Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Another place at the table

Our table for four serves another purpose now.
With just 2 of us home, the ample room quickly fills with every seasonal project--from taxes to owl pellets.
And because I crave more than a passing glance at so much of what is outside my door, often, assorted "guests" are invited in--to occupy the empty space, where children sat for dinner years ago.

This spring, it's an aquarium--ten gallons of amber water borrowed from the wood pool.
Filled with tadpoles and salamander larvae--and all their dinner favorites.
There's a small bubbler in one corner that hums more than I'd like, but oxygen is important to these tiny growing guests.
The Jefferson salamander larvae have external gills--absorbing oxygen easily from the water, as they sit, motionless, hidden in algae, waiting for prey to swim past.

With a sudden GULP, a tiny daphnia or copepod is drawn in--and he waits again--the predator.

The wood frog tadpoles' gills have become internal now, as in fish, water passing through them as they swim around the pool, grazing here and there.

Little eating machines--with voracious appetites. Already, they've quadrupled in size.

Who knows how long they'll stay--but for the moment, they're dining with us.

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Rurality said...

We tried this a few years ago but were not successful... I wasn't sure what we'd done wrong, but now that I read this, I'm thinking, "lack of oxygen".

nina said...

The oxygen requirement is something I underestimated, too.
I thought as long as I had plants and changed water periodically, it would function as a mini-environment, without much else needed from me.
When the first tadpoles seemed to prefer the surface to the mid-level water, I did more reading.
Although tadpoles prefer quiet water, with this number of little bodies "eating" it up, and decomposition taking place at the bottom, low oxygen seemed likely.
We set the flow at the lowest level and diffuse it with a stone--still change water (30%) often to clear wastes. And don't use a filter, because the salamander larvae need the tiny swimmies.

SLW said...

Great experiment and photos! I wish you wonderful success... and hope it will buffer any drying up vernal pools, helping sustain your local populations.

nadinada said...

as a long time thing watcher, i am thrilled to find your blog, you're on my roll.
while driving through a less developed part of Southwest France, my father drove through a salamander colony and my entire being still aches from the noise.

i now reside in the US Midwest and find a lot of similarities, i am being serenaded by a red headed finch right now.
thanks for sharing your passion.

Anonymous said...

Oh gosh, this makes me anxious for the ice to melt on our slough (aka pond). The darn muskrat eats all the eggs but maybe this year a few eggs will make it. I so miss the tadpoles and darling frogs.


BT3 said...


Great post and pix! Also wanted to tell you that I use the same Whitman quote in my "No Child Left Inside" talk. Visiting your blog for the first time many moons ago I was reminded of this wonderful quote (in your header) and wrote it down to remember it.

Keep up the excellent and fascinating work!


Vernon said...

Just visited your blog for the first time. I love the way you appreciate nature in such a real and intimate way. Great blog.

possumlady said...

What fun! Okay, so excuse my ignorance with these questions. You don't have to worry about tadpole or salamander babies eating each other? What do you feed them? Will you let them go in the same vernal pool? Inquiring minds want to know!

nina said...

Possumlady--From what I have learned, the set up I have now will probably work out well.
Tadpoles are herbivores and eat the green growth in the tank--plants, algae...The salamanders, on the other hand, are carnivores and eat small invertebrates. IF their size was larger (if smaller, younger tadpoles were introduced to already good-sized salamander larvae)they might eat the tadpoles. I've heard that they can even be canibalistic, if the conditions warrant it.
But, right now, we're all one happy family!

Jennifer said...

Have I mentioned how much I enjoy your blog? I have??? Well, then: Welcome to the Department of Repetitive Redundancy Department! Welcome!

KGMom said...

Nina--hmmmm, you have very interesting "guests" for dinner.

Lisa at Greenbow said...

How cool is this... Way cool.

Crayons said...

Hi Nina,
I'm something of a priss, so I'm just getting beyond the "Ewww" phase. But upon re-reading, the details draw me in. You would have gotten along so well with the 18th-century scientists like Buffon. Sometimes the smallest things fill me with a greater feeling of awe than the largest.

Old Wom Tigley said...

Now this is a great way on helping there numbers.. and a great way to study them also.. I take my hat off to you for all this.


SJ said...

I'm envious of your dinner guests, and you don't even have to worry about what types of wine they like!

Marvin said...

I thought we held the record for table clutter, but you win -- and yours is so much more interesting than out stale snail mail and magazines.

RuthieJ said...

Ooh, I'm envious of your dinner table tadpole tank, Nina! Way better mealtime viewing than anything on TV, I'll bet.

nina said...

SLW--after a summer of drought like last year's, I hope so, too!

Nadinada--thanks for stopping by--I'm sure your area is lovely, too--

Diane--we have muskrats in this water, too--but I guess the number of eggs makes up for that. Maybe you could protect yours in some way? (like build a shield to allow them to hatch in the water, but keep muskrats from discovering them so easily?)

bt3--I understand your love of it--we chose to live "out" for just that reason, raising our kids immersed in the outdoors. It must've worked, for they're grown and gone now--but talk of happy memories related to playing in nature--and a desire to find a place for their families to grow in the future.
We chose this property because of the land, not the building on it--what many others would question.
Thanks for stopping by!

Vernon--a belated thanks for your visit--I'm always glad to know others enjoy!

Crayons--you've gotten it exactly, and as long as you can get past the eww, you'll see so much!

sj and Marvin--they're interseting to say the least--but every day begins and ends with a trip to the pool to replenish algae and fresh water--a glass of wine for ME!

nina said...

Ruthiej--I know from your Monarch ranching that you know the interest of watching development. These guys are much like caterpillars--eating, pooping machines...
I hope I have the success that you did last summer!