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Fish - Birds - Otters - Beaver - Coyote - Turtles - Other
Since 1974, I have lived in two houses overlooking the Decatur Fork of Peavine Creek, as it flows from Decatur towards Atlanta. Both houses are upstream of Vickers Drive but below the mill site now called Durand Falls, and the location is probably the highest reach of this fork that many fish inhabit (although in April 2013 I saw schools of small fish at the confluence of the north and south forks of Peavine Creek, in Decatur). It has been delightful watching the fast and slow changes in the stream as well as the surprising wildlife. Raccoons patrol the banks nightly but are rarely seen, except for the footprints they leave behind.
Anyone seriously interested in the ecology of Peavine Creek should consult the University of Georgia MS thesis of Barrett Walker who lived in this community: Community-based Urban Watershed Protection: A Case Study for Atlanta, Georgia (of Peavine and South Peachtree Creeks), 1996.
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In 1990, I discovered that the springtime splashing I sometimes heard in the creek was due to some surprisingly large suckers that were spawning in a gravel ripple in a certain part of the stream. I found one that had died from a cut, perhaps from broken glass, which is common in the stream. It was 14" long and weighed 1 1/3 lbs. Examination revealed a dorsal fin with 11 rays, an anal fin with 6 rays, about 60 scales in the lateral line, and about 10 scale rows above the lateral line. My best ID is : white sucker or common sucker, Catostomus commersoni, and Walker identified this fish with this behavior. These large fish were accompanied by large numbers of smaller fish chasing them, and I never could be certain if the smaller fish were males trying to fertilize the females' eggs or another species trying to eat the eggs. These fish were seen regularly in late March and April, but in the summer of 2009, the ripple near my house was washed away, and these fish haven't been seen since.
Each summer, some fairly large fish appear. And the males develop bright red colors and make and guard nests in the sandy bottom of water only a few inches deep. I believe these are Redbreast sunfish (Lepomis auritus), and walker identified this species as plentiful here.
A common sight in shallow, sandy areas during the summer.
During the summer the males clear a circular area a couple of feet across and patrol it. Presumably females lay eggs in it and the male fertilizes and protects them.
On several occasions, I've found fish that were stranded after the water receded from a flood event. In this small stream, floodwaters rise and fall within a few hours. In December 2015, the morning after a 2" rain, I saw fish swimming in a small pool left behind. That afternoon, the water had soaked into the ground, and these fish were left stranded.
About 4" length.
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In the 1970's and 1980's, I frequently enjoyed the sight and sound of belted kingfishers as they hunted fish up and down the stream. During this period, they were seen or heard every week throughout the year. About 1990, they became rare, and I've seen them here only a handful of times in the 20 years since. I associate their disappearance with the Durand Mill housing development, which cleared 30 acres of old-farm gone-to-forest just upstream for 96 new houses.
In 1991, a pair of wood ducks started frequenting this part of the creek, and I put up a wood duck nest box attached to a tree overhanging the creek. The next day, we saw a female get into the box and drop out of it, as if testing to see how her ducklings might land. We have seen some wood ducks almost every spring (Feb-May) since, but only once did it look like a pair were nesting in the box, and ducklings were only seen in a different year.
One of the wood ducks
Since 1995, in the spring, mallard ducks are also seen up and down the stream. Often they are in pairs and I assume they are also looking for nest sites. In April 2004, I saw a mallard with ducklings, so it probably nested along the creek. In April 2008, the neighbor girls discovered a mallard female nesting under a low-growing azalea. It was so well camouflaged that you could stand over it and look down on it and still not see that there was a duck there. A week later, I counted 8 eggs, while the female was away. A few days later, we returned from a trip to find the nest dug up and pieces of broken eggs scattered about. I assume a raccoon discovered the nest and eat the eggs. Click here for pictures of the nest.
In the 1980's I put up two screech owl boxes about 12' high on pine trees. Through the 1990's, one or another of the boxes was usually occupied in the late winter and early spring. We saw nestlings and fledglings in 1990, 1995, 1996, 1997, 1999, and 2000, but none since.
Barred owls became common since 2003. They are often heard calling to one another, especially at dusk. They are more active during daylight than most owls and are sometimes seen, like the one above. It may be that the barred owls prey on the screech owls and have caused the disappearance of the latter.
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We first spotted an otter in Peavine Creek in February 1996. Since 2007, we have seen some almost every year, usually February through March.
6s video of an otter, recorded 20Feb2008.
The otter is easier to see when it gets out of the water. They frequently get out on this sandy bank and sometimes disappear into the woods for a few minutes.
11s of another otter hunting among rocks, recorded 21Mar2013.
The otters often hunt among the rocks at the edge of the stream.
13s of another otter swimming, recorded 10Feb2010.
It's amazing how easily they swim.
Here are some longer videos of otters, that may take some time to load:
22s of an otter eating, recorded 21Mar2013. The otter often gets out of the water to eat its catch.
45s of two otters Play-fighting, recorded 8Mar2018. These otters are not just about playing; in the hour they were visible, we saw them catch several fish, including two large suckers.
62s of an otter on the sandy bank, recorded 10Feb2010. The otter is easier to see when it gets out of the water. They frequently get out on this sandy bank and sometimes disappear into the woods for a few minutes. This one is doing some business on the sand.
2 min of an otter hunting fish, recorded 15Nov2015. A good view of this otter in shallow water hunting. This video may take a few minutes to load.
2.9 min of an otter eating a large fish, probably a sucker, recorded 8Mar2018. It takes the otter quite a while to eat this large fish. You can see it has quite large teeth to catch fish. This video may take a few minutes to load.
3.3min of an otter family eating fish, recorded 24May2017. Two youngsters and an adult have been seen several times for the last three weeks. This long video may take several minutes to load.
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In February 2003, a well-made beaver dam appeared just upstream of Vickers Drive.
15 February 2003
About 50 ft upstream of Vickers Drive.
25 April 2003
A couple of months later, the dam had washed away.
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We have heard about coyotes in the neighborhood for several years, and I spotted one in the Decatur Cemetary before the kudzu was cleared. One evening (28Jan2014) after a snow which made them visible, two coyotes were seen traveling up the valley of Peavine Creek in the dark. The next morning their tracks were visible in the snow.
12s video of a coyote crossing Peavine Creek, recorded 15Nov2015.
This coyote was seen hunting along the edge of the steam working it's way upstream about 9am. An hour and a half later, I got this video of it going downsteam. I imagine that, at night, coyotes frequently travel up and down the creek, which is mostly wooded and relatively safe for them.
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Over the years, snapping turtles have been seen in the creek on many occasions.
25 March 2017
Fish were swimming nearby, and I wonder if it were waiting in ambush. The turtle appeared to be a little more than a foot across.
9 March 2016 in Hidden Cove Park
The turtle appeared to be a little more than a foot across. This section, North branch of Peavine Creek, is very shallow, and I'm surprised such a big turtle was in it.
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When I moved into the neighborhood in 1974, kingfishers were commonly seen flying up and down the creek looking for, and sometimes catching, fish. They use to be seen and heard on a weekly basis, but less than once a year since 1990. I wonder if the Durand Mill development destroyed a nesting site, as there are still plenty of fish in the stream.
In the 1980s, I sometimes saw muskrats along the creek but not more recently.
In 1996 and 2004, we spotted what seemed to be a mink.
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Last revised 11 March 2018.
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