Berkshire Woods and Waters: New brochure sheds light on types of sunfish in the state

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Think you know all of the freshwater fishes in Massachusetts?

Don't answer that until you read the new MassWildlife brochure entitled "Freshwater Fishes of Massachusetts." I don't know about you, but I thought the only sunfish in Massachusetts were bluegills (Lepomis Macrochirus) and pumpkinseeds (Lepomis gibbosus). True, some classify the crappie, perch and rock bass as sunfish, but I don't. Some others, including MassWildlife, categorize largemouth and smallmouth bass as sunfish, but not me. I call them gamefish.

Well, according to the new MassWildlife brochure, there are also banded sunfish (Enneacanthus obesus), redbreast sunfish (Lepomis auritus) and green sunfish (Lepomis cyanellus) residing in the Commonwealth. In fact, some have been caught here in the Western District. It also lists another kind of pickerel in Massachusetts called the redfin Pickerel (Esox americanus) which only grows to a size of 6 to 10 inches and resides in the eastern part of the Commonwealth. Interestingly, in the Minnows family is listed the common carp (Ciprinus carpio). I don't know about you, but I have a problem calling a 40-pound carp a minnow!

This excellent new brochure, which is free at any DFW Regional Office, has excellent color pictures of them and other Massachusetts freshwater fish as well as other interesting information. Local DFW aquatic biologist Leanda Fontaine Gagnon had a hand in producing it.

New Natural Heritage Atlas

On Aug. 1 the Natural Heritage and Endangered Species Program released the 14th edition of the "Natural Heritage Atlas." The atlas is used by project proponents, municipalities and others for determining whether or not a proposed project or activity must be reviewed by the NHESP for compliance with the Massachusetts Wetlands Protection Act and the Massachusetts Endangered Species Act Regulations.

Updated Priority and Estimated Habitats will be posted on the division's website and made available electronically as a downloadable geographic information system data layer. Additionally, the division will provide the town-based Priority and Estimated Habitat maps to planning boards, building inspectors, and conservation commissions in municipalities where these areas have been delineated. See www.mass.gov/nhesp for more information, including the final maps and a summary response to the Priority Habitat public comments.

NHESP, part of the Massachusetts DFW, is one of the programs forming the Natural Heritage network. NHESP is responsible for the conservation and protection of hundreds of species that are not hunted, fished, trapped, or commercially harvested in the state, as well as the protection of the natural communities that make up their habitats. The program's highest priority is protecting the vertebrate and invertebrate animals and native plants that are officially listed as endangered, threatened or of special concern in Massachusetts.

Riverside Trails Seminar

According to the Great Barrington Land Conservancy, trail building is a process that is complex and rewarding, especially in a riverfront area.

The Land Conservancy invites you to learn about the planning and implementation of riverside trails from expert trail builder, Peter Jensen. The seminar will run on Sept. 9 from 10 a.m. until noon.

Jensen has been building trails for over 30 years, and the Great Barrington River Walk was one of his early projects. Attendees can learn how this National Recreation Trail grew from a garbage-filled bank to a rehabilitated riverfront area and peaceful in-town walkway celebrating the beauty and history of Great Barrington and the Housatonic River.

Peter will share his expertise and trail building experiences in a power point presentation, followed by a guided walk along River Walk. The seminar is free and open to the public. Participants will have an opportunity to talk to Jensen about their own trail projects or riverside trail goals. Register as soon as possible as space is limited at info@gbtrails.org.

This program is provided by Great Barrington Land Conservancy as part of the 2017 River Walk Community Programs.

Community Celebration Day

On Sept. 9 from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m., the Berkshire Natural Resources Council will be having a Community Celebration Day at the Holiday Farms, 100 Holiday Cottage Road in Dalton. There will be hay rides, guided walks, archery, fishing, birds of prey with Tom Ricardi and music all day. While registration is not required, they ask you to consider letting them know by registering and getting a free ticket.

Massachusetts Outdoor Exposition

The Massachusetts Outdoor Expo, also known as The Big MOE is a free, family-friendly event designed to introduce young and old to wildlife and the outdoors. The event will beon Sept. 17. Attracting several thousand attendees annually, the Big MOE features a variety of skills stations, craft tables, and other exhibits relating to wildlife and the outdoors. This is your opportunity to try new outdoor skills and activities such as fishing, archery, kayaking, shooting, building a bird box, geocaching, mountain biking, nature arts and crafts. Visit a New England Pioneer Encampment, take a peek at live birds of prey and native reptiles, be part of a tree stand safety demonstration and get up close and personal at the 4-H petting zoo. Local sportsmen's clubs, outdoor businesses, conservation organizations and state agencies sponsor most of the activity stations.

You may recall last year that the event was cancelled, presumably due to liability issues. Well, this year adults and youths will be required to sign a Liability Release Form. This form can be found at the Big MOE Fawns Expo website and you are asked to print it off beforehand and bring one per person with you.

The Big MOE location is the Hamilton Rod & Gun Club in Sturbridge. Admission, parking and all activities are free. Convenient parking provided at the Sturbridge Business Park, 660 Main St., with free shuttle bus transportation. No pets or alcohol allowed, but food and drink are available for purchase.

Questions/comments: Berkwoodsandwaters@roadrunner.com. Phone 413-637-1818.

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