Discovering Nature

Category: Vernal pool

Vernal pool vitality

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It seems to take no time at all for these frog’s eggs to develop. Here’s a proud and strangely happy looking mother frog.

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Salamander Season

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We discovered yesterday that we’d completely missed a chapter of spring. It seems early, but there were lots of signs of the season advancing, including salamanders cruising about among the dead leaves in one of our favorite pools.

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Eggs had already hatched into plump tadpoles.

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Some frogs were floating about. This one’s trying to remain incognito, and she almost succeeded in getting stepped on.

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There were various signatures of creatures who were out and about and carving their names on trees.

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The wind had left its mark too. This tree had been split in two and turned into a drinking trough.

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And this was one of many that had been plucked up by the roots.

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We saw some kinglets, and a few geese squabbling endlessly over their own patch of pond. We also saw a new beaver lodge, and lots of signs of the beaver’s activity on trees along the bank:

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It was sunny and mild, and the green was just starting to show in the landscape.

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On the whole it was a thoroughly enjoyable walk! Even though our winter has been unusually mild, the sight of new growth always marks a welcome change.

Coltsfoot

A friend tells me this flower is called coltsfoot. It’s one of the earliest spots of color to be seen in the mud along the roadsides.

Spring Thaw

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It was in the 60’s, the snow was melting, and the sun was out. We decided to head out and see what the woods looked like on such a welcome spring day.

A stop at the vernal pool didn’t seem like it would be too promising. But despite the ice…

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…I saw the first tadpole of the year.

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There’s something incongruous about the stealth of such a plump fellow darting along in his underwater world. I was glad to see him.

He wasn’t the only one enjoying the water. A big snapping turtle was floating on the pond, bleary-eyed. There were many ducks around the area, and I wondered if they realized he was there. I wouldn’t want to be anywhere near him if I was a duck.

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We took our dog Lucy. She had a blast, of course.

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We certainly appreciated her supervision playing in the stream. Where would we be without someone to catch every splash?

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But I felt an unexpected sadness, remembering how our old dog, Katie, who died over a year ago, used to love coming here too. I remembered how we had to leave her at home toward the end because she was so unwell, and she’d stand at the back window and watch us drive away. Memories are a part of these familiar places. Rest in peace, Katie.

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We needed the warmth and sun, and we saw a number of other people out and about in the woods too. All of us are ready for the snow to be gone — even though it means the season of mud begins. It was good to be out and feel the balminess and promise of spring.

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Yellowthroats and Other Wonders

Yesterday we visited the Nature Preserve managed by the State University here in town. It was our first time back since the trees were just starting to bud, and the bright green of maples gave the woods an enchanted feel. Tossing leaves dappled the ground with shifting shadows.

Younger Daughter (8) spotted this tiny flower first thing. When I got home I looked for it in our Peterson’s First Guide, but I didn’t find it.

*Edited to add: I think it’s called bird’s-eye speedwell! Hat-tip to Ramble.

We visited the vernal pool that was so active in early spring with salamanders, wood frogs, spring peepers, and the eggs of all three.

We saw a few salamanders, frogs and turtles, but compared to before, it had the air of a place winding down. It was much quieter. But some species were still busy reproducing. We saw this enormous spider hustling along with its egg sac. Given that I’ve just reread Tolkien’s Two Towers with its memorable Spiderish Monster, I named it Shelob.

The resident brown creeper was there, too.

We ventured on past an abandoned beaver lodge and numerous stands of fern.

At the pond, a song sparrow greeted us, and directed our attention to a goose practicing her figure skating.

There were a few water snakes, sunfish, bullheads, a Baltimore oriole, yellow warblers, and catbirds buzzing about. We also saw a water-loving mammal munching among the grasses. It was leaner and quicker and darker than a muskrat, so we guessed it was a mink. Out across the water, a hermit thrush or wood thrush was singing, and two red-tails were circling together over a spot on the hillside. I’m guessing they may have a nest there.

A common yellowthroat was trumpeting his “wichity wichity wichity” call, and he let me get a few pictures, quick though he was.

There was another photographer there, one with a 200-500 lens. Mine is a 70-300. He suggested getting a hood and a polarizer to cut down on glare. I actually have a polarizing filter; it came along with the plain UV filter I bought when I first got my lens. I tried it out after I got home, but as before when I’d tried using it, I wasn’t impressed. Maybe it’s not the best quality. I don’t have a hood, but I’d like to try one. I noticed that last weekend at the Migration Celebration, quite a few folks were using them.

On the way out, I enjoyed these flowers. They’re quite tiny, and like many of the other spring flowers they’re plain white. I wish my picture had better focus (I couldn’t move far enough away for the lens), but even as is it has a certain dreamlike quality.

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