The Overture beginning with a quack.



Hardly a melodic introduction to a lyrical spring on the Great Allegheny Passage, but that's how it has started.

As I rolled over the bridge spanning Cedar Creek the sound grew louder a another 10 yards and it filled the space.  I stopped and the quacking stopped.  However, without much searching I found a small linear pool of water, the result of spring melt and blocked drains.  In the pool bodies darted in all directions at my approach.  

However, they revealed themselves even before I saw them with their distinctive quacking song, wood frogs.  

 Rana sylvatica is one of the early amphibians to emerge from winter dormancy, find a small pool of still cold water, and begin to sing.  Well a quack-like croak is more descriptive.  The 2 - 3 inch brown or tan bodied frog has a distinctive black bandit mask making it easy to identify even if they keep quiet.  

In the cold pools females lay eggs by the hundreds.  Fertilized externally by males the gelatinous globs give rise to hundreds of tadpoles which eventually give rise to frogs.  The sheer volumes of offspring is a defense that overwhelms predators although from the hundreds of eggs only dozens of adult frogs will survive.  

The next day, while helping to open the Big Savage Tunnel, a friend of the Passage stopped and passed on his sightings of wood frogs along the trail near Deal, PA.  Even with the difference in micro-climate due to elevation it seems the emergence of the frogs is synchronized across the length of the trail.  

However, my intent for visiting this part of the Passage was for biota rarer than wood frogs.

Mid-March is the time for snow trillium (Trillium nivale) and harbinger-of-spring (Erigenia bulbosa) to bloom.  The trillium is a small cousin of the great white trillium found later in April.  Snow trillium is only a few inches high and found on sheltered slopes where the soils are deep and neutral.  My intentions were fulfilled.  Several dozen flowers were in bloom on a bluff overlooking the creek. 

Harbinger-of-spring is closer to the Passage.  On the floodplain of a small stream which passes under the trail is a patch of this tiny plant of the carrot family.  Close to the ground and with white flowers just a 1/2 inch across it is easily missed unless you know just where to look.  

New signs of spring will come quickly now.  Almost too quickly.  After the lifeless winter I would like spring to arrive slowly to be savored one bit at a time.  

No comments: