Friday, April 12, 2013

Did Not Miss It

Two decades ago when I was still reporting to work trying to help young people acquire knowledge and develop some small measure of responsible judgement, idle hours were devoted to reading about natures other wild creatures.  A life close to and lived in harmony with native plants and animals had captured my imagination.  Swampwalker's Journal written by David M. Carroll and awarded the John Burroughs Medal was a favorite book.  The idea of a rational adult poking about wet places looking for turtles and frogs seemed too good to be true.  In my youth a scolding for coming home with wet feet and possibly ruined school shoes was a more likely outcome of such activity.  Now I really wonder what creatures live in the crevices under these wild rocks near the pond.

Spotted salamanders (Ambystoma maculatum) are impressive when seen.  Their jet black bodies sport two rows of bright safety yellow spots.  I once found an eight inch specimen hidden among layered stones.  Their method of reproduction is something that I have wanted to see.  During the night of the first warm spring rain, dozens of these creatures move from the forest floor litter into shallow ponds.  Males arrive first and join together in a writhing circular mass.  Later the females arrive and join in.  Morning reveals masses of newly deposited egg clusters scattered on the pond bottom but the salamanders will have returned to the woods.

Two indisputable facts have prevented me from seeing this natural wonder.  Wandering about on an early spring night presents certain challenges.  Night here belongs to the wild animals.  Encountering coyotes, raccoon or skunks in what they believe is their territory might present more of an experience than what I would be seeking.  Standing for hours in the dark in the rain waiting for the arrival of the black  salamanders does not sound pleasant.  We had heavy rain last night so I had to check the pond for eggs today.  None were seen.  A warm rain is what the black spotted salamanders will wait for.  The first of the common red spotted newts pictured above are slowly making their way to the pond.

This is the area that I would have to cross in the dark to get to the pond.  Most of the time the lumpy ground here is solid and dry.  A long spring rain creates many deep puddles.  I cannot imagine an event free walk across here.  So I will again read David M. Carroll's description of what he saw when he stood out in a warm spring rain while the salamanders entered the pond in the comfort of my easy chair knowing that the neighbors are having a wild party in the rain.  

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