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.
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.
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.
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.
Winning image for the Ohio Wildlife Legacy Stamp competition!
The 2012 OWLStamp will be available for sale March 1, 2012 through the Ohio Department of Natural Resources website and nature organizations across the state. Proceeds of the OWLStamp benefit wildlife conservation, research & education projects within the state of Ohio! I'm thrilled to have provided the winning image for such a wonderful program!
The Adventures of Red Canoe
Come along in Red Canoe as she explores the quiet backwater of Ohio's State Parks and the scenic streams and rivers of the Midwest. Discover the beauty hidden beyond the water's edge, quietly waiting, past access points, often only inches deep!
Grabbing every minute I can find to be outside--walking in it, sleeping in it ... breathing it in. The natural world has so much beauty to uncover.
It is my hope that by capturing my experiences with nature and by sharing the richness it adds to an ordinary life, others may discover the greatest gift waiting just outside their door.
A regularly appearing feature, "Have you seen..." takes a closer, more patient look at things usually not seen in a flattering light.Take a look!
The Sweetness of Spring
Each spring, as winter lessens its grip and days warm with the first fragrant breezes of a new season, we collect sap from our Sugar Maples and produce just enough syrup for ourselves for the coming year. The progress of this year's backyard endeavor is illustrated here.
A Bird's Life
Summer 2008, the tiny jewel of the avian world, a Ruby-throated Hummingbird, nested just feet from my front door. Pictures of her nest and the changing lives within are collected in thisjournal.From life the size of a pea....