Goodbye snow, hello coltsfoot, and where the hell are the wood frogs?
After a week-long return to winter-like snow and cold, spring is back on track. Warm weather on Sunday brought out the first coltsfoots (coltsfeet?) and crucuses (croci?) as the last patch of snow dwindled on the north side of the spruce grove. Both flowers are non-native; the crocus planted, and the coltsfoot presumably self-seeded. The coltsfoot is thus the first wildflower to bloom here, and has been so every year since we began keeping records in 1972. The other interesting thing about it is that it has never spread any farther than the 100-foot-long stretch of our gravel driveway and the adjacent ditch down below the old corrall. Not all alien plants are invasive in their habits!
There’s no sign of wood frogs yet, which is extremely odd. Their numbers have declined sharply over the last ten years, and this year there may be no more. Last year we found a number of egg masses in the vernal ponds up at the top of the watershed, but the tadpoles all perished when the ponds dried up in early June. The tiny “pond” in the lower corner of the field, meanwhile, seems to have been occupied by red-spotted newts, which are presumably the main reason why wood frog numbers have plummeted there (the venal ponds never were reliable). If so, it’s our own fault for deepening that “pond” several times over the years so that it wouldn’t dry up in late summer. Year-round water means habitat for things that eat wood frog eggs, such as newts. In other words, wood frogs need pools that are ephemeral, but not too ephemeral.
UPDATE (March 28): One wood frog is calling down in the corner of the field this morning.