Every once in a while, I'll see a really cool animal, something that I almost never see, and then all of a sudden it feels like I'm seeing them everywhere. This happened to me earlier this year with owls (OMG, owls), and now apparently it's the Spring Peepers' turn. Up until last week, I'd never seen a peeper outside of their spring mating season -- as far as I knew, they might've stayed hidden the rest of the year. Then there was the peeper on my porch last week, and now this morning, on my walk through Naugatuck State Forest, I saw this fellow:
Peepers are generally nocturnal, but this one seems to have missed that memo. It was lounging casually on its leaf, its eyes wide open and its little throat fluttering. Peepers can have some variation in color, and I love the gray-brown tones on this little guy. (We do have Gray Tree Frogs in Connecticut, but this is not one -- the criss-cross pattern on this frog's back, together with its very small size, identifies it as a Spring Peeper.) Although the frog was clearly awake, maybe it was a little drowsy, because it sat perfectly still and let me walk all around it to get a closer picture.
Really, frogs are some of my favorite animals -- tree frogs especially -- and I cannot imagine a more darling little creature.
On a very different note, here's a lesson from today's walk: nature isn't always happy. On one of the paths through the woods, I found a small furry creature -- something I'd never seen before -- lying in the dirt. It was breathing and moving its legs weakly, but it was pretty clear that this little guy wasn't going to be around much longer. I don't usually like to take pictures of animals in distress, but how often am I going to get the chance to see one of these secretive creatures? There's nothing gruesome here, it's just a little sad.
After some research, I'm pretty sure this is (was) a Woodland Vole (also called a Pine Vole, Microtus pinetorum). It's got a short tail, and the small eyes and ears of a creature who spends much of its time underground. This animal is only supposed to come out of its burrows to forage on the ground at night, so I can only assume that this individual was sick, or injured by a predator, or both.
In any case, I left the little guy alone, because I didn't know what else to do. I do hope a predator came by after I left to finish the job, but I didn't stop by again to check. It was very interesting to see a vole, but I wish it could have happened under nicer circumstances.
So that's the sad part of this post. I did see some other (and very much alive) creatures on my walk, like this gorgeous male Eastern Pondhawk dragonfly:
And I saw some new flowers as well. This is (I believe) Round-headed Bush-clover (Lespedeza capitata):
The best guess I have for this next plant is that it's Lance-leaved Goldenrod (Euthamia graminifolia), albeit with much fewer flowers than I'm used to seeing on a goldenrod -- my botanically-inclined readers should feel free to correct me if I'm wrong, though:
And finally, here's something I've never seen before -- a swelling seedpod on a Pink Lady's Slipper:
I'm not used to thinking of orchids as bearing seeds, but bear them they do. Of course, of the many, many seeds this seedpod will produce, only a few will find exactly the right conditions (and the right fungus... orchids are so interesting/weird) to grow into new plants.
It seems strangely fitting to end this post with a picture of seeds-in-production. I guess today I encountered some extremes -- birth and death.... It's all one big package.