Late afternoon found me heading to the vernal pool behind our home, mostly out of curiosity for we’ve had a week of dry, steamy days and I suspected the worst.
Not only by sight, but also stench did I know that my fears had come true.
There was merely a drop of water left, hidden below the leaves as it were.
I stood in the center for the first time all year, where the odor reminded me of New Haven Harbor at low tide, though the pool was perhaps more rank. The harbor has a mud-flat smell that entered my nostrils as a youth and has remained in my memory since, becoming that upon which I judge all other such scents.
Directly above, the sky veiled only by the canopy, offered a few clouds to occasionally shade the hot sun, but not a drop of rain was to be felt as has been the situation of late.
The source of the stench was my little friends who unfortunately didn’t get to hop out.
I could only hope that a few did leave the water of their own accord, but sadly most were fried.
All that realized, it didn’t mean the pool was a static place. There were Flesh Flies with brick red eyes who found this habitat of tadpole carcasses to be to their liking.
And Rove Beetles who surprised me with their presence, though they shouldn’t have for they also have a preference of feeding upon decaying matter.
Both the Flesh and Rove moved quickly through the neighborhood, but for a brief second each paused and posed, as if it was meant to be.
Others included the metallic Green Bottle Fly,
and a spider or two or many. There were also birds in the canopy and I suspected they were waiting for me to leave so they could bring food home to the nest.
In the midst, a splash of color was offered by the wee Northern Crescent butterfly whose presence perplexed me at first . . . until I realized that the pool still held moisture and other nutrients, and it offered just the right habitat for butterflies who need to puddle or suck the fluid and minerals to enhance their breeding relationships.
Right beside the pool I spied another of the order Lepidoptera in the pupal form of a Viceroy butterfly.
As has happened year after year, the vernal pool didn’t follow quite the path I had hoped since early April when the ice went out, but still, it’s a place where transformations of a different sort occur . . . and despite the demise of the tadpoles, life goes on.