but more persistent: It's the sound of the alewives spawning in the small inlet adjacent our property, where a stream enters the pond via a culvert that runs under Valley Road from Waterfall Lane. During the past week, their intense and continuous splashing sounds have been keeping me awake — they're louder because there's more of them than ever!
Actually, I first noticed schools of alewives congregating at the mouth of the culvert about three years ago — but since then it seems the school has grown significantly: This year there are 100, possibly more "baby herring" swimming around in the inlet, trying to figure out how to get up that culvert, which rises at an incline from the pond. (Even if they could swim up it, they wouldn't get far, as the historic mill dam at the end of Waterfall Lane would preclude further upstream migration.) It makes me wonder how many more of these endangered fish are upstream in other tributaries.
Watching a school of spawning alewives can be hypnotizing: Because the water is clear and only about a foot deep, on a sunny day you can clearly see the bright silvery fish swimming rapidly in a racetrack like pattern near the edge of the shore. Every now and then there will be a flurry of alewife activity and several of them will literally jump out of the water. (I've never seen any hatchlings later in the season though, I guess they're just too small, or discreet ... hopefully the abundance of herons, egrets and osprey on the pond aren't gobbling them all...)
I'm encouraged by what I'm seeing as it proves that the fish ladder on Mianus Pond Dam is doing its job. After Sunday's heavy rain I expect they will have dropped back over the dam, only to return next April, when they are welcome to keep me awake again…