Saturday, March 12, 2011

This is Spring

Snowflake on Red Maple

My ritual of spring has begun---with daily visits to each of my 2 vernal pools, now filled to the brim with melted snow and repeated spring rain, and nightly vigils as I wait for what I remember as clearly as if it happened just yesterday, the return of the spotted salamanders.

Vernal Pool

Lichen and Snow

But as I wait by the edge, spring steps forward and back, hesitating to make her bold entrance with a surge of warmth and bright sky. Instead, I find the ground beneath this small red maple crusted each morning with a thin but firm layer of ice. Its lichen-covered bark glows green on a clouded March morning.

Spring Snow and Spiders

Snowflakes spin on cords left by an ambitious spider who thought perhaps she’d wrap this small tree before its resident tree frog wakes and takes up its summer residence here. The water is dark and still. By noon most of winter’s remnants are gone. And the cold nights and crisp mornings of this week have filled the sap buckets that hang in the yard.

First Green

A few warm days have coaxed the first green from the earth. Tentative fingers emerge in the leaf-cluttered gardens ringing the old, brick house. Planted by a previous owner years ago, I know to expect them too. Their perfect green, soft and clean, has a tenderness barely hours old. They have brought a smile to my face--a smile that no one will see.

Another cold, clear night passes.
The day warms with sunshine until the mild air smells sweet. In the driveway, while curls of steam rise from the broad evaporating pan, gallons of maple sap steadily boil their way to become the prized amber syrup.
Beside the pool, the tangle of coarse weathered grass has become soft.
By evening, a warm rain begins to fall.

Crayfish foraging in leaves

In the dark, a brightly colored crayfish forages in the leaves caught in a crack beside the back porch floor. A steady run of rain from the roof spills onto his back as he moves slowly forward in this crevice, probing the puddles with his giant claws, sensing small bits of food with his antennae. The yard has come alive in this wet darkness.

With each step forward as I walk with my light, glistening earthworms brought to the surface to bask in the rainy night retreat hastily, disappearing to the safety of the softened ground.
And from beneath earth that lay frozen and buried beneath months of winter snow, from the woods they walk, crossing roadways, crossing lawns…stepping through my garden.

Spotted Salamander on Spring Migration

Where I first smiled a smile not seen, this time another is watching.

Spotted Salamander

The spotted salamander, Ambystoma maculatum, is one of the species of mole salamanders that lives underground for 50 weeks of the year, returning to vernal pools in the springtime for a brief 2-week period of breeding. These nocturnal and secretive amphibians are seldom seen unless encountered on their migrations to breeding pools at night.
Vernal pools seldom hold water beyond the summer months, appearing to be of little value in their empty state. Yet, to mole salamanders and wood frogs, these ephemeral wetlands are critically important.
More information about vernal pools can be found in previous posts.

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Julie Zickefoose said...

Oh my gosh, I literally have goosebumps reading this and looking at these images, Nina.

Off to share and share.


Murr Brewster said...

I hope you're remembering to smile for two. I may never see another spotted, because I'm too far away during that critical two weeks, but my daddy and I went out every March to tromp for them. He kept detailed records of first sightings. A handsomer critter has not been made.

And your crawdad wants very much to be a painting.

A.L. Gibson said...

Such beautiful photographs and wonderful prose! Spring and the oncoming on flowering plants and salamanders couldn't have come any sooner, thanks for sharing!

Frank said...

A truly magical encounter.

Oak in the Seed said...

Oh, thank you! Your inspired writing and wonderful photographs have transported me to your side to share in smelling the thawing earth, and feeling chill, damp air and wet leaves. Wonder and Life anew.
Good timing, Adrienne. Wish I were there for real!

KaHolly said...

Nina, Nina, Nina, wow!! I don't live near vernal pools anymore and I miss the nightly jaunts through the forest! Great photos. I'm so envious.

Deborah Carr said...

This was amazing...thank you for sharing these beautiful spring stories. Your note about the snowflake spinning on a spider web reminded me of a winter hike when a solitary hovering snowflake caught my took me awhile to figure out it was clinging to a web. I thought it was something remarkable...both the flake on the web and the fact that it caught my eye.

Mike Whittemore said...

Nice post and excellent photos! Thanks for sharing!