This Wild Place

There’s no music quite like the Wood Frog’s defiant chorus, sung when the ice is barely off the vernal pool and the ground still covered with patches of snow. Singing together, they sound like dozens of quaking ducks. Wood Frogs are often the first Maine frogs to break winter’s quiet, beating Spring Peepers by a few days or even a week.

Their vocal prowess extends to silence. Once we approach a vernal pool and they sense danger (perhaps through vibrations), they cut off their song altogether, as though timed by some unseen conductor. The purpose of all this calling is finding a mate, of course. Male Wood Frogs, once they’ve called in some unwitting females, can be tenacious in the extreme–even if their suitor happens to be the wrong species.

This morning, as Greater Lovell Land Trust Docent Linda Wurm and I approached a pool on the Heald and Bradley Ponds Reserve, the symphony was eerily still.

And so we began to circle around, our eyes scanning the watery surface for clumps of eggs. Our hope was to either see a male hug a female in an iron-lock grasp, forming the mating embrace called amplexus, or evidence of their date.

And we were rewarded. At least one female had laid eggs fertilized by a male. As is their habit, the female attached the mass to a twig and the tiny black embryo of each egg was surrounded by a perfectly round, clear envelope about one-third inch in diameter. These gelatinous blobs can consist of up to 1,500 individual eggs. Egg-mazing indeed.

The embryos will hatch into small brownish-black tadpoles in a week or two, or longer given how chilly the water was today. As they grow, their rounded tail fins will become translucent–almost mottled with gold and blackish flecks.

Wood Frog tadpoles grow at varying rates depending on water temperature, tadpole density, and available food resources, but tend to develop within about two months to become adults. Unfortunately for them, but in the web of life good for others, tadpoles often succumb to cannibalism, especially to their larger relatives. They are also eaten by predacious diving beetles, salamanders, turtles, and birds.

We only found one, maybe two egg masses, but this pool isn’t known for many. What it is known for is its Fairy Shrimp population and I’m sorry to report that we found not a one. But, we did spy a few handsome hemlock varnish shelf fungi.

And by them some red squirrel middens that made us happy for we saw few of these all winter.

Right behind the fungi and midden, something else in the water caught our attention and Linda focused with a keen eye.

My photo wasn’t the clearest, but upon some leaves and twigs we spotted spermatophores left behind by male Spotted Salamanders. They remind me of cauliflower, their structures consisting of pedestals topped with sperm. Though we couldn’t see any milky masses of salamander eggs, we hope that on future visits we will.

Spotting a Spotted Salamander is a rare treat. With their bright yellow spots on a sleek, shiny black back, they are even more nocturnal and elusive than the Wood Frogs. They are actually mole salamanders and spend most of their time burrowed underground.

As we circled back around the pool, a White-breasted Nuthatch mimicked our searching eyes and probed under some bark, its long narrow beak seeking beetles.

Every few seconds it took a break and surveyed the world that included us.

We, too, surveyed the world, and suddenly at our feet we discovered eggs we’d not seen previously. What were they doing about a foot out of the water?

And to whom did they belong? At first I considered Pickerel Frog, but on closer examination I thought they might be Wood Frog.

And then Linda shifted one clump a wee bit with a stick and we found what may have been the entrails. Life happens in vernal pools and this one was no different. Had a predator stopped by? Perhaps a raccoon or skunk or chipmunk or raccoon? But, why didn’t it eat the eggs? Again, so many questions.

With the field microscope, we looked at the eggs again and were almost one hundred percent certain that they were Wood Frog.* We did place some of them back in the water, but wondered if they were viable.

For all the eggs that are laid, it’s hard to believe that only 10% will survive. But the truth is that most die before transforming into adults and leaving their pools. The reasons are varied: the ponds dry up; or they are hunted down by predators: or they die of diseases.

After a few hours, we pull ourselves away, grateful for the time to explore this wild place–full of life . . . and death.

*I’ve reached out to Dr. Rick Van de Poll about the eggs out of water–if, by chance, he responds, I’ll update this post so stay tuned.

And now from Rick:

Hi Leigh!

Fascinating find! Having just seen a few predated egg masses today I can definitively say they are spotted salamander eggs. The blackish coloration is likely imparted by the stomach acids of a raccoon, who apparently gorged and threw them back up, along with a few frog parts. Again, while its not too common to see this kind of things around vernal pools, it does make for for a pretty good ‘who-dunnit’!

Rick

Lessons from the Earth

Dear Earth,

This year found me once again staying in my home territory to honor you and so while my guy did some yard chores, I chose to visit a few of your vernal pools.

Along the way, I stopped to smell the roses! Opps, I mean admire the flowers of the Red Maples, their pistils and stamen all aglow.

As I approached the first and nearest pool, I new love was in the air for I heard the deep wrucks of the Wood Frogs. That is, until I got to within about ten feet, and then the only sounds were small splashes that barely created ripples as the frogs sought cover under the leafy pool lining.

But, as you’ve taught me in the past, I stood as still as possible and waited patiently. It was then that my eyes began to focus on the pool’s tenants. And I realized that the usual population of larval mosquitoes, aka “wrigglers” already somersaulting their way through the water. That may be bad news for me, but it’s certainly good news for the birds and dragonflies of the neighborhood. While I try to practice mind over matter when I’m stung by a mosquito, I have to remember that your plan to offer “Meals on the Fly” sustains so many others.

And then, and then I spied something disturbing. Actually it was two somethings. Frog legs of two frogs. And even a head. Dinner? For whom? Typically, I rejoice at a kill site for I realize that one species feeds another, but this one disturbed me. Perhaps, dear Earth, it was because I think of this pool as mine even though it’s located on a neighbor’s land, and I want to protect it and all that live within, as well as all who venture to it for nourishment. Eventually, I realized that perhaps someone had been nourished by the frogs, but why didn’t they consume the entire beings? Could it be one of their own species who went into attack mode? I don’t have the answer–but once again you’ve given me more to question. And so in the end I realized I should be grateful for having the opportunity to wonder.

The good news–right behind the two dead frogs was a recently deposited egg mass. Its form made me think Spring Peepers, but I’ll need to watch them develop.

Death. Life. The cycle plays out as if a best seller in this dramatic genre.

I circled the pool looking for any other unusual sights or clues, but found none. Eventually I stood on my favorite rock and appreciated that you finally rewarded me, dear Earth. A Wood Frog appeared by my feet and we both remained as still as possible–that is until my feet began to fall asleep and I needed to move on.

As you know, dear Earth, I located several more pools, their wruck choruses giving them away. And within one, it was obvious by the egg masses that the lover frogs had found their mates.

Walking back toward home, I got a bit nosey, as you know, and turned over some bark that had fallen from dead trees. To my delight: millipedes, earth worms, bark beetles, slugs, and . . .

At least five Red-backed Salamanders. That reminded me, dear Earth, that though I wasn’t able to join Lakes Environmental Association for Big Night on Saturday, that rainy night when the temperature ranges about 40˚ and the amphibians decide to return to their vernal pools to mate and folks try to help them cross our roadways to do so, I trust that you made sure the Red-backed Sallies and worms made their presence known in the grass behind the Masonic Hall. Did you?

As for my walk today, I followed our trails and then an old logging road, where the deer and moose and coyotes and foxes and turkeys also roam.

And because part of my journey took me along the snowmobile trail, I picked up some empties and realized that not all turkeys are created equal.

But you don’t judge, do you dear Earth. Nor do you pretend that the world is perfect.

That being said, the sight of my first butterfly of the season, the pastel colored Clouded Sulphur, was rather perfect in my book.

Thanks for once again taking the time to teach me a few lessons . . . lessons from the Earth on this, your day, Earth Day 2019.

Dear Earth

Dear Earth,

In your honor, I decided that on this Earth Day I would head out the back door and travel by foot, rather than vehicle.

e1-Mount Washington

My journey led me down the old cow path to the power line right-of-way and much to my delightful surprise, Mount Washington was on display. It was so clear, that I could even see the outline of buildings and towers at the summit. Thank you for providing such clarity.

e2-vernal pool

Rather than walk to the mountain, I turned in the opposite direction and found my way to the vernal pool, where ice still covered a good portion. You know, Earth, as much as I want this to be a significant vernal pool because it does usually have two qualifiers (and only needs one): more than forty wood frog egg masses or more than twenty spotted salamander egg masses, I know that it is not. I believe it was created as part of the farm based on the rocks at the far end, not exactly forming a retaining wall, but still situated so close together in a way that I haven’t found anywhere else in my extensive journeys of the hundreds of acres behind our house. Plus, it dries up much too quickly to be a natural pool. And each year I’m surprised to find wood frogs, their egg masses, spotted salamander spermatophores, and their egg masses, given that the water evaporates before the tadpoles finish forming. If these species return to their natal vernal pool, Earth, then how can that be since no one actually hopped or walked out as a recently matured adult? Or were these frogs on their way to another pool and they happened upon this one? You know me, Earth–lots of questions as I try to understand you better.

e4-dorsal amplexus

Whatever the answer is, each year you work your magic and on a visit yesterday afternoon, I spied a male wood frog atop a female in what’s known as amplexus, aka, mating. According to Maine Amphibians and Reptiles, edited by Malcolm L. Hunter, Aram J.K. Calhoun, and Mark McCollough, “When mating, the male clings tightly to the females back. Visible contractions of the female’s body signal the onset of oviposition, at which time the male’s hind feet are drawn up close to the female’s vent. As the eggs are expelled, the male releases sperm into the water and strokes the egg mass with his hind feet, which presumably aids in distributing the sperm more evenly.” I looked this morning, but didn’t find any sign of eggs. Don’t worry, Earth, I’ll keep looking because perhaps they were there but hadn’t absorbed water yet.

e5-dead frog

One other thing I saw yesterday that greatly disturbed me was a dead frog in the water. Last year I also found such. My concern is that it was caused by a virus, but perhaps it was old age. Or some other factor. I do have to confess, though, Earth, I intervened and removed the body from the pond. I know, I know, it’s all part of the cycle of life, and I should leave nature to its own devices, but disease was on my mind and I didn’t want others to be affected. I may have been too late. Only time will tell.

e7-leaf variety

When I arrived this morning, I’m happy to report that I didn’t see any dead frogs. For the longest time I stood upon a rock–you know the one I mean, Earth, for you’ve invited me to stand there before. It’s sunny in that spot and the frogs know it well, for that is where they’ll eventually deposit their eggs. As I waited, I looked down at the leaves on the pool’s bottom and noticed how they offered a reflection of the trees above, beech and oak and maple and pine and hemlock. All still displayed their winter colors, but when the pool does dry up, they’ll turn dark brown and form a mat that will provide nutrients for the plants that colonize the area. You’ve got a system, don’t you Earth.

e8-frog 1

I knew if I stood as still as I could, I would be rewarded. While beech and oak leaves, the last to fall from their trees, danced somersaults across those already on the ground and matted by the past winter’s snow, red and gray squirrels chatted and squawked, and chickadees sold cheeseburgers in their songs, my eyes constantly scanned the pool. And in a flash, a frog emerged from under those leaves.

e8-wood frog 1a

For a while he floated, allowing the breeze to push him to and fro within a two square-foot space. But then he decided to climb atop a downed branch. Perhaps he was trying out a calling sight to use once I left.

e9a--wood frog 3

And then, there was another. And after that another. Yesterday I saw a total of six. Today only four. But that doesn’t mean the others weren’t hiding until I left, right Earth? I hope that’s what it meant. One thing you have taught me via the frogs is patience. If I stand still long enough at least one will swim to the surface. And they, too, are patient as they wait: for me to leave; for the gals to come. Well, maybe when the gals do come they aren’t all that patient.

e10-mosquito larvae

I actually returned to the pool a second time today and more of the ice had melted. While in the late morning I couldn’t see any insects on the move, in the early afternoon I eyed thousands of mosquito larvae. Everyone moans about mosquito larvae, Earth, but . . . they provide food for salamanders and the adult form for birds. I’m just trying to look on the bright side.

e11- snowmobile trail

This afternoon, I waited and waited for the frogs to emerge, but either my eyes didn’t key in on them or they decided to wait until I left. So . . . I finally did just that, and did head toward Mount Washington after all, following the snowmobile trail. As you well know, Earth, it was a bit tricky between the snow, soft mud, ruts and rocks exploding from your earth.

e11a-boots

My right foot managed to fall through the icy snow into a hidden rut filled with water that covered my Bog boots. And then my left foot found some mud that squelched with glee. Or was that you squealing with delight, Earth? I had one wet sock, but ventured on.

e11b-Mansion Road

At the junction, I turned to the west, following the log road and remembering the days of yore when my guy and I, as well as neighbor Dick Bennett, used to work up a sweat on a winter day following a snow storm, for it was our duty to you, Earth, to release the snow from your arched gray birch trees. And then, a few years ago, the road became the main route to the timber landing/staging area again, and all of those trees we’d worked so hard to protect year after year were cut to make way for machinery. As much as my heart broke, it does give me time to watch forest succession in action, and I gave thanks that you have such a plan in mind.

e14-deer dance

It also provided a blank stage upon which the does danced and left behind their calling cards.

e12-buck

And Buck sashayed each partner across the floor. The deep dew claw marks and cloven toes indicated he’d made quite an impression.

e11c-coyote scat

All along the way, upon raised rocks in the middle of the “road,” coyote and fox scat was prominent and in the sandy surface I also found their prints.

e18-vernal pool near landing

At the left-hand turn that led to the landing, I was surprised when I shouldn’t have been, for suddenly a million “wrucks” filled the air. I knew the water was there but it had slipped my mind. Thank you for the song of many more wood frogs. Thanks for filling my ears with joy.

e15-wood frog egg masses

And the chance to spy their good works. Thankfully, you make sure that life continues. At least in the form of wood frog egg masses.

e17-wood frog egg mass

I loved their gelatinous blob-like structure, all bumpy on the outside they were. Actually, I believe what looked like one mass, was several, but I didn’t dare step in to check and disturb the frogs that hid below.

e16-wood frog 5

Again I stood as still as possible, and again I was rewarded. For a bit I thought that the frog before me had no arms, but then I realized that they were just plastered to its sides.

e19-wood frog under log

A squirrel sounding bigger than itself caught my attention briefly and I turned unexpectedly. When I turned back, the frog was no longer at the water’s surface, but appeared below a downed gray birch. For a while the two of us remained still. I hoped another frog or two or three or three thousand would pop up, but that wasn’t your plan, was it? It’s okay. One was enough.

e21-log landing

I finally left my one, oops, I mean your one frog alone and continued on to the log landing, noting all the mammal tracks and looking for other signs. There was more scat, but I was disappointed not to find bobcat or moose prints. Where were you hiding them? I suspect the moose had moved to the swamp below.

Rather than go much further, for major ruts from the logging equipment were filled with water, I turned around just beyond the landing and headed back across it. Twenty-five years ago it was a much smaller clearing with a few pine trees. Over the years, I’ve watched it change and the mammal activity as well. And then, about five years ago it was converted back to a landing and I can’t wait for it to fill in again, but my desire and your plan are not necessarily the same, are they?

It all seemed like so much destruction, but I had to remind myself that I am part of the equation, with my own needs for power and wood and food and everything that you provide. And cuts do bring about a change, sometimes for the better, for the trees and the mammals and the birds and the plants and the decomposers and the consumers and all who call this place home. Am I convincing you, Earth? Am I convincing myself?

e22-frog 7

As I passed by the lengthy vernal pool again I decided to revisit the egg masses. I stood on the rock and slowly scanned the area. No frogs. On second glance, there was one right beside the rock on which I stood. And it looked like the same one I’d seen previously. I wondered why. Why didn’t I scare it? Was that you, Earth, taking a peek at me?

e23-Mourning Cloak butterfly

I had one more surprise on my journey–the first butterfly of the season, a mourning cloak. With its wings closed, it wasn’t all that attractive.

e24-mourning cloak

But upon opening them, I saw its beauty hidden within–another lesson, eh Earth? Oh, and your sense of humor. For yes, that was coyote scat on which the butterfly sucked as it sought amino acids and other nutrients. A fly also dined. Yum.

What a day, Earth. Your day. Dear Earth Day. May I remember to treat you so dearly every day.

Sincerely,

wondermyway

 

 

 

 

 

 

May I Have This Dance?

Haha. If you know me well, you know I’d rather be a wall flower than step onto the dance floor. I easily managed to avoid all high school dances, except one prom. And then, barely danced at that, probably much to my date’s dismay. After that, so many moons ago, I don’t think I danced again until my wedding–at which time any dear friends in attendance watched with humor at my awkward movements. But today, I felt the rhythm surging through my body.

v-snow on trail

It all began on my way to the vernal pool. Perhaps it was really just a shiver as the breeze blew across the last of the snow, hard packed still along the snowmobile trail.

v-springtails 1

Or maybe it was the depression that held the snowmelt and was covered with an oil slick of sorts . . .

v-springtails 2

which turned out to be a million springtails bopping to their own tunes.

v-trailing arbutus 1

It could have been the sudden sight of so many trailing arbutus plants that got me going.

v-trailing arbutus 2

Certainly I wasn’t the only one excited by those flowers yet to be. (Do you see the springtail on the tip of the bud?)

v-vernal pool

Or it might have been the ever shrinking ice cover at the pool that made my feet tap.

v-vp edge opening

Perhaps it was the fallen beech leaves atop tree reflections that forced me to sway.

v-leaf offerings

Or the way the hemlock, oak, maple and beech leaves intermingled.

v-spermatophores

What I do know is that there was no stopping me once I spotted spotted salamander spermatophores atop leaves in several open sections–the sperm being located at the top of the cauliflower-shaped platforms.

v-frog 1

And then I saw something swim under some leaves that really got me rocking. Do you see the face of the wood frog, hiding as best it could?

v-fox scat beside vernal pool

As I began to circle around the dance floor, I noticed an offering of scat that made me think a red fox had sashayed beside the pool.

v-sharp-shinned hawk feather?

On my own sashay home, I discovered that there were other dancers in the midst–this one possibly a sharp-shinned hawk.

v-woodpecker feather

And after that a woodpecker.

v-junco feather?

And then a junco.

v-red maple flowers 1

Along the cowpath, the red maple flowers blushed as I might were I to get all gussied up in a flowing dress.

v-red maple flowers 2

Much the way a suitor might wink, so much has happened so quickly. Within the past week the snow melted almost entirely away and winter released its hold on me. Now I’m ready to groove with the choreography of spring’s rhythm. I hope you’ll join me on the dance floor.

May I have this dance?

 

The Big and the Small of the Hundred Acre Wood

As my friends know, I’m not one to say no to an invite to explore their land. And so this afternoon’s adventure found me spending time with Beth on the 100 plus-acre property she, her husband and parents call home in Oxford County.

b-view 2

Their sense of place begins with a field of wildflowers yet to come, the entry to their wood lot and a view of Ragged Jack Mountain. My sense of excitement to explore their place was heightened by this jumping off point.

b-Maine trail

Trails loop throughout the property and the family has taken the time to name and label all of them.

b-pine 4

We wandered along and suddenly Beth noted that we’d reached their champion pine. I looked at a small spruce before us and wondered what all the fuss was about. Then she pointed to my left.

b-pine 2

One massive Eastern white pine gallantly towered over us. At some point in its early life the terminal leader was injured–perhaps by a weevil or weather. But . . . this tree carried on and continues to do so. I felt like we were standing below a giant in the woods.

b-pine bark

It’s characterized by layers upon layers of bark.

b-pine 3

And it’s wider than any tree I’ve ever seen. Here are the stats on this champion: According to Beth, it towers 108 feet tall, is 256 inches in circumference (21.3 feet) and has a crown of 15.75.

b-pine 1

Yup. It’s big. Or rather, BIG!

b-dam:lodge2

We weaved our way along the trails and Beth shared favorite spots with me as she told tales of her experiences with this land and water.

b-mora 1

Mara, Beth’s springer spaniel, shared her own tail. She was happiest when mud and water provided opportunities to play. We had to wonder other times when she cowered behind us or tried to hide between Beth’s legs. What did she sense that we weren’t aware of? We did hear a few critters, including baby grouse that Mara visited, and saw the tracks of moose and deer, plus coyote and fox scat, and maybe even bobcat scat, but our only official mammal sightings were red squirrels.

b-pond

Among Beth’s sharings was this spot she refers to as the Accidental Pond. Accident or not–it’s enchanted.

b-split granite

Here and there throughout the woods, she pointed out glacial erratics. This one we particularly wondered about. What came first? The rock split on its own or the hemlock caused the split?

b-bracken 1

Those were the big things, but we were equally wowed by all the small stuff we saw along the way, like this bracken fern just beginning to unfurl.

b-cinnamon ferns

Several times we wandered in the land of the cinnamon fern, where the separate fertile fronds sport the cinnamon color for which they are named. It won’t be long before those fertile fronds bow down to the earth and the large, arching sterile fronds are all that will remain.

b-caterpillar 2

And then something else caught our attention–a green caterpillar on the fertile frond.

b-caterpillar 1

We weren’t sure who it was, but we saw it on several stalks. Always something to wonder about.

b-royal

Royal fern also offered a display, especially beside the brook. Look closely and you might find the fertile frond “crown” on this one. It’s a rather “Where’s Waldo” presentation, but it’s there.

b-gilled 1

We found some gilled mushrooms we also couldn’t identify, but appreciated their existence.

b-lady 3

The lady’s were in bloom.

b-lady's slipper

Take a look at those hairs.

b-web 3

And it’s spider web season so we paused and admired the work of an orb weaver who built a spiral wheel-shaped web.

b-spider web

Also among our sightings, a well-built high-rise structure woven among the remains of winter weeds.

b-toad 3

Camouflage is everything. Just ask the American toad.

b-wood frog 1

We found the wood frog easier to spot.

b-blue-eyed grass1

But I had my eye on the blue-eyed grass.

b-blue 5

These are the shy ones. They only keep their eyes open if the sun is shining. On a cloudy day it’s almost impossible to recognize them.  And they love damp open woods, slopes and stream banks so it’s no wonder we found them today.

The big and the small . . . Beth’s property has it all. And this was only a sampling from her hundred acre wood. Winnie the Pooh and his friends–they too, would love this place.

 

 

 

One Step at a Time

The past few weeks I’ve felt like an expectant mother. Remember that 70’s Heinz Ketchup commercial? “Anticipation, anticipa-a-a-tion, it’s making me wait.” First it was the Red Maples. Look at them now.

red maple

Tender and colorful, their leaves begin to unfurl.

rm1

vp 5:4

And then there is the vernal pool where the rhythm of life changes with each day.

mosquitoes

Larval mosquitoes wiggle and waggle and somersault through the water.

beetle

Predacious beetles paddle along in this fertile hunting pool.

vp 1 5:5

Sunshine envelopes the wood frog and spotted salamander nursery

eggs 5:4

with a blanket of warmth for the growing embryos.

eggs formed

Their due date fast approaches.

teeming

The pond reverberates with each tiny step.

teem 3 5:4

Tadpoles, at last.

teem 2 5:4

The quarter-inch tadpoles feed on the green algae that has colonized the eggs. In their symbiotic relationship, the algae feed on the embryos’ waste and produce oxygen.

tad poles 1

I’m mesmerized.

drying up 5:5

And curious. The water level has dropped several inches already. The question is, will the gelatinous mass be enough to keep these embryos alive?

Canada mayflower

I turn away and by my feet, a Canada Mayflower about to bloom. Yet another step taken.

So much is going on in this place. I look around at the hardwoods and softwoods that hang over the pool and drop their flowers, leaves, needles, cones and sometimes branches. Moss and lichen cover the rocks. Plants are just emerging. And I’ve seen evidence that mammals stop here for water or food.

I want to protect the wood frog tadpoles so that in time they can hop away into the upland habitat as their parents did. They are my pride and joy. But only for a moment. They are not mine.

The web of life plays out right here and pulls me along one step at a time.

Thanks for stopping by to wonder as I wander.

Signs of Life

I headed up to the vernal pool this afternoon with every intention of pausing along the way to sketch.

Mt Wash

The only snow left is atop Mount Washington.

vp1

Egg masses continue to accumulate. Blue sky with a few cumulous clouds, warm sunshine (almost too warm, but I’m not complaining), a gentle breeze, white-throated sparrows singing to each other–signs of life were everywhere.

FROG

Including this secretive wood frog. From above, his coloration matched the leaves beside and below.

frog2

We eyed each other as he floated near a large mass of eggs that have turned green with envy, I mean algae, in the past few days.  Their egg masses can include 500-1,500 eggs. Yooza!

sally eggs

Salamander eggs are either clear or opaque, like these two masses. They usually contain anywhere from 30 to 250 eggs.

at mansion road

My guy was sanding the dock at camp and I had finished several writing projects this morning, so I decided that rather than sit and sketch, I’d walk out to the log landing. Walking along the snowmobile trail was like walking in Clinton Harbor at low tide. The mud squelched underfoot, sucking in my boots. Rocks underneath felt like clams–maybe I was just hungry.trail

I headed down the logging road with mixed emotions. My heart cried, but my head knew better. Like other paths that I’ve frequented over the years, I loved this one and knew its quirky features well enough that I recognized the slightest change. Yup, that’s change you see in front of you. This logging operation has been going on for two years. Prior to that, the gray birches, paper birches and speckled alders, plus hemlock and white pine saplings bordered the old road. It was last logged about thirty years ago so those species grew in first. They’ve all been hacked down to make room for the equipment and trucks.

gray birch

I went in search of beauty and life among the destruction. Sometimes, you just have to look for it.

moose

One of the good things about such an operation is that it provides easy vegetation for wildlife, like the moose that are frequenting the trail.

moose bobcat

The herbivores, like moose and deer, love the easy feeding. And the bobcats like that the herbivores are easy feeding.

bobcat

A closer look at the bobcat tracks.

bobcat1

And even closer. I don’t often see bobcat claw marks, but muddy conditions warranted their use. In the back of the foot pad, you might see the imprint of hair.

bob scat

I was bound to find this. Bobcat scat–filled with dark organ meat and lots of hair. Bobcats, being carnivores, grind their prey right up with their sharp-pointed molars.

coyote scat

Coyotes, on the other hand, are omnivores and their molars are flatter, thus big bone chips pass through. The funny thing (to me anyway) about this scat, is that it looks exactly like some I found near the beaver lodge pond that I shared in yesterday’s May Day Celebration. Both were filled with extra large bone chips and hair. I took some of the scat I found yesterday. Today, I left it all.

Yes, my fetish for scat continues, but I only take a sample that will be an effective teaching tool. Really. And, I need to keep in mind that scat is a sign for other mammals–health, wealth and status quo are all wrapped up in it. If I take it, they have to work harder (or scat more) to get the word out about who and where they are. So, the next time you wander with me and we see some scat and I get all buggy-eyed over it, give me a nudge. OK, enough about scat.

weaselsquirrel

Dinner anyone?

Weasel and squirrel.

turkey

And the ubiquitous turkey.

landing

This is the second of two landing areas. When the job is completed, we’ll have new trails to explore via snowshoe–it’s rather wet and the trails are currently covered in a lot of slash.

The logging operation is a one-man job and he’s been selective. The end result, as ugly as it may look now, is that the ecosystem will be healthier because of this project. Grasses, wildflowers, shrubs and tree saplings will grow in–early succession. And the fauna will follow.

eggs at landing

The vernal pools associated with the area are still here for the most part–and show signs of life. I found wood frog and salamander egg masses. Even startled a couple of frogs, including a bull frog.

single

And just when you think that wood frogs only return to their natal vernal pools . . . here is proof they’ll take advantage of any water.

eggs

An opportunist recently used a wet depression in the landing.

Signs of life. No matter how devastated an area may look, they’re there.

Thanks for joining me on today’s wonder-filled wander.