I went on a plant walk along the Gunpowder with the Maryland Native Plant Society. I remember being amazed by the birders who could hear and ID Parulas, Yellow Throated Warblers, and Louisiana Waterthrushes in the distance on early spring trips to look for salamanders and flowers. Now I find that I am one of them. It is so much easier to learn the harder songs now that I find other songs so familiar. It also helps to know who to expect when, and where. These three warblers show up early, although quickly more are coming. I actually saw a pair of Louisiana Waterthrushes near what may be a nest. They make nests in mud banks, they are warblers despite their name, their legs are pink and their chip call is loud. But plants are easier to take pictures of.
Rue Anemone Continue reading
Do you know that I started this blog in 2013? Yeep, things were different then. One of the different things, and the blog’s original main topic, was a baby avocado plant.
Brewed with love, well travelled, and creatively fed, this young blog’s mascot represented bringing nature home. It journeyed to the Eastern Shore and back again while I was teaching outdoor education. Oh those simpler days. I still do not miss the long nights in tents and no time to change out of wet boots, but gosh, that fresh air, those flushed faces. The mud and the youth and Sassafras trees the rainy night board games and the salamanders.
Have things changed? Well, just ask this baby, who lived, in those wilder days, in a plastic cup.
And I wish you my kind of success.
I had a special morning, doing some What the Robin Knows type activities in the woods I know well. That means going outside and holding still for awhile, letting the natural world come to you. This time of year is so full of life, maybe, just maybe, the fullest. There was a bird chasing a juvenile male Pileated Woodpecker, which turned out to be a Red Bellied Woodpecker! I guess that he wanted to check out the newer drilling done by a bigger beak. There were many tadpoles and nymphs and there was a huge Green Frog staring at me from a few feet away. It took me so long to actually spot it while I peered into the water. I always wonder when frogs do this to me what else I am not noticing right before my eyes. There were little froglets (but not the littlest; they may have done some growing) hopping up the dry streambed to escape my boots. There was a flycatcher catching flies, and a lot of Chickadees. There was one Cedar Waxwing. I have never seen one by itself, but no others seemed to turn up- was I seeing the same one over and over or catching glimpses of a few? It was all so lovely, and I didn’t take pictures and I didn’t really want to… but I want you to maybe go outside too. Into the Woods!
Three Polyphemus Eggs hatched on June 13th.
My oh my how the time has flown, because just yesterday the first emerged from her cocoon! Here is the tiny caterpillar that almost escaped but that I finally found, after a lot of searching, clinging to my own hair.
So furry! So big! How can those two photos be of the same creature sitting on my hand? Continue reading
I haven’t posted all summer and here I am posting photos from winter… I thought these photos were lost forever… There are many more but I am starting at the beginning.
From Winter to Spring in 2015. If you’d like to watch the seasons progress I think you can also click on a photo and move forward like a slideshow by clicking the forward arrow. Continue reading
I recently encountered Wood Frog tadpoles. Last year I thought I had seen them: a clump of loose greenish eggs around a stick in mid-April. But that clump was solitary, it would have fit (dripping) between two hands. This year, an early spring, I saw Wood Frog eggs twice in mid-March. They were so green with algae (to help the eggs absorb oxygen) that they looked like an actual film of algae over the pond surface. They were also in clustered groups, covering easily 10 square feet of the surface of each pond- all together and nowhere else in that body of water. Oddly, shallow areas were chosen both times, and some of the tadpoles were already dead on the surface of their still moist but no longer underwater eggs. Why did the frogs choose a shallow part of the pond instead of a deeper one? A question for another day.
I could not resist scooping up some tadpoles for a better look, and of course I encountered many a mysterious invertebrate larva. How I would love to see what they all turn into. Some were almost certainly going to be mosquitos, so that love might be tempered. But it only occurred to me yesterday when I was writing about insects that I do not think that mosquitos were flying around laying their eggs in February. I do not think the aquatic larvae were hatching and finding lots of yummy food and temperatures conducive to growth in early March. So. All those lovelies must have been overwintering in their larval state! That means, if I am guessing correctly, that every single mosquito in Maryland right now is a little larva in a pond, waiting to mature and suck some mammal blood and lay some more larval eggs to grow up and bite all the summer campers in July to then lay some more eggs to turn into larvae in the fall and hang out over the winter all over again. Am I right? I don’t know, but I never tire of thinking about overwintering. In the insect world, I have said it before and I’ll say it again, with the exception of our glorious migratory Monarchs, every single insect you have ever met is also here in the winter, unseen and unmoving, suspended in one life stage or another. Walk around outside in a blizzard and think of that one day: they are all here, beneath snow and ice and mud and bark, waiting, like us, for spring to come again. Try not to gloat, but you are pretty lucky to be enjoying that long awaited season right now.
If you have seen the cover photo on this blog, you know what I am into. If you have ever met me and taken a look at my wrist, you know what I am about.
So it should come as no surprise that Big Night is basically my own personal witch’s New Year. The world is getting renewed. Get your life.
For the record, I haven’t actually witnessed Big Night the biggest way. On the first warm wet night in early spring the Spotted Salamanders, and many other amphibians, make their way into Vernal Pools and ponds for fellowship and f…reproduction. I only saw my first Spotted Salamander last year (a bit later into April) in the daytime, hiding under a log next to a pond full of male spermatophores and eggs. This year I was knocked flat out by the flu for a week when the rains started, and I could do nothing but lie in bed and gaze at the pills that were not successfully lowering my fever. I got better but did not make it out Sunday night when conditions were perfect. The Big Night is when the salamanders can be seen crawling through the woods toward the water. I understand that sometimes there are so many of them that they seem to cover the forest floor. Want a shot at seeing some one day? Protect our lovely eastern forests! Embrace a leaf litter layer in your yard. Let fallen logs lay. That is the habitat they require 360 days of the year, and even during the week or so they spend mating in the water. They return to the woods during the daytime- and that is when I have had luck finding them.
Monday, on my way back from work, as the rain started up again, I returned to the pond that was so popular with my spotted friends last year. The spermatophores were present. A huge area was jam packed with Wood Frog eggs near hatching. The Spotted Salamanders had not laid eggs yet though! Most likely the ladies were waiting to make their way to the pond last night. I will return and report back.
There was a lot of action! Mating Red Spotted Newts, many Red Backed Salamanders, and multiple Spotteds unearthed from their hiding spots. The approved method is to quickly and fully lift a log and scan. If there are salamanders or any other animals there, gently move them out from under the log before replacing it. They will wiggle right back under there I assure you. At least until nightfall. When touching make sure your hands are wet. Placing the salamander on a damp leaf is ideal, as a 98 degree hand could shock their only barely thawed system. Happy New Year!