Vernal pool

An ephemeral opportunity.

Today was my second visit to a vernal pool in three days. These small empheral pools appear for only a few weeks in the spring (hence the name), typically in shallow depressions that capture snowmelt and early spring rains. They serve as an important breeding ground for frogs, salamanders, and other amphibians… and then disappear for the summer.

This vernal pool, near home, has grown in with moss and grasses.

Today, as I strolled along the fading skidder trails that lace the patch of forest above my home – an area I tend to explore when under winter’s deep snowpack, as I did back at the beginning of February – I was surprised to see I was not the first to visit this pool today.

A mossy tree stump served as someone’s dinner table.

Let’s take a closer look. This tree stump was covered in feathers – very fresh feathers. I’m assuming some carnivore – a fox, perhaps? – had used the stump as a dining table for consuming an unlucky member of the local avian population.

Curiously, the feathers were on the stump – and only on the stump.

April Fools

And you thought it was spring.

Every year, as the snow melts, the birds return, and we get a few warm days, people who are new to New England think winter is over. As some old-timers recently told me, with a knowing look, don’t be fooled by mother nature. Spring may have decided to arrive, sure; but winter usually hasn’t quite yet agreed. April is a time of surprises – it can be 70º one day and then snow six inches the next. So it was no particular surprise to me that yesterday, April Fool’s day, it snowed several times. Just briefly. At the end of the day, though, as it became colder, a bit of snow decided to stick. Now, at 7am, it’s snowing hard!

Spring equinox

Spring is here in the valley.

Today is the vernal equinox – the spring equinox – when the length of day and night are equal (equi = equal, nox = night). Actually, “They are not exactly equal, … due to the angular size of the Sun, atmospheric refraction, and the rapidly changing duration of the length of day that occurs at most latitudes around the equinoxes” [Wikipedia]. Here in New Hampshire, Sunrise was at 6:51am, Sunset at 7:01pm.

For those who welcome the arrival of spring, today is when we are adding more minutes of sun per day than at any other time. We’re on the steep part of the curve! This is great news for our solar tracker, which put in a banner effort today under nearly clear skies, with a total production of 45.57kWh:

Technically, the equinox is “the instant of time when the plane of Earth’s equator passes through the geometric center of the Sun’s disk” [Wikipedia]. This year, that occurred at 0937 UTC, or 5:37am here in Lyme, which happens to be about when I got up this morning.

Interestingly, it has long been noted this is the “day when the Sun rises due east and sets due west, and indeed this happens on the day closest to the astronomically defined event.” [Wikipedia again].

On cue, the Connecticut River decided it is also ice-out day – the day the winter’s ice breaks up and the river begins to visibly flow. I’m pleased to see open water, because it means that bald eagle might be seen more often in our neighborhood once again, now that it has an opportunity to fish.

ice-out on the Connecticut River, in front of our house

The forecast shows nothing but clear skies, warm days (50-60º) and cool nights (20-30º). Great weather for sugaring! More on that to come…