Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Amphibian Afternoon, Plus a Mole Cricket

The ponds at Naugatuck State Forest were positively raucous with amphibian activity when I visited there yesterday afternoon. Hooray for spring! Spring Peepers were calling their piercing calls from all around the water's edge, but even though I looked and looked for these tiny frogs, I couldn't see a single one. They must have been very well hidden under the grasses and brush! Well, whether I could see them or not, they were definitely there:

(The bird flying around in the above video is a Song Sparrow who every few minutes added his voice to the Spring Peeper cacophony.)

While I searched for peepers, a Pickerel Frog leaped out of hiding. I wish I would see these fancy frogs more often:

In the pond's shallows, the water was practically roiling with Red-spotted Newts:

And just a few feet away, in a small pool, Wood Frogs were making their quacking-croaking sounds. When I got near, these frogs went quiet and did their best floating-leaf impressions, just drifting across the water's surface:

So many amphibians, and I love them all! There were already many clusters of Wood Frog eggs in the pool, along with cloudy masses of (probably) Spotted Salamander eggs. I keep hoping to come across a Spotted Salamander on my walks, but so far these awesome underground creatures have stayed hidden.

Although yesterday's walk was (as usual) lacking in terrestrial salamanders, I did happen upon another creature that's usually hidden away underground: a mole cricket!

This bizarre insect (I think the species is a Northern Mole Cricket, Neocurtilla hexadactyla) was wandering across the muddy ground next to a pond, and it very helpfully froze as soon as it knew I'd seen it. I've only ever seen a mole cricket once before, and that was a dead and mangled individual, so I was super excited to get to check out this guy (or girl) close up. What an amazingly weird animal!

I love those claw/spade-like front legs, so perfect for digging, and I'm intrigued by those alien tube-like structures down its back. From what I've read, I'm guessing these are modified hind wings; I've just never seen anything like them before. The mole cricket was big, too, maybe around two inches long.

The mole cricket eventually decided it'd had enough with the photo session, and it pushed its way under a wet leaf:

Ah, snug as a... mole cricket in a wet leaf. (Can you see the antennae sticking out in the upper middle of this last picture?)

Other sights from yesterday's walk included 20 Common Mergansers on the open water, drifting in large groups from one end of the pond to another:

Common Mergansers show up at these ponds around this time every year before they move on to their breeding areas. I'm always happy to admire the elegant females:

And tuxedoed males:

The Skunk Cabbage blooms are showing off their gorgeous colors and patterns, as usual:

And look, green leaves unfurling! I guess spring really is here!

1 comment:

  1. Oh, what splendid finds! And your photos are spectacular! That Mole Cricket is really something, and we really got a good look at it, thanks to you.