Tuesday, January 29, 2013

A Spring Of Life In The Winter Woods

Where can you go to find something alive when the woods is buried in snow?
Where in the winter forest is there almost constant activity?
Woods blanketed in snow
Everything seems so quiet, bleak, and very still... perhaps a squirrel scolds and an occasional flock of birds twitters along in search for food.  No cicadas.  No crickets.  No mosquitoes...  (actually, you might see some winter crane flies).
Ahhh, but, here is a spring in the middle of the woods and it is full of life!
a spring in a winter-bound woods
  The spring is an active place because of the invertebrate population that is busy processing organic material - the plentiful leaves and woody debris typically found filling headwater streams. 
watching scuds, aquatic insects, and salamanders in a spring
  We could spend hours watching the aquatic insects and minute crustaceans and their frenzy of activity.  This time we stayed long enough that my son sat on his hands to keep them warm.  Oh, for variety, there are also predators cruising the spring - predators such as Northern Spring Salamanders.
  In addition to all the activity of the aquatic insects and salamanders, the streambed itself seems to be alive.  The water springs forth through the sandy bottom in roiling, boiling, sand fountains.  This spring water  is cold, but the sand looks like it is boiling.  That's why we call this spring a boiling-sand spring.
a boiling-sand spring
    Larval salamanders and scuds seem to enjoy the sand boils.  See the scud in this photo (to the right and down from center)?  That adventurous scud is preparing to go surfing in that roiling fountain of sand.  The scud will be buried by the flowing sand for ten to twenty seconds then suddenly come shooting up through the fountain... what a ride!
   See my next post about some of the entertaining creatures living in this boiling-sand spring.


  1. I thought it would be too cold for salamanders to be awake. They hibernate, right ?

    1. Sybil,
      Yes, adult salamanders do hibernate but the larval stages, at least of some kinds, are aquatic and overwinter in bodies of water. In my next post I'll put in a photo of a larval Northern Spring Salamander that was hunting and very active on a cold, late-January day.