Pennsylvania Game News - April 2013 - 53
tufted titmouse takes a bath. Chipmunks chase around the pond and one
scampers up to me, pauses at my feet to
look, and then continue its race with
its rival. A pileated woodpecker pounds
on a nearby tree trunk.
All the while a pleasant breeze
blows, keeping biting insects away. The
pond is slowly shrinking, but it is still
a bathing and watering hole for birds
and mammals alike.
The following day I spend another
session at the vernal pond serenaded
by the same two robins. Little mouths
surface to catch detritus spread atop
the pond, and once I see a tiny froglet
hopping over a small section almost as
if it could walk on water. Froglets are
supposed to be between a half and 7/8th
of an inch when they metamorphose.
Their watery life is ending and none
A chipmunk approaches me with
much trepidation, and when I don’t
move, it goes to the pond and drinks.
Then it scampers off.
Suddenly, the robins begin high
octane scolding as if, after half an hour,
they finally notice me. On and on they
scold, but at last they subside.
When I am too stiff to sit any longer,
I get up and walk back to the field path.
There I find an enormous pile of fresh
bear scat that wasn’t there before. It
looks as if the robins were scolding a
A couple days later, as I’m sitting by
the pond, I hear crashing in the woods
that sounds like a bear. Sure enough,
one approaches the pond, and I ponder
my position. It’s obviously hoping for a
drink and doesn’t see or scent me. At
last I stand up, and the bear looks up,
sees me, and flees.
The vernal pond continues to fill
every time it rains, and slowly the froglets depart, although I don’t see them.
But there are fewer circles in the water,
less little heads surfacing, every time
I visit. How wonderful that after so
many springs when the pond dried up
too soon, our aging population of wood
frogs will finally get some newcomers.
The young frogs will spread out, traveling up to several hundred meters in all
directions, making new homes in the
leaf litter, and preying on a variety of
But even as the pond shrinks and
the froglets leave, I still seek quiet
time beside it. One day, late in June, I
encounter an eastern box turtle with its
eyes closed floating in a couple inches
of water. At first I think it is dead, but
when I touch it, it opens its eyes wide.
Later, I learn that eastern box turtles
sometimes like to soak and feed in
On another day, two doe wander
past me and water at the pond while I
sit a few feet away. Then they continue
on their way. They never do detect my
I can only wonder how many other
wild lives are impacted by this small
pond. Knowledgeable foresters will
steer logging operations away from
such places, or they begin their logging
operations in the fall when the ponds
are dried up.
My life has been enriched by our
vernal pond this water-full spring. Even
after it is completely dried up, in broiling hot, droughty July, I wander back
to sit under the oak shade. Where have
all the wood frogs gone?
One day, on my daily walk, an adult
wood frog hops across my path.
“There you are,” I say out loud as it
hops quickly out of sight.