Wednesday, March 31, 2010

What's That? Wednesday

What's That?

Can you guess what this close-up shot is?

Big Night Weeks

Determined to witness a frog and salamander migration this year, we've been setting out night after night in some pretty hideous weather conditions.  This wonderful vernal pool is just a couple of minutes from home and has proven semi-fruitful with fairy shrimp (Anostraca) and frogs.  These fairy shrimp were pretty large.

On our first expedition, we heard the unmistakable peeping of spring peepers (Pseudacris crucifer) and got very close to this male who was intent on winning a female by singing his heart out.

As it got darker, the quacking of the wood frogs (Lithobates sylvaticus) began.  The peepers kept to the side of the pool closest to the road while the wood frogs prefered the area of denser twigs and fallen logs on the opposite side.  At first we spotted just a few wood frogs swimming about, but as the night darkened, the quacking became louder and more urgent.  

Quite a few frogs in amplexus (froggy love embrace) were just beneath the water's surface. 

As things became more heated, female wood frogs began leaving the water and hopping all around our feet.  Here's one just at the toe of my daughter's boot.

We had to be very careful about where we stepped. Under a submerged log, a mass of wood frog eggs had already been laid.

My son was lucky enough to see an adult spotted salamander swim by, but that was the only salamander sighting even after several return visits during the last week.  Perhaps it was the male who left behind these spermatophores on a leaf near the pool's edge.

It's been pouring like mad again these last two days and the temperature is rising.  Maybe we'll still get lucky and find some breeding salamanders.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Barred Owl Treat

We've been eagerly anticipating "Big Night" since February, waiting patiently for the right combination of temperature and rain to head out to our local vernal pools.  Our first attempt was earlier this month after some heavy rains.  We made it a combo trip - geocaching and checking out vernal pools at a more heavily wooded part of Harold Parker State Park that we hadn't explored before. Just minutes into our hike, we heard "Who cooks for you? Who cooks for you all?" - the call of the barred owl (Strix varia).  Another nearby owl answered. What a boon!

Naturally, the kids and I put our calling skills to the test and were richly rewarded by a gorgeous barred owl who flew between two tall trees just a few yards away.  It stayed for a few minutes and thrilled us by obligingly returning our calls. As an added bonus, the owl appeared to have a snake dangling from its talons!  Barred owls begin breeding in the cold of February, so perhaps this owl was bringing a prized meal home for its brooding mate.

No luck with the frogs and salamanders, but we did hear our first Spring Peeper that day.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Maple Sugaring Haiku

A maple sugaring haiku I wrote in celebration of maple sugaring season.

Ancient maples pierced
golden elixir flows free
nature’s ambrosia