Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Cacapon State Park and surrounding hills

Last weekend was just one of those times that makes my soul jump with joy, the air was clear, a tiny bit crisp like we get in early spring and it just felt great to be outside without a inch and a half layer of additional clothing. I can see why spring is the time for mating when you finally have freedom of movement.

Up at, what I have named the Newt pond, I check for spotted salamanders and found l clumps of eggs wrapped around submerged twigs like insulation on the pipes in my house and the sperm pack ready to be picked up by females. The little blobs sit atop submerged leaves like little white gelatinous pyramids. Clearly there is extra sperm ready waiting.

At the end of the pond there were large masses of wood frog eggs finding safety in numbers. It is a strategy that hopes to keep the eggs moist. There was one clump on the edge and from experience I knew it would dry out before they had a chance to hatch so I picked it up and realized that it was covered with a layer of ice. Turning it over I had a good look at the individual eggs.

I thought I would look under some of the bark laying on the ground to see if I could find a spotted salamander hanging out before it descends deeper into the earth. They are a part of a group called mole salamanders, a name well deserved. I didn't see a salamander but I did find a centipede curled up. This one is from the order Geophilomorpha, common in rotting logs and the soil. It is very long and at first I thought it was two curled up. Generally they give me the willies but this one didn't move so I had the self composure to take this photo.

There were lots of clumps of this small white cushion moss in the Leucobryum family. The outer layers of the cells are dead and no chlorophyll which creates the white look. My hand is often pulled toward them to caress or pat them on the head.

Since I was so close to Cacapon State Park I decided to drive on over to visit the naturalist there and see what was new.  At the upper lake I found a couple of Canada geese and several red spotted newts. 

The newts were just hanging out but from the enlarged hind legs I could tell they were getting ready to mate.

I love their ability to wiggle through the water or walk on the bottom.

On the narrow trail that skirts the lake I almost stepped on the rather large puff ball.

Dicranum fulvum (Boulder Fork-moss)
I have never seen as much Candelaria concolor (candle flame) lichen as I found covering this branch. I had read that it was pretty common in West Virginia and like anything else the more you learn about it the more you see.
Candelaria concolor (candle flame lichen)

1 comment:

suep said...

Hi Squirrel,
the lake at Cacapon looks very much like our lake at Moreau right now, though you are ahead of us in the amphibian department - we will be checking out all the little blobs we see in the water from now on!