This poppy is from an evening lecture by Gary Snyder with an awesome garden party in the Botanical Gardens after.
On March 10th we had about 24 hours of rain and an increase in temperature, so we were pretty sure that would be the night. The salamanders would be slithering to their spawning grounds! My only experience with this was a game we used to play when I did environmental education at Pickering Creek Audubon Center where students would learn about salamanders migrating to and from spawning grounds crossing the very dangerous human-made road. Some students were cars and some were salamanders, some got squished, and some made it through. This is a pretty easy concept to grasp, but I didn't realize just how much of a mass movement it is. When we first moved to this little spot by Cascadilla Creek we were really excited about the nature preserve at the top of our hill. Ringwood Nature Preserve is known to be an important area for herps, including the locally rare, Jefferson Salamander (Ambystoma jeffersonii).
The ponds fill with water and the warm rain helps to defrost the soil. The herps are stirred by something - perhaps it is the warmer temperature, the warm rain drumming on their winter home, the ice thawing around them, or maybe it is a smell we humans are unaware of, or fairies. They stir and move toward the site of their birth, you know, the kind of birth something that hatches from a gelatinous egg in a pond has. So, they move to these ponds where they were laid by their parents. Go read about salamander spawning if you have time. Some crazy stuff happens!
We aren't entirely sure how they navigate, but they might end up passing perfectly perfect ponds on their way to their one and only place of first home. These ponds are so small that they don't support fish, which might like a tasty amphibian or amphibian egg treat.The adults spawn and lay eggs that they attach to vegetation in the water and then move onto land. Spotted salamander eggs sometimes contain green algae which will consume the carbon dioxide salamander embryos produce and turn it into oxygen that the embryos can use. I am not even joking.
Young salamanders feed on small invertebrates once they hatch out. Some species may take as long as 5 years to reach sexual maturity and some species, like the Spotted salamander can live for more than 30 years. Can you believe that!!!??? Who knew? Not this bird nerd.
So, we bundled up with more layers than we needed because warm air was just too crazy to comprehend and we are birders and birding is very slow and can be quite chilly when it is raining. We scrubbed our hands and we headed up the road to find some neighbor friends already out and about with flashlights and we walked the road near the ponds. There are salamander fences up that guide them to a safe culvert (like bumpers at the bowling alley), but of course there were individuals that didn't get caught and funneled by the fence, so we helped those get to the right side.
There is something so heart-warming about watching grown men hunch over and try their hardest to pick up little frogs and salamanders and gently walk them to the other side of the road. I honestly haven't had so much fun in a while. What's more warm and fuzzy feeling than getting animals to safety with your neighbors? Below are some blurry attempts at capturing the magic. Heaps of herps in all sorts of varieties!
A Spotted salamander moving along and halfway across!
A Spring peeper and the entrance to the culvert with fencing on either side.
A local hand model and a Spotted salamander
I think this is a Jefferson's slithering along!
Not so lucky - there was a lot of this.
I am pretty sure this is a Jefferson's that Eliot found in our yard later that night.
A gifted CSA led to the discovery of the watermelon radish (with ID help from Donald), Old Raj martini (thank you Jed) with extra olives and an "Embrace the Gray" colored manicure (my first in at least two years), self-gifted Wegman's tulips with Dolly Parton and sunshine, puzzle from my lifter upper dear friend Katie, Ringwood hike with Eliot, Eliot and Sarah cider taste test Saturday night, driving home from work early, snow from the den above a giant pile of shaded laundry, our Sycamore, Aurora, NY on Cayuga Lake for Valentine's Day, curriculum development for Wall of Birds at CLO, matzo balls and guest-left pink champagne by the fire while dreaming of trips to Africa, sunshiny puzzle working today, tulip demise, and a hike at Ellis Hollow with some found vandalism.
Sometimes you need to leave work before the sun sets.
Luckily, our new Canadian friends taught us how to play Crokinole, and it is super fun!
It isn't a real party until there is a blow dart competition.
Bathroom art is important.
The Cayuga trail blazes are works of art. Below, old and new beaver sign. There is nothing for scale, but that Cottonwood is one of the largest I've seen.
A stop at our local brewery, Hopshire, for some sunset behind oak.
Sunday brunch at Classic Chef's in Watkins Glen before some chilly, but sunny hiking. This place was amazing!!! There were people eating old school tall dish sundays, rice pudding, BLTs and dressed up! The lady behind us had definitely had her hair done and her most exquisite clip on earrings adorning her ears. It was like a little time capsule with perfect home fries, golden glittered formica tables and chunky white coffee mugs. I love diners!
You can even see a waterfall from the diner!
Check out these sweet bathroom tiles!
Below is a hike in Watkins Glen State Park. The lower trail is closed due to its state of ice, but the upper trail had great views, hemlock, sunshine, flocks of birds, and we finished up at an area with a lot of cattail and a hemlock hammock tree. It was a grand adventure.
And then, the Superbowl, biologist style, with a a little hedgehog friend at half time.