Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Mother Nature

I really don't know squat about nature. Agriculture, yes, but nature, not so much. When I was a kid, my mother used to take us for evening drives in the country, and she'd point out all the different crops in the fields, so I can identify squash or beans at 55 mph, but I hardly know the difference between a crow and a pigeon. I prefer my flora cultivated and my fauna domesticated. But now that I have a digital camera, and work on a campus with lovely lakes and gardens to look at on noontime walks, I've been trying to pay more attention to it all.

Last year, I saw dragonflies and damselflies, cedar waxwings and a great blue heron, and I've learned the names of a couple new plants like fernleaf peony, Spigelia marilandica and Eryngium. I often took pictures of things and then posted them on Flickr and asked people to tell me what they were.

This year, I've been watching tadpoles turn into froglets in a little artificial pond near the Mount Holyoke greenhouse. Here are two tadpoles as they looked back in April. You'll probably have to click on the photo and view it large in order to see them. They're the grey blobs with eyes in the middle of the photo.

Nothing happened for weeks and weeks. The tadpoles swam around in the pond, but didn't seem to be morphing. Then, in June, they quickly got legs and came out of the water to sit on the lily pads. If you look closely, you can see that one still has a long tadpole tail, one has a stumpy tail, and the others have tailless bums.

Here's Big Mama (or Big Daddy) watching over all the little guys in the pond. Two weeks ago, I could see twenty or so of the froglets at any given time. Now I only see a couple. I think the rest have learned to hop and have left the pond to explore the natural world around them.

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