And now for the final installment of the late March-early April edition of observations – spring is such a great and busy time to be out observing what is happening in nature! Don’t forget to check out the previous two installment, Plants and Trees, and Birds and Butterflies, posted the last two days.
Amphibians and More
Wood Frog egg masses: Quite an early start to the breeding season for our little wood frogs AND a sporadic one at that—occasional warm and rainy nights; In the main swamp at Moose Hill and within the usual vernal pools/wetlands that comprise the Vernal Pool Loop, I was hearing them call during the second and third week of March, and then seeing the egg masses a few days later; these are tough amphibians, that is for sure, and according to Robert Parker Hodge (author of Amphibians & Reptiles in Alaska, the Yukon, and Northwest Territories), these MOST northerly of herps; their jelly like egg masses only provide so much protection from the elements and are quite vulnerable to sub-freezing wind chills; Luckily, though, in our parts, they are laid a good distance below the water’s surface and are generally protected from late freezes—a modifying effect of the water in these vernal pools; But we shall see how many survived this last cold spell in week’s to come.
Yellow-Spotted Salamander egg masses: almost as tough as our Wood Frog egg masses, these are slightly different in that an extra layer of “jellylike protection” (a matrix) covers them; Certainly, another adaptation to surviving more northerly climates AND varying water conditions within the Vernal Pools/swamps they are laid in.
Garter Snake: the most northerly of reptiles also inhabits our forests and can be seen basking in the sun on a bed of leaves during late March through leaf out in May; Quite early this year and no doubt resting in a den at the moment; A quick shift in temperature regimes (like we’ve had the past few weeks) might stress some, though; we will keep an eye for them in the forest.
Ticks and different stages of development: “Do ticks really have a purpose on Earth?”, said my wife a few weeks ago after I found one imbedded for DAYS; the adult males and females are out during early Spring, as long as the temps are above 40 degrees F; Something tells me this will be a rough year with both temperature and moisture regimes being higher than normal; DON’T be fooled by the recent cold snap, it won’t be enough to knock back their populations too much.
Non-glowing Firefly “beetles”: One of the first insects we start to see in the Spring, especially along and within bark; a harmless little group of insects with a soft elytra (or winged covering) that is unlike most beetles; good food source for birds this time of year and tough, as most beetles tend to be.
Until the next time,
-Acciavatti Instep, Non Stop
Nature Detective Notes by Michael Acciavatti. Michael is our full-time teacher naturalist who often heads out on the trails to stretch his legs and observe what is happening. His enthusiasm and knowledge make for wonderful updates about the nature of Moose Hill. We hope that you will be inspired to head out on our trails as well and enjoy the changes that each season, or better yet, each month bring to Moose Hill. We look forward to seeing you here!