Aerial and Field SAV Observations

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Aerial Update 5/20/16

May 20th, 2016 by Robert Orth · No Comments

Report on observations from a low level flight over the seaside bays and lower western shore

On Friday, May 20, Jon Lefcheck and I took a low reconnaissance flight out of Newport News to assess the SAV situation in the VA coastal bays and a portion of the lower western shore.  A concern was the eelgrass coverage in the coastal bays, esp. South Bay where eelgrass in the primary restoration region had declined last year around June. The flight path took us over the Poquoson Flats over to Fisherman’s Island and then up the coastal bays to Hog Island Bay, across the Chesapeake to just south of Gwynn’s Island, around New Point, along the north shore of the Mobjack Bay to just across Ware Pt., crossing Ware Pt, towards Guinea Marsh along the shoreline, and then to Sandy Pt in the York River, where SAV folks were harvesting eelgrass flowering shoots, across Goodwin Island and towards the Coast Guard area and then on to the Poquoson Flats. We then went over the mouth of Back River, heading to the James River where we went from the HRBT to the MMBT, and finally back to Newport News. Total flight time was a little over 2 hrs (1230-230). Altitude for observations was 500’.

Seaside lagoons – water clarity in general was excellent. We flew these bays almost at low tide. YSI’s were at about 3 NTU’s.

Fisherman’s Island and Magothy Bay- nothing appeared like eelgrass except for that very narrow strip in the inside of Fisherman’s Isl. which we have mapped in previous years. We noted a lot of aquaculture.

South Bay – eelgrass at the south end of South Bay looked dense and continuous, about similar to what we mapped in 2015. The narrow strip of eelgrass on the south side of Ship Shoal channel was still present. The central portion of South Bay, which was the area first seeded, was patchy (perhaps a density class of 2) but was certainly better than I expected. There were some areas of that central portion that did look dense, e.g., the area just north of the second bay scallop location and an area Bo indicated he noted dense grass. The grass tapered off as you moved south to the central deeper areas of South Bay. Prominent features were the circular dredge scars we first noted in 2014. They did not look like they had revegetated nor could I tell if more had been made in the last year. But they were very obvious. Eelgrass on shoal to the east of Running Channel also looked really good.

Cobb Bay – eelgrass was dense and continuous in the areas we mapped last year, incl. much of the east side and around Big Easter Marsh.

Spider Crab Bay – the eelgrass distribution appeared about the same as last year but the eelgrass on that shallow shoal on the west side where we seeded last year continues to look good. I could not see the patches of adult plants we planted last fall. At the north end of Spider Crab, a number of plots that were planted many years ago were still evident, meaning little fill in between plots, unlike what we observed in South Bay.  Also, I could not see any evidence of the ‘NOAA’ letters

Hog Island Bay – eelgrass appeared densest at the northern, shallower end. Also, it appeared eelgrass had colonized all around one of the big aquaculture plots at that north end outside the set aside area. Eelgrass was also present on the west side of the shallow shoal of our set aside that looked a bit denser than last year. One interesting observation was the presence of a large number of dense patches to the east of the planted bed and outside he set aside. It’s a distinct possibility they were eelgrass but we have to check it out to be 100% certain. I noted the locations on our GPS unit.

Western Shore

· SAV looked dense around Horn Harbor

· SAV looked dense all along the north shore of the Mobjack Bay.

· SAV along the south side of Ware Pt was indeed sparse which we noted in our ground survey earlier in the week!

· SAV was dense off 4 Point Marsh but not as dense as last year.

· SAV was very sparse at Browns Bay where our transects are located.

· SAV off Guinea Marsh was dense inshore and SAV patches went way out off the marsh islands.

· York River north shore SAV looked good up to Sandy Pt.

· I could see a number of SAV patches off the south shore along the refinery pier but densest patch was AJ’s experiments. We could not get too close because of the height of the smoke stacks from the refinery.

· SAV along the bayside of Goodwin Island was sparse.

· The eelgrass off Poquoson Flats on the large sandbar was still present with numerous patches surrounding the denser area. The main SAV bed looked dense but it was hard to tell just how far the bed went offshore.

· The main SAV bed in the center of Back River looked dense.

· SAV along the James River from the HRBT to the MMBT was dense in many of the same areas as in 2015

We made an interesting observation at the New Point lighthouse. We spotted 100s of cownose rays swimming across a shallow sandy shoal at the lighthouse. It was a continuous band of ray after ray. It was impressive!

Water clarity in the Bay was really good – offshore sand bars were visible.

Tags: Aerial Updates

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