Some things are learned by reading about them.
Others, by doing.
Of the lessons I’ve learned, the greatest, by far, have come from a combination of the two.
The tank on the table is my latest learning adventure.
Ten gallons of the finest vernal pool habitat—amber water-- a “tea” of sorts--and all that lives within, carefully carried in buckets from the shaded, oak-rimmed Wood Pool out back to its prominent location… a place at the kitchen table.
From my seat, as light streams in from the surrounding windows, every meal is an opportunity to watch what happens here.
Illuminating the watery depths--to discover, what lies beyond any book.
Daily water changes to prevent wastes from accumulating and a bubbler in one corner to add oxygen have given the hatchlings of the first spring migrants, Wood frogs and Jefferson salamanders, a protected space in which to grow. Dozens of tadpoles fouled the water quickly—their lives as eating machines, much like the frass-producing caterpillars of late summer. After 3 weeks, their plump copper-flecked bodies consuming green growth faster than I could carry it, they’ve been reunited with the thousands of other grazing sisters and brothers—in the Wood Pool.
Smiling faces of the Jeffersons remain. Their leonine forms lurk in the shadows, hungrily ambushing anything smaller than themselves, with a sudden gulp of a wide, toothless grin. Carnivores.
And, like baby birds, they eat and grow, and eat some more.
In a stroke of brilliance, the fine, salamander-tending hostess that I have become, scooped from the pool, a basin of delectable treats before retiring for the night. And gently tipped them into the tank for their midnight snack.
The water teems with the smallest life. And many of them I easily recognize or have learned to identify from pictures in my ever-growing collection of field guides.
I can spot a mosquito wiggler at a glance.
What I hadn’t yet figured out, was what the active, black, somersaulting characters were--and I’d eagerly captured many.
I now know that mosquitoes’ pupae are the “tumblers” I placed in the tank.
I also know that they hatch from these pupae relatively quickly.
For, by the next morning, they had disappeared from the tank.
The salamanders looked hungry.
So did the mosquitoes waiting for breakfast.
20 days old