With rain drops come life and rebirth. And so it seems as our world explodes with the return of birds and vibrant blossoms of daffodils in the garden. The grass is, well, grass green–a brilliant green with hues of gold or purple, depending on the time of day. And ever so slowly, tiny leaves emerge on the maples and aspens.
But it’s life in and around water that captured most of my focus today. Following a prehike for a Greater Lovell Land Trust walk, I had the opportunity to check on a heron rookery. A friend and I stood hidden among the trees.
Rookeries are one of my favorite places to hang out. By the same token, I seldom do because its important not to disturb these giant birds during their nesting season. But–today’s visit, like all of my rookery visits, was for a citizen science project affiliated with Maine Inland Fisheries and Wildlife: the Heron Observation Network or HERON, counts on volunteers to count on heron–their nests, number of birds, number perhaps sitting on eggs, number of fledglings, etc.
We frequently see Great Blue Herons flying overhead or fishing in ponds and lakes, but it’s watching them come into their nests, in their pterodactyl form, that I find so wild.
And then they stand. Tall. Silent. We do the same.
Watching. Listening. Wondering.
All the while, we have time to reflect and enjoy the reflected.
And notice–cut saplings piled horizontally, an anomaly in this space . . . or is it? More than herons call this place home.
At last we need to bushwhack back, but pause a few times to appreciate other forms of life that spring forth near the water, including this hobblebush.
And a garter snake, its movement catching our attention. And then it froze in place, in hopes we wouldn’t notice.
Back on the homefront, I moseyed out to the vernal pool. As I approached, I noticed a lack of sound, but did see movement when I was only steps away.
I was thrilled to note signs of previous action as the number of wood frog egg masses had increased.
The same was true of the spotted salamander eggs, though the number in each clump seemed quite minimal. The opaque outer coating was clearly visible, that gelatin-like mass that surrounds these eggs.
As I admired all the dropped red maple flowers that decorated the water, I spied something else. Or at least I think it’s something else. Perhaps mere bubbles floated atop the dried leaf, but I suspected eggs of another kind. I’ve never before noticed spring peeper eggs and wondered, could these be such? Here’s hoping Loon Echo Land Trust’s biologist, Paul Miller, will chime in.
From what I’ve read in A Field Guide to the animals of Vernal Pools by Leo P. Kenney and Matthew R. Burne, “tiny peeper eggs may be deposited in small clusters or as single eggs attached to aquatic vegetation.” I placed a red arrow on this photo pointing to a couple more. And there are others in the photo, hiding in a “Where’s Waldo” fashion.
Circling around the pool, I noted some mosquito larvae and a few water striders.
But I also came upon one disturbing sight. A dead frog. Only a week ago, a friend in Cumberland discovered four dead frogs in a pool. In an e-mail exchange, Dr. Fred Cichocki explained to her, “Chytrid fungus is one potential and troubling cause of amphibian deaths. Another, and one we should all be aware of and be on the lookout for (especially in southern Maine) is ranavirus. It mainly affects woodfrogs (why no one knows) and primarily in the tadpole stage, where there may be 99+% mortality! The obvious symptoms are hemoragic lesions in the abdomen, and a behavior much like whale beaching, where the infected tadpoles swim onto the shore, turn belly up and expire en masse. Definitive identification requires either DNA sequencing or Electron Microscopic examination of tissue to reveal the characteristic virus particles. Once a pond or pool has ranavirus in it, it is probably impossible to erradicate (except maybe through frog attrition.) Ranavirus epidemics occur worldwide and are spreading, especially here in the Northeast.”
My dead frog was an adult. As were my friend’s. At the pool today, I was once again reminded that nature happens. And that it isn’t always pretty. Thankfully, I did spy a couple of live frogs.
As I walked away from the pond, another garter snake.
It was on the hunt.
Life and rebirth–the keys to spring. And sometimes, death so others may eat. But other times, death for reasons unknown. These aquatic sites offer an amazing biodiversity–and leave me with questions and understandings. Water works–I’m just not always sure how.