A SPRING TONIC.....I am behind the times, made so by beautiful distracting weather and now rain. Spring has definitely sprung here in Maine. The grass is green and buds are swelling. The frogs are still singing, with the Spring Peepers on center stage. The first shoots of spring wildflowers are appearing, while our house is decorated with a multitude of bright yellow Daffodils. I've been busy hiking, preparing for my class and swimming as usual. Another national record bears my name. So you can see why I am late in these entries.

Yesterday, between showers, I hiked again over to Squirrel Point Lighthouse which is turning into a main attraction. There, we saw our first snake, a Garter Snake, trying to warm up. It remained still for a picture, but then actively worked its forked tongue in and out to get a taste of our distraction. It even opened its mouth and tried to attack us. We left it to the peace of the woodlands. Notice in the picture to the left how the snake works its way through clumps of Lycopodia. We stopped to listen to a chorus of Peepers singing in the mid afternoon. It is almost impossible to see those frogs. They kept up the piercing sounds, but remained hidden. How that tiny tree frog produces such a loud noise is amazing. It's only the male frogs that sing. The females respond. Maybe humans should follow suit?

There is something extraordinarily beautiful about some tree flowers. This is one of my favorite, that of the Red Maple. The leaves lie in waiting while the flowers make a spring announcement. I discovered a less visible flower on Hazelnut shrubs. These flowers have their genders separated, one producing pollen and the other receiving it. The male catkins are quite noticeable as they look like cat's tails. If you look closely, you may find the female receptor which looks like a red star. When fertilized by the pollen, that red star produces a tasty nut that looks and tastes much like a filbert. The squirrels usually find them first, but they are worth looking for in the fall.

On a recent hike to check out local vernal pools, we were lucky enough to net (temporarily) a Yellow Spotted Salamander, one of the amphibians specific to these temporary wetlands. These salamanders only seek the water to reproduce. Then, they return to their hiding places under leaf litter in the woods. Some people have found them in their moist cellars, so you never know. Incidentally, these animals do not mate, per se. The male deposits sperm in a spermatophore. The female picks it up into her cloaca to fertilize her eggs, which are laid in jellied masses usually attached to a twig in the water. The eggs become tadpoles that have external gills for breathing oxygen in the water. Once a mature adult, they leave the water which hopefully has not evaporated by that time. Here is a picture of one of these beautiful salamanders taken by a friend, Jo Schuman. So between the snakes, tree flowers and salamanders, I've been having a great spring time! 4/24/09 Inspired Ronnie.