I went out yesterday to the upper Paint Rock River with a group of visitors, mostly from Florida but including Tony Terceira from Rhode Island. Tony is a long-time active member of the American Killifish Association and well-known as an excellent fish photographer. I've corresponded with Tony off and on over the years but never met him, so it was good to spend the day running around a creek with him. Also on the trip were the two Dougs from Florida, Brian from Florida, and Ken and his wife Lisa from Florida. These people also go on ecotours of Peru and other interesting ecosystems, Alabama could probably develop this too if we don't destroy everything first.
Of course we found an astonishing diversity of fish at the two sites we visited, and everyone made a lot of pictures using various fish photoboxes (I hope to have some of these photos soon). We caught and released huge male stonerollers and striped shiners, lit up in colors and tubercles they only have during the spawning season. We also caught several heavily tubercled male minnows that I didn't recognize at the time; they were super-alpha male bluntnose minnows, much bigger than the usual bluntnoses we see with enhanced scale pigmentation.
And for the first time in this system I saw a banded darter, Etheostoma zonale
. This species is common from Tennessee up to the midwest and upstate NY. I'd forgotten that they're found in the Paint Rock and several streams to the west in Lauderdale County, defining the southern edge of their range. It got me thinking about how many darters are in the Paint Rock, including especially the upper tributaries, and I came up with a list of eleven species, ten of which I've seen:
Logperch, Percina caprodes
Blotchside Logperch, P. burtoni
Snail Darter, P. tanasi
Black Snubnose Darter, Etheostoma duryi
Tennessee Snubnose Darter, E. simoterum
Banded Darter, E. zonale
Greenside Darter, E. blenniodes
Blueside Darter, E. jessiae
Johnny Darter, E. nigrum
Fantail Darter, E. flabe
Stripetail Darter, E. kennicotti
The only one I haven't seen is the famous Snail Darter, which can be found in the lower Paint Rock. This is very high darter diversity for what is a small river system.