Sunday, April 27, 2008

"Please pass the bug spray."

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.
As in…overnight.

For, by the next morning, they had disappeared from the tank.

The salamanders looked hungry.
So did the mosquitoes waiting for breakfast.

Jefferson Salamander larvae
20 days old

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Seabrooke said...

Haha. Great story. So neat that you've got salamanders growing on your kitchen table.

Lisa at Greenbow said...

Can't wait to see their release.

SLW said...

Great head shots, Nina! These guys (at least ours here) are charmers. Be careful, they'll beg you out of house and home... voracious little monsters, but we gotta love 'em!

NCmountainwoman said...

You have to draw the line somewhere. Hungry salamanders at your table waiting for you to feed them are one thing; hungry mosquitoes at your table waiting to feed on you is quite another.

Thanks for sharing this very funny lesson. We're glad we found out the important difference between wigglers and tumblers without real life experience.

RuthieJ said...

So the mosquitoes hatched before the salamanders had a chance to eat them? Too bad your good intentions went awry Nina.
Maybe the salamanders will still eat the mosquitoes after you've slapped them and drop their lifeless bodies into the tank ;-)

Kerri Farley said...

Oh, I do hope you aren't itching too badly :) A Great post Nina. Your pics are FABULOUS!

Mary said...

Nina, seriously, I would find the greatest pleasure watching the salamanders grow on my kitchen counter. Amazing. The only interesting things on my kitchen counters are two small tanks of Beta fish - quite boring, actually, in comparison.


Robin's Nesting Place said...

Amazing pictures of the salamander.

Tom said...

I have really enjoyed my time here today catching up with the coming and goings of both pond and tank. You must have some great images now of all these. I look forward to calling back and reading more.


Dave Coulter said...

I see we've brought the pond indoors! Too cool. I like those little Jeffersons. :)

entoto said...

Your descriptions are so detailed. I love that you are sharing your tank with us.

I had forgotten the title of the post until the last three sentences. I had to laugh.

Sandpiper (Lin) said...

This is so cool, Nina. I love that cute first picture! It's so cute!! Jim Henson would have wanted it to be a muppet. LOL

Beverly said...

I remember once…when my son was still young, bringing home a crayfish we’d found carrying eggs. With a tank full of its own ‘home brew’, we dumped it in to see what would happen.

Have you ever seen about a million fully-formed, perfect, little, tiny crayfish not all that much bigger than an eyelash? It’s a hoot…until you realize the next morning that there are only about half a million, and the next day only half that!

Yes, voracious is a good word, carnivorous is another…

We had to hurriedly get them back to their place of origin before we ended up with only one or two; which would have been unconscionable. I had no idea the little things could eat so much, or so fast.

You remind me of me…but able to put your world into lovely prose that I wonder if you aren’t also a poet. I hope you’re keeping this stuff for a book you’ll publish soon.


Anonymous said...

Amazing macro shots and it is amazing how quickly the grow into something! Speaking of bug spray . . . our black flies have been bad recently!

Marvin said...

Following the progress of your kitchen table "pool" is so interesting. Fantastic photos.

Anonymous said...

Ah,I loved the story about your little ones, but hate the part where wigglers turn into mosquitoes! I was eaten alive by one last night. We still have snow on the ground -- how can this be fair? I hope you've managed to clear them out.

Murr Brewster said...

All right, I'm late to this one. Just about a perfect post. Everything. Brilliant. Thank you.