Today We Saw…

A little sylvan pool with…
Ubiquitous pea clams (Pisidium species)

If someone told you to go find some live clams, how long do you think it would take? Probably less time than you think, so long as you know what to look for and where to search. Pisidium casertanum, the “ubiquitous pea clam” occurs all over the place, wherever it’s wet enough for long enough. I once found pea clams on a drippy cliff in an Idaho rain forest. I would love to know of any other example of vertical terrestrial bivalve habitat.

Every year, in early spring, when our sylvan pools are flooded, I go to see the clams. It’s reassuring, somehow, to find them, living happily in their ephemeral habitat. In a month or so, this pool will dry up, and the clams will be dormant until next spring.

The Columbia spotted frogs have been vocal during the past few days. They make a subtle sound. Most people wouldn’t notice, even when there are dozens calling. Just a muffled clicking sort of sound. They’re also rather hard to see. There is one in this photo, but even I as the photographer have a hard time making it out. Trust me, it is there. They like to go unnoticed.

We visited the Symplocarpos foetidus (eastern skunk cabbage) planted at the edge of Sky Pond. It’s in full bloom now, as are the wild western skunk cabbages (Lysichiton americanus). The two genera are rather closely related. I wonder if I could force a hybrid progeny from them, just to prove I’m not completely opposed to mischief science.

A squirrel went bounding along the top of the rock wall and dashed up this little spruce. It chattered away up there, vexing Buki. If only she could fly, then she’d get the squirrels. I do wish she could have a pair of hovering wings, like a hummingbird. She’d be even more fun if she were airbound. So would I.

We went out by headlamp to look for night creatures. In early spring, earthworms emerge part way out of their burrows at night, like little sarlaccs. They scavenge for food among the dead leaves. Or maybe they eat the leaves. When approached, they retract suddenly into their burrows, making a rustling noise as their bodies disturb the dry leaves in passing. If you approach very slowly and quietly, as Buki and I did here, they don’t retract and you can watch them forage. When you get bored with watching them, then jump up in the air and land with both feet hard on the ground: THWUMP! The impact causes an outgoing ring of leaf-rustling sound as thousands of earthworms retract into their holes, each as the shock wave reaches them. It only works in early spring, before new growth smothers the previous year’s dry, rustle-y leaves.

As we often do, we enjoyed a late night canoe ride. Penetrating the dark pond water at night with a headlamp beam reveals much that can’t be seen easily during the day. Such as:

A giant water bug, here lying in wait to ambush its prey. They use their muscled front legs to grab a passerby, and when they have a grip, they then stab the poor animal with their dagger-sharp mouth parts. And then they suck the juices out. It’s a rough world. Poor prey.

And so as not to end on the giant-water-bug-nightmare, here’s a scene from the garden, with potted Princess Irene tulips. It’s still brown season. April isn’t the prettiest month here in the north. But the lawn is starting to turn green. And we’re enjoying some spots of colour here and there, both in the garden and in the wild. The sap is still flowing up into the forest trees, the pressure is building in their buds, and soon, the green-up will happen suddenly, entertainingly, and beautifully.

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