RI Families in Nature guide Jeanine Silversmith took a group of about 30 down a trail going around a freshwater pond full of water lilies and through the mossy woods to examine beaver dams and lodges. What was most surprising were all the tiny things we found...
Pulaski State Park is in Chepachet off Route 44, nearby to several campgrounds and hosting their own. After a brief introduction, the group set off along the beach, small children in hand and older ones making instant friends with others. We soon had our itinerary lined with lily pads and white flowers floating at the edge of Peck Pond and my daughter was quick to spot a Bullfrog.
|An oak gall formed from a wasp egg landed perfectly on a pad.|
|Look fast! Bullfrog lurking!|
|Catching, examining, then releasing with the net.|
I expected some frogs and toads, especially with the recent rain, but I wasn't prepared for what happened next. One little boy had proudly declared his skill in locating frogs, and he did not disappoint.
|The toad is in here, I swear!|
|Still another toad...|
|A katydid (cousin to grasshopper, cricket, and mantis).|
|And this...this TINY frog!|
I'm pretty sure it's a frog because I did not see any of the glands behind the eyes or bumps or warts toads have. It was spotted with banded legs. Could it be a newly transformed leopard frog or a Eleutherodactylus (Syrrhophus) marnockii? Did we find a rare or new species???!! Can anyone comment below?
Of course, it was hard to miss the beaver lodges and dams and we were able to examine beaver activity on several trees, although the beavers themselves (mostly nocturnal) were not in sight.
|Notice the tapered chisel before the trunk snapped.|
|Beaver lodge. Residents enter from underwater, but inside is dry and has air.|
|More beaver evidence.|
The beavers weren't the only ones who likes this spot! We saw FOUR garter snakes and I saw one slither into a tiny hole in the earth.
|What (bigger) animal lives in here, I do not know.|
Sometimes it was enough just to enjoy the textures of leaf litter, moss, and lichen, find an interesting tree. How many moss types were there? How long would it take these baby pine to grow as tall as their parents? When trees fell, how long until the mushrooms, insects, and bacteria returned them to the earth? What made two trees grow together? What story does the shed birch bark tell?
|A tiny setting for Middle Earth?|
|A forest of pine and oak, the only birch fallen. Birch borers?|
|Perhaps a parachute or a ship for a tiny creature?|
|Two trees, grown together.|
|A tree growing over a slab of stone. Excalibur?|
|Decomposition is often invisible. One mushroom has many threads.|
|Across the lush forest of moss...|
|Tiny mushrooms emerge.|
|A tree torn down by ___________.|
|What must live in this tower of roots?|
|A mosaic of roots, rocks, and forbs.|
|An accident, a clue?|
|A turtle-rock :)|
And then there were the tiny treasures: A mushroom tower, flowering bearberry, single fungal cap rising above the damp, leafy ground. It was a mile and a half, a lot of pausing to look at the ground, before we made our slow journey back. Swimming in the pond, I thought of all the tiny things, stretched out my arms and legs, and looked past the ring of trees into the eternal sky.