Describe your volunteer activities at HCT:
Each spring during the months of April and May, river herring (blue back, alewife, and shad) return from the sea to their freshwater birth place via rivers connecting these bodies of water. The Harwich Conservation Trust (HCT) relies on volunteers to spend approximately 30 minutes per week, for 8 weeks, to record observed quantities of blue back and alewife herring entering Hinckleys Pond from the Herring River. Water and air temperatures, pond height, count start/stops times are also recorded. Observations such as water flow restrictions, wildlife species, and other information are noted on a form proved by HCT.
Herring are a food source to many animal species. Low fish runs over the past several years have required fisheries authorities to shut down the harvesting of river herring. The herring count program has been implemented to establish an estimate of the herring population and the health status of this important natural resource.
How long have you volunteered?
I have counted herring for HCT’s Herring Count program during the past three springs. I find the weekly visits to Hinckleys Pond very rewarding and enjoyable. There is always something new to observe and record, whether it’s different fish species, birds species or other environmental conditions worth noting.
What do you like most about it, memorable moments?
During one of my scheduled visits to Hinckleys Pond last April I observed 341 herring in 10 minutes pass from the man made ladder in the Herring River to Hinckleys Pond. Large and small mouth bass are often seen waiting for fingerling yellow perch to enter the pond. All sorts of birds are frequently present such as belted kingfishers, greater and lesser scaup, black-crowned night heron and great blue heron, not to mention herring gulls looking for an easy meal.
What’s special about Harwich?
My wife Donna and I moved from Hanson, MA to Harwich 11 years ago. Harwich is special to us for its close proximity to the ocean, and for its many preserved tracts of land with freshwater ponds. This land is home to many wildlife species year round. Harwich is also a stop-off point for many migrating species. I grew up in Whitman, MA and had an appreciation for nature. I recall seeing the glow of lightning bugs, hearing spring peepers, and picking wild blueberries. Changes to my old home town had an impact on these experiences and when we relocated to Harwich, it was like going back in time for me, as once again I see lightning bugs and hear peepers, even with my bad hearing! Thank you HCT for all your hard work in preserving land. Hopefully my two grand children Grace and Kellan Whitney will experience nature as I did growing up.
What else do you like to do for fun or other activities or volunteering?
I am a member of the Cape Cod Salties recreational sport-fishing club. A few of the Salties activities are cleaning herring rivers of debris, cleaning up the banks of the Cape Cod Canal, sponsoring “Learn to Fish Day” for people of all ages, and donating funds to youth scholarships and the needy. I have helped raise funds for the Salties through my hobby of wood carving, for such worthy organizations as the Family Pantry in Harwich, and Casting for Recovery, a fly fishing school for women recovering from breast cancer. I recently donated carvings of blue back and alewife river herring to the HCT for education purposes, which can be seen at their office on Rt. 28 in South Harwich.