Friday, April 4, 2008


Anticipation...waiting for "Big Night"

The promise of spring seems so slow to reach fulfillment, but looking closely in the warmest, wettest places gives the greatest hope of what is soon to come. Crayfish wave their claws from crevasses along the bottom of the stream and bright funnels of skunk cabbage spiral up out of the bare, black earth along its banks. Pale tips of daffodil and crocus foliage wait hidden under the matted leaves in the garden, waiting for the rake to unveil them. In our yard, the fat furry buds of the naturalized Magnolia Kobus trees have swollen far larger than pussy willows and promise a spectacular floral display around April 30.

Between now and then, the warm rains of spring will come, and beginning on the second night of torrential downpour, many species of frogs, toads and salamanders begin their quest for mates and suitable habitat for mating and laying eggs for the next generation. Inevitably, many are compelled to cross streets.

Salamanders are smaller than we think, only 2 1/2" to 7" long, and include red newts, dusky and mole salamanders. Many can be found under rocks and logs in broadleaf woods. Of the many species of frogs you might see--but most assuredly will hear--, are inch-long pinkish spring peepers, and slightly larger wood frogs, leopard and pickerel frogs.

Remember that driving on those most productive nights might hasten the demise of amphibians that are fast declining in number worldwide, due to habitat destruction and perhaps acid rain, pesticides and increasing ultraviolet light. Stay home, if you can, or at lease try to avoid driving through low places with wetlands on either side of the road on those warm rainy nights.

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