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Silent loch

 

Kinneuchar Loch lays in a bowl.  When I first started going there it was a nature wonderland.  The loch was full of monster pike and large perch.  When fishing from a boat it was common to see big shoals of perch which would all be over a pound in weight.  The loch was home to at least a hundred swans that each year nested in the reeds.  Many, many species of ducks, coots, water hens, frogs and song birds made their homes in the sedge.  Further back in the fields, rabbits, hares, partridge, pheasants, curlews, peewits and others abounded.  A cloud of starlings had a morning and evening ritual of flying from the Kirk steeple to a big tree that flourished growing out of the water at the east end of the loch.  The loch was indeed a vibrant, active and noisy place when all of these creatures were on the move and communicating.

 

Then, slowly at first, disaster struck the loch.  Over the course of a few years most everything vanished. The huge pike and the perch were gone.  The water became crystal clear to the point that even the underwater weeds vanished.  Even the tree in the loch died.  The loch that I knew became a sterile, silent, eerie place.

 

I don't know if the cause was DDT or some other chemical that drained from the fields and ended up into the loch but I do know that right after World War II there was a considerable increase in the spraying of pesticides.

 

Nearby is another place that was severely ecologically damaged but for a very different reason.  This was at the section of roadway that stretches from the north lodge of the Elie Estate to the gate at the curling rinks.  On either side of this roadway grew very old trees, so old and prolific that their canopies intertwined over the roadway to form a tunnel.  The area was always shaded and was dank and quite dark.  Likens and mosses thrived and clung to the walls.  Ferns and many species of wetland plants flourished. Little frogs were everywhere.  In the spring the roadside ditches were full of tadpoles.  It was a very special place.

 

Again disaster struck. One day a crew of roadway workmen arrived in lorries and in short order they cut and removed the entire canopy of overhanging branches. First the dampness vanished then the mosses and the lichens followed suit and before long all the frogs and the other life forms disappeared.  Vehicles were now proceeding faster along this stretch of road but the flora and fauna were devastated.

 

For many years at the beginning of Spring I would collect a jar of  day old frog eggs and take them home to a small pond in our garden. Daily I inspected the development of the eggs as to the  metamorphosis that took place  as the eggs developed into  tadpoles then finally into completely formed little frogs. I then gathered  up all the little frogs and took them back to their birthplace. I never mentioned this to my fourth grade schoolteacher daughter, Heather, but the acorn didn't fall far from the tree. 

 

Each year in September Heather takes her class on a field trip to a nearby stream to watch Kokanee salmon lay their eggs in the gravel of the shallow waters. Next the class goes to visit a nearby fish hatchery that's run by the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW). Later the students receive from ODFW 200 newly spawned Kokanee fish eggs that they incubate in their classroom where they have an aquarium ready and waiting to receive the eggs. Each day the class checks on the hatching process. They keep records as to water flow, temperature, the light on the tank and other important factors. They learn all about acidity and alkalinity and the pH scale. They make adjustments to the water to bring it to the recommended pH number. Finally when the eggs have developed into fingerling kokanee, Heather and the young biologists make another field trip to release the fish into their wild environment.  Later in the year one of the Fish and Wildlife biologists comes to the classroom where the biologist has the children dissect a fish to teach them all about the functions of the inner parts.

 

Kinneuchar Loch