An American Toad is an eye-catching creature, especially when it’s perched on top of an equally eye-catching Dryad’s Saddle fungus. Toad tales may not sound exciting, but now that this handsome toad perched on a “toadstool” has captured your attention, read on for the rest of the toad trills and tales.
Song birds are singing, daffodils will soon appear, and one of my favorite, often overlooked signs of spring has entered its kitten-fur phase. Kitten-fur? The “furry” feeling catkins of pussy willow are now at their peak and free of snow from Monday’s mini squall in northernmost Oakland County.
Their blossoms produce abundant pollen in the early days of spring, a discovery I learned from watching my foraging honey bees.
The blue sky days of spring are taking hold, and with increased hours of daylight and thawing of vernal ponds and frozen earth, the great awakening of our snakes, frogs, and toads is accelerating. Today I’ll be sharing snippets of information on a dozen of my favorite snakes and frogs that are slithering and hopping about. They have been waiting longer for spring than you and I have been. Let’s welcome them!
We knew winter really was over and spring was firmly taking hold on the wilder side of Oakland County when my hiking companion and I unexpectedly encountered an ancient amphibian ritual deep in the woods of Bald Mountain Recreation Area. Although light rain fell the evening before, the sun was shining. Only a few, very small remnants of snow remained on north facing slopes of the glacially sculpted, wooded hills, and the temperature had just reached 55°F. Those environmental conditions were perfect for the encounter that was about to occur.
As winter yields to spring, blue-spotted salamanders are roused into action. They emerge from their moist subterranean dwellings and embark on overland journeys to reach the same vernal ponds where their lives began. The vernal pond is a unique forest pond as it only holds water part of the year and is fish-free. The word vernal is derived from vernalis, Latin for spring. In another few weeks, these ephemeral ponds will teem with life, with some creatures so bizarre that they appear to be alien species.