In one small meadow…
Early spring is past, and the delicate ephemerals have withered to yellow. The race is on – to be the tallest plant, the first-fledged baby bird, the biggest salamander larva in the stream. Life is busy and competitive, in this little meadow and everywhere in the forest.
We urban dwellers go for a walk in the woods to find relief from our daily grind – but the creatures who live here are not a having a restful time of it. Imagine having to find insects to cram into three or four hungry mouths, all day long. Then feeding and watching over your helpless, newly fledged young, and doing this multiple times every summer of your short life. Would you like to be a bird?
In a corner of the meadow is a Bush Honeysuckle – I’ve cut off its top and let it re-sprout, with plans of cutting it again. As I walked past it last week, a distressed mama cardinal flew out…
Parting the leaves revealed this sprawling cup. Note the array of nesting materials, especially the grapevine tendrils. Perhaps their curliness allows them to function like little hooks, helping hold it all together.
And finally, two speckled eggs that look like brown paint was dabbed on them. After taking this pic, I left in a hurry, feeling pretty guilted by the parent birds distress calls.
In the same meadow, spotted this leaf-footed bug Acanthocephala terminalis, hanging out on the underside of a Hackberry leaf. The leaf shaped extension on its hind legs explains the name. You can barely make out the distinctive orange tipped antennae.
Our acquaintance from an earlier post, Box Turtle #185, also lives in this meadow by the stream. Last time we saw him he was eating a slug. His home range seems pretty small, perhaps it’s such rich habitat he can find all the food he needs nearby.
And closer to the stream, some Jelly Ear fungus, Auricularia auricula judae (!) emerging from a dead tree. These are becoming most numerous due to all the rain.
Nearby, a blobby translucent white fungus – my best guess is Sebacina pululahuana, for which there is no common name.
To grow to be the biggest salamander in the stream, you first need a great pool to grow up in. This little sky-reflecting gem is one of my favorite places – below a giant Black Walnut a cold spring trickles from a limestone fissure, filling a series of small pools.
I revived this spring by digging out what had become a foul smelling muck-hole full of rotten black walnuts, then damming up the pools with heavy clay dug out of the bottom.
Cave Salamanders live back in the limestone passageways; their larvae emerge into the pool in spring as tiny dark creatures with gills, barely half an inch long. They grow through the summer, gradually wandering downstream as they get bigger…
…until eventually maturing as beautiful golden eyed, orange with black spots adults.
And life in the meadow races on.