Biology trip, March 29, 2008

Trip Report – Carroll Cave Biology Project

Trip date – 29 March 2008

Areas visited – Upper Thunder River, UL2 side passage.

Bill Gee – Trip leader
Andy Isbell
Eric Hertzler
Max White
Ashley Smith
Justace Clutter
Jim Cooley

Jim, Justace and I camped Friday night at the schoolhouse. The temperature got down to about 40 degrees and there was a bit of wind. It was obvious that the area has received a lot of rain recently. Bill Pfantz stopped by for a few minutes and said he thought the rain was 4 to 6 inches in the last week.

Saturday morning, I went up to open the cave and rig the rope, then came back down to put in my contact lenses. Max, Eric and Ashley arrived shortly after nine. We talked for a few minutes, then everyone drove up the hill.

Getting everyone rigged took a bit of doing. We wound up borrowing an eight from Bill Pfantz for Ashley to use. Max used the only cable grab I could find. We started down the hole shortly after 10am. I was last, getting down there about 10:40.

The first order of business was to review the agenda. The river was running fast, so we decided to take a trip to Thunder Falls. From there we would decide whether the river was high enough to make us change plans.

There was one flying bat at the ladder. We stopped at the bait sticks near the ladder and near the shortcut to Thunder Falls. All four bait sticks were covered with hundreds of springtails. At sticks 3 and 4 Eric found 3 millipedes and several brown mites. Ashley saw some very small beetles and more than 10 gnats. We saw two bats hanging on the wall next to the ladder.

After looking at the bait sticks, we went through the shortcut and on to Thunder Falls. Ashley and Max were suitably impressed. The river was flowing about 8 to 10 inches above normal level, so Thunder Falls was thundering. Although higher than usual, the stream was not dangerous or turbid. We decided to go ahead with a fish count to the Round Room. Max took a number of photos, then we started the fish count. From Thunder Falls to the stilling well we found 3 fish and 2 isopods.

The stilling well was broken off about an inch above the collar where it goes into the base. The base piece was still there, still bolted to the stream bed and looked intact. The data logger was in the remains of the stilling well. The broken piece of PVC was hanging on the rope in the stream. I removed the broken piece and took it up to the landing area by the ladder.

We continued the fish count to the UL2 entrance. There were not very many fish in this long section of the stream. We counted 10 fish, 9 snails, many isopods and a couple of bats. Eric collected one snail under a permit he has. This snail was about 1 or 1.5mm and was found in the stream directly below the ladder.

We arrived at the UL2 entrance about 1:00pm. Ashley and Max took a trip up the mud bank to see the formations and Max took a bunch more photos. We decided to split into two teams. The first team was myself, Justace, Max and Eric. The second team was Andy, Ashley and Jim. My team headed on up Thunder River to complete the fish count while Andy’s team did a critter count in UL2 up to Convention Hall. We parted at 1:30 and agreed to meet in Convention Hall by 3:00pm.

The fish count from UL2 to the Round Room was a bit more productive. We counted 12 fish, 1 juvenile grotto salamander and two bats. On the way back we stopped at Flat Rock Falls to count and measure isopods. The water was 3 to 5 inches deep over the rock and so we could not see very well. Justace and I counted and measured. Eric took notes and Max took some more pictures. We counted what we could, then left to join the other team. It was 2:45 when we left Flat Rock Falls.

We arrived at Convention Hall about 3:20. Andy’s team was already there relaxing. Andy reports 21 fish, 5 bats and over 50 isopods avgerage length 4 to 6 mm between the UL2 entrance and Convention Hall.

Everyone got out stoves and we had a hot meal. I figured we had 4 or 5 hours before we had to be back at the ladder. Everyone was eager to see more of UL2. No bio survey has ever been done beyond Convention Hall. We decided to take a few hours and see what was out there.

We left Convention Hall about 4:30. Everyone got through the crack and up to the Conference Room safely. We noticed one flying bat in the Conference Room From there we went straight down to the stream and started looking for critters.

Eric was in the lead with the rest in single file behind him. The passage at stream level is too narrow to spread out. Within the first hundred feet we found three grotto salamanders, one fish and 4 snails. We found many isopods.

About 15 minutes later we stopped to collect an isopod for Dr. Ashley to look at. Eric collected the speciman from a mud puddle to the side of the main stream. It was about 15mm long, which is about the largest isopod I have seen. In that 15 minutes we counted 20 fish, 3 larval-form grotto salamanders and many isopods.

When we came to the UL2-90 side passage, a few people checked out the first hundred feet. They report the “spanky banks” are still there. There was a decent flow of water out of the side passage, in contrast to a couple of survey trips when I have seen no water flowing out of it. One salamander was found which was dark grey in color and in the water. There were some animal scratches on the wall just inside UL2-90 on the left side, and we saw one hibernating pip.

Nearby we found one fish that was surely a gravid female and two other fish. There were three snails on one rock that Eric looked at.

We back-tracked at the stream level to Convention Hall, then on to the ladder and out of the cave. At the entrance to UL2 we found a dead bat on the trail. It was pretty fresh, still with skin on its wings and almost completely covered in fungus. Last caver out was about 7:45.

As with previous trips we found more fish in UL2 than in the main passage. We also found more salamanders.

Bait sticks 1 through 4 – Hundreds of springtails. 3 millipedes, more than 10 gnats, several mites and several beetles.
Thunder falls to the stilling well – 3 fish and two isopods.
Stilling well to UL2 – 10 fish, 9 snails, many isopods, 2 bats flying.
UL2 to Blue Reflector – 12 fish, 1 juvenile grotto salamander, 2 bats.
UL2 to Convention Hall – 21 fish, 5 bats, over 50 isopods average 4 to 6 mm.
Conference Room to 100 feet upstream – 3 adult grotto salamanders, 1 fish, 4 snails
Next 15 minutes – 20 fish, 3 larval salamanders, many isopods
Last stretch to UL2-90 – 3 fish, 3 snails, 1 salamander probably NOT a grotto

Isopod count at Flat Rock Falls:
(mm) specimens
 1-   0
 2-   1
 3-   1
 4-   2
 5-   4
 6-   4
 7-   1
 8-   2
 9-   0
10- Â Â 1
11- Â Â 0
12- Â Â 0