Wednesday, February 11, 2009

The Dawn of Spring

The only one up in a darkened house, I walk through the dim halls softly. As the sun is still many hours off, and doors closed where the others still sleep. It is this time before dawn, that I love best, before the pace of the day quickens. And in the quiet of this time, though I cannot see them, I know they are there, beginning to stir--
waiting for the hush to be lifted.
For every thing I know and love,
for now, I must remember.

The brown outside is all around--still, lifeless and waiting.
The tiniest hint of green barely showing where flowers soon will be. Beyond the flattened grass of the lawn, the garden lies as a yawning space, dark soil on which to plant.
On the hill we wait.
A night of heavy rain has knocked out the power again.

I walk slowly out, across the soft, saturated ground, past resting fields of brown grasses. Moon covered deeply in clouds, my single light scanning broadly.
Am I the only one here?
I step carefully back, into the protection of the evergreens, through to the shallow pool where I know I will soon find them and peek quietly in.
Just below the surface, only ice.
They are not yet here.
But in this warm night air, I sense their stirring, salamanders waking, just below the surface, waiting for this hush to be lifted.
For every thing I know and love,
for now, I must remember.

Last spring I monitored 2 vernal pools on our property and found that 2 species of mole salamanders use them as breeding areas. I witnessed Spotted Salamanders, Ambystoma maculatum, migrating there at the end of March, but missed the Jefferson Salamander, Ambystoma jeffersonianum, migration weeks earlier. This year, I'm hoping to catch it.
It is not known exactly what triggers mole salamanders’ movement from underground, where they live and eat until hibernating through the winter, to these pools of their birth for breeding each spring. It is thought to be factors including ground and air temperature (a 3-day mean temperature above 42 degrees), loose water within the soil (from heavy spring rain), a reversal of the soil temperature profile (surface becomes warmer than subsurface) and darkness (clouded, moonless night). Jefferson Salamanders are known to walk through snow and enter pools as soon as ice melt opens an edge.

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Tom said...

Nina- Any Sallys yet? I think last night would have been the night for Jeffersons.


nina at Nature Remains. said...

I was sure of it, too. Couldn't wait to get home and march out to check. But, for now, none.
I'll look again tonight. It's still so wet, and dark,....shhhh.

KatDoc said...

I've been thinking about salamanders the last couple of days, and try to remember to look for them each night. Still haven't done it yet. Maybe tonight.


Lisa at Greenbow said...

I hope you find some of those early sallys. It is exciting to think you might. Good luck.

KaHolly said...

Good luck! We skiied out to our vernal pool yesterday, just for fun. Everything is still covered with two feet of snow. Won't be long, and we'll be out there daily, nightly, like you, waiting with anticipation!

NCmountainwoman said...

Oh, I can't wait for the pool to awaken. I enjoyed the previous posts so much.

nina at Nature Remains. said...

The Jeffersons are really hard to find--they're so dark and the little flecks, so invisible. Much more difficult than the spotteds--which almost glow in the dark when a flashlight beam catches one.
This Jefferson march may pass again without finding any.
But, having raised their larvae last spring I know I should be expecting them to visit! :-)

RuthieJ said...

Sounds like you're definitely ready for spring Nina!
P.S. I like your new profile photo too.

Beth said...

I enjoyed following your vernal pool explorations very much last year and am looking forward to it again. Thanks for sharing.

Appalachian Lady said...

My daffodils are poking up too but I fear the warm weather will not last. Nice post.

Deborah Godin said...

Dawn of spring - how utterly perfect. I love sallys, too. Love to see posted any photos you get!

Robert V. Sobczak said...

Groundhog or not, it's just a matter of time either way. You can't stop spring from blooming. But the corollary question: will you miss winter? Perhaps by mid summer on a particularly hot day, but then again, maybe not!

trombonegirl said...

Hi there! I'm the webmaster of a church in Canada and I'd like to use your photo of the flowers coming up through the snow on our website. Please let me know if that's okay: