Sunday, April 3, 2011

The search for salamanders continues

One of my photography goals this year is to get a good shot of a salamander.  This will be easier said than done, as they are shy, elusive, nocturnal amphibians.  Some kinds burrow deep in the ground for most of the year.  A few weeks ago, I attended a program about vernal pools (see the post here) and learned all about salamanders - and how difficult they can be to find!  But, I'm not ready to throw in the towel quite yet, so I attended a program yesterday at one of Columbus' Metro Parks in hopes of finding salamanders.

The Bachsters came with me & unfortunately, I forgot to bring them hats and gloves!  I was so concerned about the looming rain clouds that I didn't think about the temperature.  It was supposed to be in the 50s, but when we got to the park it was only in the low 40s.  The kids ended up taking turns wearing the only hat I brought....mine!  To make matters worse, my oldest daughter was complaining about her boots before we left, so I let her wear her school shoes.  Did I mention that this program took us off-trail to the park's vernal pool?  Cold and wet.  Yeah, I really earned the Mom Of The Year Award on this excursion!

The only salamander we saw all day was the captive one the park naturalist showed us before we left for the vernal pool:

Here's Little Dude, ready to embark on our adventure, not knowing the off-trail dangers that lie ahead (but looking a little apprehensive all the same):

I learned three important lesson from the program: first, off-trail + Bachsters just do not mix.  There were tons of logs, sticks, twig bushes & pools of water we had to cross.  But the most challenging part was the sticker-bushes - they were everywhere, blocking our path like a bouncer at an exclusive club.  Navigating through them at kid level took real maneuvering - the kids would often have to back up, and go around the sticky situation they walked into.  The other important lesson I learned  is that my Bachsters are real troopers.  They complained a little when we were off-trail, but mostly they were just focused on the task at hand: navigating to the vernal pool, then finding our way back out to the trail.  And no one asked me to carry them, which was shocking!  The third lesson learned: the promise of hot chocolate upon our safe return home was very motivating, indeed.

Because of the cold temperatures, our guide gave us the gloomy prediction of few amphibian sightings.  And she was right: no one in the group found a salamander and only one little wood frog was found hanging out under a log:

My 5-year old found a little snail on a log as we were leaving the vernal pool.  She was so thrilled to have found something, even though it wasn't the salamander that she was hoping for:

In all, it was cold.  It was wet.  It rained on us a little bit.  Little feet got water in their boots & shoes.  Little pants were poked by sticker bushes.  But my kids got to see a vernal pool and poke around in it.  They got to experience working their way though dense bushes and twigs, just like forests are in their natural state.  And making this Mama very proud, they revealed that they are open to new challenges that arise. 

And the hot chocolate that I promised them?  A very warm & satisfying end to our adventure.


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