Sunday, February 20, 2011
The live Mudpuppy becomes restless and starts to splash with its tail, so I return it to the ice-lined bucket with its fellows. Zero degrees is "room temperature" for winter Mudpuppies, and it is at this season that they are most active, feeding and wandering about on the bottom at night. In Oxford Mills they are easily seen by headlamp and searchlight. We have been studying this population every Friday night for 12 years and have not found another site where they are so visible and conducive to long term monitoring and public education. See Mudpuppy Night in Oxford Mills
The four in this bucket will be returned to the icy-banked creek next Friday. They were collected last night by the young naturalists of the Macoun Field Club from Ottawa as they assisted in our weekly count of the giant salamanders that gather in winter below the dam on Kemptville Creek. The Macouns were lucky that the creek hadn't risen too much for Mudpuppy viewing, after our two days of temperatures well above freezing, as when rain falls or snow melts the creek becomes fast, deep, and cloudy with suspended organic material. Many of the Mudpuppies are swept downstream then, and we may not see them again until they make their way back as the water level drops with the return of cold temperatures. Every week brings different conditions and our weekly counts of Mudpuppies vary from none to 180.
The sculpting material Super Sculpey is a polymer modelling "clay" that feels like warmed beeswax to work with. It hardens in 15 minutes when baked at 275F. This flesh-tinted ceramic-like sculpting compound named "Super Sculpey" is a variation on the original white "Polyform" that I used as a teenager. It is still available, under the name of "Sculpey" and is a little softer to work with than "Super Sculpey". I have painted this model with "Tri-Art" acrylic paints, mixing gold and copper colours with brown, black, and pearl, and I'm especially pleased with the red, as it is slightly translucent over the external gills, so that they glow just as those of the live Mudpuppies do when the oxygen is reduced in their water.
Posted by Aleta Karstad at 11:44 PM