Tag Archive 'spring peepers'

Apr 18 2013

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Vernal Pools

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frogsYesterday I went into the woods searching for the sights and sounds of spring. I wasn’t disappointed. Despite naked trees and the conspicuous absence of green, woodpeckers telegraphed their desires, ruffed grouse drummed, and a chorus of spring peepers announced the beginning of the season.

I went searching for vernal pools and found them in likely places – slight depressions in the forest floor where snowmelt collects this time of year, where small colonies of frogs magically appear to croak away any remnant of winter.

I knelt down next to a pool oblivious to the cool dampness still in the earth, and watched the frogs swim about. The water’s surface rippled every time the frogs sprang forth. They croaked alarm to each other regarding my presence then went about their amphibious business unperturbed. I wasn’t a threat as long as I didn’t move.

A bit later, on a south-facing slope soaking up the sun, I found a patch of wild leeks flaunting their verdure. I tore off the tip of one and chewed it. The pungent flavor was both familiar and heartwarming. Then I spotted them: small patches of round-lobed hepatica in bloom among the leeks. Their delicate petals burst forth atop fuzzy stems curling away from the earth. The first wildflower of the year was emerging so early I could hardly believe it.

I left the woods feeling a little giddy. I get that way every time the wild takes me by surprise. I went searching for spring and found more than I could have hoped for. After all these years, you’d think I would have it figured out by now. But there’s something about the natural world that’s eternally new, especially on days like these.


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Apr 20 2010

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Only Spring

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Yesterday I went back to that little pond next to the Rail Trail, looking for spring peepers.  With temps in the forties, a mostly cloudy sky overhead and a slight breeze, the weather was more in keeping with early spring.  In other words, it felt more like a peeper kind of day than it did the last time I had walked the trail.  So I was in the mood to listen to those harbingers of the season.

The little pond is a wetland, really.  It only fills with water in the springtime or after a heavy rain.  It’s more than a vernal pool, though, which is also a good place to look for breeding frogs this time of year.  I reached the wetland after walking no more than twenty minutes.  Man on a mission, I passed up several patches of wildflowers along the way.  I longed to hear spring’s chorus above all else.

Upon reaching the wetland, I heard a solitary frog singing loudly and persistently.  I crouched down in the brush near water’s edge, hoping to hear more.  My dog Matika wandered off to sniff.  Although I had come out to stretch my legs, I remained still a long while, giving the wary frogs a chance to get used to me.  Sure enough, a second peeper started up, then a couple more joined in, then a few more until a full chorus rang out.  I just crouched there smiling.

The singing didn’t last.  It never does in the middle of the day.  But I heard enough peeping to fill with vernal joy – the kind of elemental happiness that one can only feel after a hard winter.  No, it wasn’t a particularly long, cold or snowy winter, but it was a hard one all the same.  It usually is for people like me, who need constant exposure to nature’s endless regeneration in order to keep faith with the world.

Afterward I didn’t so much hike as merely drift down the trail.  I watched the sun play peekaboo from the clouds, and listened to robins chirping from the tops of poplars already starting to leaf out.  I admired the vibrant Kelly green of nearby pastures, and smelled the fresh manure spread across them.  I didn’t mind it.  Here in Vermont, manure is as much a part of spring as the peepers.  And somehow it all fits together nicely, as if part of some grand design.  But it’s only spring, I kept telling myself.  Don’t make any more of the season than it is.  Only spring.

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Apr 17 2009

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The Fever Strikes

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Even though I had the house all closed up yesterday morning, I could hear a cardinal singing loud and clear from its treetop perch.  I didn’t dare look out the window because I knew I wouldn’t be able to resist the blue sky.  I was hellbent upon getting various literary tasks done before noon, but it seemed rather foolish to write about the natural world while it was springing back to life just beyond my walls.  What would Thoreau do?  Eventually, I stuffed a compass in my pocket, slipped on my hike boots, and headed for the hills.  No doubt my dog, Matika, wondered why it had taken me so long to do so.

After watching a big old turkey crossing the road, I stepped into the woods.  I needed to hear the high-pitched symphony of spring peepers and had in mind a beaver pond where I was sure to find them.  Just before leaving the last semblance of a trail, I spotted coltsfoot in full bloom – not all that unusual in mid-April.  But the spring beauty that I found a few minutes later took me completely by surprise.  A week early, at least.  I dropped down to my knees and snorted the flower as a drug fiend snorts cocaine.  The result was just as narcotic.

I flushed two deer from a streambed while bushwhacking through some brambles.  Matika immediately chased after them but turned around when I called her back.  Good dog (sort of).  We hopped over the stream and continued deeper into the woods, skirting the beaver pond.  Its shimmering waters were clearly visible through the naked trees, but I wanted to reach a favorite spot on the pond’s opposite shore.  That would take some doing.

My passage through the forest wasn’t very direct.  I traveled from one patch of green to another, looking for more signs of the season.  I found a few mottled trout lily leaves springing forth, then stumbled into some fresh leeks.  I chewed a leek just for the sharp sting of it to my palette.  Matika sniffed the tracks of animals that had passed this way recently.  We reached the far side of the pond sooner than expected.

A Canada goose honked as we approached the pond’s marshy shoreline.  There I sat on a fallen tree, with Matika resting by my side, long enough for the peepers to resume their trilling.  They had fallen silent during our approach but started up again once we were quiet and still.  The goose floated closer, honking continuously as if to evict us.  She eventually got her way.  Matika and I moved away after the peeper chorus had sufficiently scrambled my brains.

A few wood frogs croaked from an ephemeral pool that we passed on the way out.  They stopped as soon as I went over to inspect their haunt.  I searched for more wildflowers in bloom but found none.  No matter.  An unblinking sun burned high in the sky and all I could think was this: How lucky I am to be alive on such a beautiful day.  I drove home slowly, very slowly, irritating the other drivers on the road who had places to go and things to do.  Too bad I couldn’t have walked home.  I really shouldn’t have been behind the steering wheel of a car in my condition.

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