Camping Notes 5/6/13

I realized that on Mondays, I am usually overflowing with camp observations. Thought I’d share some, now and then.

It was the first gorgeous weekend of the 2013 season. Temperatures that I would happily keep year round, 70s, by day, and upper 40s, by night.


To the right, is our original site which my husband, Ed, had cleared and built. The whole area was thick forest when we began over 15 years ago. This is Ellen and Kory’s place now. (They weren’t here this weekend.)

We have a small Walmart sunken pond which is my first stop every weekend. It provides a wonderful vernal pool for amphibians. The visitors are fewer,so far, and  I have a good theory as to, why?


010It has been recently dry and the spotted salamanders and wood frogs migrate farther during rainy weather. Only the green frog “locals” and one mature Red Spotted Newt are currently present. This is a first for my pond. This week promises some rain but I’m afraid that their egg laying, for this year, might be over. 😦

So off to check out my plum blossoms. Last year, I was alarmed by how few honeybees had tended to pollination. This year, I spotted a few but the numbers are still dismal compared to years past. I’m hoping that our chilly Spring has not yet awakened the masses.


As the day progresses, I plan my garden. We have suffered for 4 years with a terrible fungus blight. This year, I plan to grow corn and I’ll be trying an above ground method for tomatoes using wooden skids.


Ollie, my Jack Russell, is the happiest camper. He’s able to run loose and dig to his heart’s content. He is now 9 years old and requires more breaks in the sun. Of course, he has his own chair.


Ed and I camp in an area that he prepared for our 5th-wheel. It is just below the old homestead and is our little piece of heaven.


Ed keeps very busy. He gathers wood and splits it, as well as, maintaining the lawns and building wonderful stone flowerbeds. His four-wheeler has all that he needs. Yes, a rifle and a chainsaw are both necessary here. Actually, Ed had arrived the day before I came. Our gas grill had been knocked from our deck and one (empty) cooler was out in our yard. Our friends, with a game camera, have evidence of a large black bear in our area. Coyotes and a fisher have also been spotted. We leave no food or garbage out to entice them!


I was pleased to see the first of Ellen’s tulips open. The daylight hours are shorter in the woods, so our campsite is a bit behind what we have at home.


I was also happy to see some forget-me-not seeds had taken where I’d hoped they would fill in on a banking.


I never fail to search our piece stone before we leave. It was quarried in Hudson, NY and has many seashell fossils from a time when New York was an ocean floor. I have always loved rocks! I’m thrilled to look for fossils and, sad that so many were ground up, too. I guess I would have never had the chance to find them if that had not happened.


So there you have a glimpse of the “good life” I find in the forest. I also had time to read in a lovely shaded area beside my dog.

Further updates will show my flower beds and garden. See you later!


The link above is to a short video that I made several years ago. It is about these amazing frogs. I’m sure that I’ve posted it before in my blogging adventures but thought I’d like to add it to my new NATURE KNOWLEDGE series.

Wood Frogs are being studied for their amazing ability to keep from freezing solid while buried only inches beneath leaves and woodland debris. They spend most of their time on the forest floor but this time of year, sing into the night while gathering to lay eggs in vernal pools and ponds.  Once you’ve heard their serenade, it is hard to ever consider not noticing them before!

The act of reproduction is called amplexus. Males cling to females while waiting for her to deposit eggs which they then fertilize with a cloud of sperm right after she deposits them. (On rare occasions, the number of males clinging to one female can weigh her down to the point of drowning her!)

Spotted salamanders lay their eggs during the same time period. In the case of spotted salamanders, the males leave sperm on the pond/pool floor. The female scoops up the sperm, beneath her tail, and her eggs are fertilized internally.

Often, the wood frog offspring and salamander offspring compete and eat each other in their journey to mature.

There are always dramas for survival taking place in nature, especially in the Spring.

Sympatric Salamanders 2012 -Overlapping Territories

The Jefferson salamander (above) and the Spotted salamander (below) both visit and leave eggs in my little pond in NY State.

These photos were taken this weekend. My pond is, in essence, a plastic container that was from Walmart several summers ago. It is about three and a half feet long…two feet wide and two feet deep. The depth is important for the salamanders, especially this season. It will not dry up as many vernal pools are during this unusually warm and dry springtime. About 10 years ago, I captured a blue Spotted Salamander in this location too. I haven’t seen one since. My camera and computer knowledge were both serious lacking then. In springtimes past, I’ve brought home specimens for the kids to witness firsthand. This year, I opted to leave them alone. A dry Spring is not very friendly to amphibians so I wanted them to keep multiplying uninterrupted.

The Jefferson and Spotted salamanders are syntopic. ( They occur together locally.) My little pond has become a yearly support to local populations and I’m very proud of this. At first, Wood Frogs overwhelmed my little pond at mating time. There are still a few who leave their eggs but the pond is populated by many more salamander eggs. The Wood Frogs have moved to larger ponds in our area.

The adult salamanders will leave soon and by late April their tadpoles will be visible and plentiful. I’ll document their growth in future posts.

There are a few more weekend shots to share. Enjoy!

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Once a pond a time, there was a wee brown frog known as Muckapog.

He got his name from his extraordinary brown color that resembled the mucky pond bottom more than the brilliant green meadow nearby.

The other polliwogs thought Muckapog was sooo cool. He could hide at the bottom and never be found. They all wanted to be just like him.

As the days rolled by, the polliwogs got greener and Muckapog got sassier. All the attention had gone to his head. Muckapog never used his manners and often stuck his tongue out at the “greenies”.

There came a day when the polliwogs graduated into real frogs. Their sleek, long legs, and perfectly polka-dotted bodies were a delightful sight.

Muckapog was soon forgotten when the meadows called with adventures to be had. He dared not go into the meadow. Brown did not belong there and he would be gobbled up by the first bird, if he stuck out. Now, being different was not such a treat. He began to regret having been so rude to the others.

Instead of sassy, he felt alone and afraid. None of the “greenies” wanted anything to do with him since he had been very unkind to them in those early days.


Muckapog noticed a water bug skating by his ear.

“Hey, Muckasnob!”

“That’s Muckapog please.”

“You’re not so sassy now! I’ve had my eyes on you for a while. I’ve seen your kind come and go fella. A water bug doesn’t get to be MY age, in a frog pond,without a few brains.”

“Please sir. I don’t know what to do and this water is becoming uncomfortable to me.”

“Tell ya what, Muckafee. I’ll answer your question if you’ll answer one of mine. Deal?”

“Oh yes pleeease.”

“Why is it you youngsters NEVER learn humility until it’s too late?”


“Gosh,Muckaputts, humility means you consider other creatures’ feelings not just your own.”

” Well, I was very cool. I could hide the best. I didn’t care, they loved me…I was wrong, wasn’t I?”

“Exact-a-duh Muckadude! Those me and I s  have got to go!”

“Thank-you. Will you help now?”

“Your answer was in your reflection, Muckypants. You aren’t more special than the others just different. You are a wood frog, my friend.”

“A wood frog?”

“Yup, Muckadunce, you belong in the woods over there. Now take a hop outta here!”

“Might I ask one more thing, sir?”

“What do I look like? Google Earth?”

“If you are telling me to be kind to others…why are YOU so rude to me?”

“I’m just a water bug, what the heck do I know?