Newt Fest! All Newts, All the Time!

One of the things I want to tell you about springtime in Pennsylvania is that you just never know what you might come across in the woods after winter. Oh sure, there are the occasional bleached bones here and there (and yes, after carrying on about it the way I did, I added the Cathedral of the Bones picture as an "extra photo" to yesterday's Blip).

But it turns out the real goings-on of note are the antics taking place in the vernal pools. In this photo, adult newts are shown engaging in all manner of springtime frolic, in a puddle in the backwoods of Pennsylvania. Yes, it's spring, and time for those who survived the winter to turn their attention to the very important business of propagating the species!

The story behind this picture . . . First, there were two newts clutching each other, when a third newt approached from the side and hopped on top. And suddenly the whole pile of newts was in motion! Two other newts standing nearby suddenly began to look very interested in joining in.

We came across the puddle on our Sunday morning hike, after spending a chilly night camped out in the Quehanna Wild Area. So much for the promises of overnight temperatures in the 40s F; the clouds cleared out right around dusk and the temperatures dropped into the mid 20s instead.

One of the great gifts of camping out is that you get a great view of the moon before bedtime. It wasn't huge, but it gave off a pretty little light, and it almost looked pink through the sunset clouds. The moon sailed through the tree above our tents, giving us a lovely show. And later that night, a whip-poor-will came and sang its heart out on the very same tree.

Where I come from, the first whip-poor-will's call is a sign that it's time to go barefoot. If it sings above your head at night, it also means you will not sleep a wink, as the whip-poor-will call is loud and raucous! So my husband, in desperation, got up and clapped his hands a few times, and the bird finally flew away.

And then morning came, and we packed up our camping gear and stowed it in the car before going on a hike on nearby dirt roads. They would reveal not just vernal pools teeming with life (in this case 50 or more newts in a rather small puddle, perhaps the largest gathering of newts I'd ever seen), but also the tracks of deer, wild turkeys, one lone elk, and possibly even a small bobcat. Perhaps more wild living is going on in these backwoods than we think!

The rest of our day would take us back into civilization, for food and drink (I highly recommend the $5 quart of chili at Benton's Market in Karthaus), as we had run out of provisions by this point; and then home. Absolutely famished, we stopped and ate that chili, topped with cheddar cheese and crackers, and washed it down with fresh cold sodas, at a boat launch area along a Susquehanna River that was running high and brown and muddy. And then we finally headed home from our wilderness adventures, tired but happy.

The soundtrack to accompany this image is a favorite 80s tune, and I think it may describe what the newts are up to in the photo: Air Supply, with Making Love Out of Nothing At All.

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