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gsneegas at juno_com (Garold W. Sneegas): Re: NANFA-- article in Killi-Kontakt -Reply

--------- Begin forwarded message ----------
From: gsneegas at juno_com (Garold W. Sneegas)
To: nanfa at aquaria_net
Subject: Re: NANFA-- article in Killi-Kontakt -Reply
Date: Tue, 13 Jan 1998 15:48:21 EST
Message-ID: <19980113.144553.6943.0.GSneegas at juno_com>
References: <s4bb5e09.027 at wpgate_glo.state.tx.us>

Since Doug has already given a good introduction of Balmorhea State Park
I will give an abbreviated version of the rest of the article.

My first attempts at photographing the Comanche Springs Pupfish during
the day were not successful. The pupfish were very active and wary, worst
yet were the schools of Mexican Tetras that were swarming around me.
Whenever I would attempt to get close to the pupfish the schools of
tetras around me would spook the pupfish. The park is a very popular
scuba diving site on weekends and divers often feed the tetras. The
tetras have become so accustomed to being fed that anytime a diver enters
the water they swarm in around them.					

I have learned from past experience that a number of fish species that
are active during the day are completely dormant at night and are easy to
approach. I decided to try my luck at photographing the pupfish that
I noticed that during the day there were only tetras and pupfish present
in the shallow three foot arm of the swimming area. I decided to enter
this arm just after dusk. As I suspected the tetras were inactive near
the surface and the pupfish where spread all over the bottom completely
inactive and easily approachable. What I did not expect to see was the
feeding frenzy of predators on the pupfish. A number of Green sunfish and
Headwater catfish had moved into the shallow arm and were scouring the
bottom feeding 
on the immobile pupfish. In addition to the fishes, at the head of the
arm four Texas Spiny Softshell turtles were lined up in a straight line
moving up the arm, reminding me of a line of infantry moving into battle.
This may seem like a terrible fate to befall an endangered species
however keep in mind that pupfish are prolific breeders and spawn
virtually year round. They can rapidly over populate their environment
without some type of predator control.

Due to time restraints I was only able to shoot a few rolls of film
before having to move on. I was not able to see the results of my efforts
until I returned home a few days later. Unfortunately I had made some
exposure errors and was not pleased with the few images I ended up with.
The memories of what I had witnessed on the night dive kept haunting me
for weeks.  I finally decided to return to Balmorhea in mid April and
spend three days concentrating on just photography. My second efforts
resulted in a vast improvement over the first trip. I was also fortunate
to have park ranger Tom Johnson assist me on a few dives. Even thought
Tom was very busy during the day he still found time after work to help
out on a couple of dives.			

I mentioned earlier that my first attempt at photographing pupfish during
the day was hindered by the swarms of tetras around me. After several
dives during my second visit the tetras began to realize I did not have
anything to offer them and began to ignore me. I was then able to slowly
allow the pupfish to become accustom to my presence until they knew I was
not a threat to them. This allowed me to closely observe some interesting
 behavior. Male pupfish set up territories and vehemently guard them from
intrusion by other males or even from larger tetras. Without making
several dives and patiently waiting for the pupfish to become accustom to
my presence it would have been impossible to observe this behavior. 

Balmorhea State Park is a great example of what can be done with
cooperation between state, federal and private interests.  The park plays
a major role in educating the general public on the plight of native fish
species and at the same time allows them recreational use of  this oasis
in the parched west Texas landscape. The park also allowed me to observe
and photograph natural behaviors of an endangered species which I may not
have otherwise been able to access.

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