Exploring natural history one itsy bitsy spider at a time...

Exploring natural history one itsy bitsy spider at a time...

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Salamanders!


It's spring!! Among other delightful changes (skunk cabbage growing, phoebes singing, tundra swans migrating, wood frogs laying eggs) that also means it's time for woodland salamanders to migrate to vernal pools to breed! I hope you had your eyes peeled these past rainy weeks above 40F across PA! They've been on the move!! These aren't just any ordinary salamanders either. These babies are longer than my hand and just about as long as my boots! That's around 8 inches long!! They're the spotted and Jefferson's salamanders.

Were you aware there are 22 species of salamanders in PA? (http://www.fish.state.pa.us/salamander.htm) Many live under rocks near water, some live in fast flowing streams, some larger salamanders live in large rivers, and some, like the Jeffersons and Spotted live in the woods deep in the ground. These fascinating creatures don't come out of their burrows often other than to mate. It's that time of year! If you're out on a hike keep your ears open for wood frogs which are also dependent on vernal pools. Wood frog calls should lead you in the right direction (listen here: http://www.enature.com/fieldguides/detail.asp?recnum=AR0033). Once you find a pool look for migrating spotted salamanders and softball size egg masses! Lastly, if you're driving near a woody area on a rainy evening, watch out for crossing amphibians!

Happy Spring Peepers!

Worms!


I've been reading, The Earth Moved: On the remarkable achievements of earthworms by Amy Stewart, and it's gotten me totally psyched up about worms!! Did you know there are different types of worms? Worms that live deep in the ground, worms that live near the surface, worms that live in water, worms that live in borrows, and worms that live in manure or decaying organic matter!

The ladder are the type we enjoy as our vermiculture composting pets. All you need is a few containers of red wigglers from a bait store, an old bucket with a screen lid, some moist newspaper chunks, and a little bit of dirt to get you started. Then simply bury your food scraps and watch them turn into nutrient rich planting soil! Keep it under your sink and it won't even smell! I am so excited to start vermicomposting. Worm Woman's website, http://www.wormwoman.com/acatalog/vermicomposting.html, lays out the basics pretty clearly.

Happy Composting!