(Pictures relating to the text appear at the end of the notes.)
Keywords: vernal pools, frogs, salamanders
Speckled Trout Lily leaves poking up through the leaf litter. These are one of our earliest spring flowers; they'll be done and gone before you know it.
The little white dots are not leftovers of my lunch or dust on my lense - those are the spermatophores of male salamanders. These small pebbles rest on the bottom of the pool and are capped with sperm packets. The female, reportedly after some male courtship, picks up the packets with her cloaca and uses the sperm to fertilize the eggs that she soon releases.
These are clusters of Wood Frog eggs; the masses will soon swell to the size of grapefruits. Each black dot is an egg, and the jelly coating helps protect the eggs from predators.
Wood Frog eggs - the close up.
A vernal pool on Phudd Hill. Many pools look like little more than puddles. They are easily overlooked during land development. However their very transience, the fact that they dry up and so exclude fish, Newts and Bull Frogs, is what has allowed them to develop a unique set of amphibian visitors.
Hawthorne Valley Farm from Phudd Hill on a cloudy day.
The ice is just leaving the upper pond. Anna visited this site on the past weekend and reported Wood Frogs hopping awkwardly across the ice.
A male Wood Frog just hanging out. The day was too cold for any calling, but during warmer weather the males attract the females by clucking somewhat like ducks.
A pair of clasping Wood Frogs resting underwater. The male (darker, smaller, on top) will fertilize the eggs as the female releases them into small clusters.
A look down towards my favorite vernal pool - a wide but shallow pond at the base of the first ledge below the top of Phudd Hill.
More spermatophores, these in the pond pictured above, poised on the lawn-green algal mat.
An aside: when trees tip like this they lift up a section of the soil, viewing the root ball from the side gives you a soil profile....
This soil cross-section comes from a root ball; I've rotated the picture so that the orginal soil surface is again upwards. This section gives one a decent impression of the profile of what is probably an unplowed forest soil. The darkness near the upper surface is from organic matter that arrived via leaf fall and other debris. These surface-applied nutrients percolate down through the soil, migrating at different rates and eventually causing a color gradation to progressively lighter soils deeper down. The profile seen here is about 10" deep.