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Saltmarsh sparrows represent the ‘canary in the marsh’.

Saltmarsh sparrows (Ammospiza caudacuta) only inhabit salt marshes
along the eastern seaboard of the United States, between Florida and New England.
For thousands of years they have nested in the Great Marsh.
Sadly, today their numbers are steadily declining and they face a danger of extinction by 2050. [Click for Large Views]


Rainbow smelt (Osmerus mordax) are fish that over-winter in estuaries and bays, including the Great Marsh. They spawn each spring in coastal streams and rivers. Smelt were so abundant in the early days that Native Americans scooped them up with woven baskets and their hands. Since 1800 smelt were always available in wintertime for commercial and recreational fishermen throughout the Great Marsh and New England area. Ice fishing in the Parker and Ipswich Rivers was a highlight of winters in the North Shore. [Click for Large Views]

Fiddler crabs (Minuca pugnax) are on the move from southern waters to Plum Island and the Gulf of Maine. Warming waters caused by climate change are bringing them here. Since 1901, coastal waters in the United States have warmed by 3 degrees F. Since 2012, the Gulf of Maine has warmed seven times faster than the rest of the Atlantic Ocean. [Click for Large Views]