4.7.10 Into the Woods

Vernalpool 790 xxx
photos by george billard
Now that spring is here, most mornings G and I will head into the woods behind our property where all manner of goings-on have us totally intrigued. Are you as fascinated as I am by the wonders of nature? Ever since I was a small child I have been content to rummage around on the forest floor or at the water's edge, searching for bugs or plants or animal life of any sort. (We have a little cabinet of curios in our cottage where we deposit our most precious finds: a discarded locust's shell; a papery wasp's nest; a boldly-patterned turkey feather; a chunk of a turtle's shell. I'll get G to document these for you sometime.) Anyway, I think I've mentioned the vernal pools before, right? They are small shallow ponds or enormous puddles that form because of the melting snow and heavy rains of early spring, creating marshy areas as seen above. The wonderful thing is that these are breeding grounds for frogs, newts and salamanders!
Eggs 790 xxx
Here we came across an egg mass! Female amphibians often lay their eggs in a protective jelly-like substance which attaches itself to twigs or other underwater matter.G and I were careful to tread very gingerly as we began to see that the pools were teeming with critters! Some investigation in the trusty field guide revealed that they were Eastern Newts (Notophthalmus viridescens); judging from the description, the yellow belly especially, these are the aquatic form. They are breeding now and the larvae will hatch in about 3 to 8 weeks. The adults prey voraciously on worms, insects, small crustaceans, amphibian eggs and larvae. (Hopefully not their own!!) Greedy things, they will visit the spawning beds of fish to feast on their eggs; an adult can consume up to 2,000 springtails (teensy hexapods)!
Salamander1 790 xxx
Note the brilliant, speckled underbelly. (FYI: I had carefully washed my hands before leaving the house.)
Salamander2 790 xxx
I tried to resist picking them up, but it was kinda hard.
Salamander3 790 xxx
We also came across this remarkably beautiful, algae-covered turtle shell with vertebrae still attached. Layers of the shell peeled away like some sort of pliable veneer. Very interesting, but a bit too far gone to add to the cabinet of curios.
Turtle 790 xxx
From afar, many trees still look bereft and winterified but, upon closer inspection, they are all springing to life.
Buds 790 xxx
The big brown bunny was out in the yard today. I bet he can't wait to get at my herbs again! Birds are streaking around madly, the chipmunks have reappeared, and the rhubarb is pushing up already. It's 80 degrees today! Ah spring, a young man's thoughts must be turning to love. This old broad? Obsessing about the garden...


I love your nature walks. I hope you'll keep us posted throughout the seasons.
Mily on April 7, 2010 at 4:31 pm —
Most definitely!
laura on April 7, 2010 at 4:44 pm —
Love those little newts! What a glorious way to spend the morning.
suzinn on April 7, 2010 at 9:58 pm —
WHAN that Aprille with his shoures soote The droghte of Marche hath perced to the roote, And bathed every veyne in swich licour, Of which vertu engendred is the flour; Whan Zephirus eek with his swete breeth Inspired hath in every holt and heeth The tendre croppes, and the yonge sonne Hath in the Ram his halfe cours y-ronne, And smale fowles maken melodye, That slepen al the night with open ye Geoffrey Chaucer, Canterbury Tales
Vetivresse on April 8, 2010 at 7:58 am —
Your erudition is always impressive. And, yeah, what he said.
laura on April 9, 2010 at 3:23 am —