|Robins at the edge of snow|
|Beaver lodge, Halibut Point quarry|
|The beaver, from cute to incorrigible|
Amphibians and reptiles solve their needs with equal ingenuity but less disturbance. Many of them develop a special relationship with water during dormancy. Amphibians are all born in the water initially able to breathe aqueously (usually gills) but eventually developing lungs. Reptiles are all born on land, breathing air their whole lives. They may or may not turn to the water, but they never relinquish their lungs.
|Blanding's turtle at water's edge|
A turtle derives a small, steady amount of oxygen directly from the water through minute blood vessels lining its throat cavity. Similar tissues aerate two walled sacs near the anus. So it gets through the winter with a bit of help from both ends. Its heart that might beat forty times a minute on a warm day in July drops to one beat every ten minutes in cold water.
It still must contend with metabolic lactic acid buildup while sealed for months under the ice. Doing next to nothing slows the acid buildup, but body functions still produce enough toxin to kill the creature before winter runs its course. The turtle dissolves minute amounts of calcium salts from its shell into its bloodstream to buffer and neutralize the lactic acid.
It's no wonder that turtles like to bask in the summer sun.
|Bullfrog, always wet|
Our local wood frog, a terrestrial hibernator, foregoes submersion. A high concentration of glucose antifreeze in its vital organs prevents pulverization by ice. A partially frozen wood frog stops breathing. Its heart stops beating. It looks like a block of ice and appears quite dead. But when its hibernaculum warms up the frog's frozen portions thaw and resume activity. During vernal days and nights it celebrates its return from refrigeration below zero (C) with quacking calls at nuptial ponds.
|Spring peeper inflating|
|A male red-wing blackbird staking claim from a cattail|
|Tufted titmouse foraging among oak tree flowers|
|An over-wintered Mourning Cloak butterfly displaying amorously on the woodland floor|
At a season with few blooms Mourning Cloaks walk head downward down the trunks of oak trees to feed on sap. They search out rotting fruit, animal feces, and occasionally flower nectar. During summer these cool-season champions might aestivate in a dormant state similar to hibernation. They suspend physiological functions in diapause to minimize the hot-dry environmental challenges. They nap.
Winter as an arm of the creative forces serves all kinds of strong-armed functions in the biosphere. It builds soil, manages populations, directs evolution. It choreographs especially water as its most compelling agent. To Nature it is inevitable. To us post-Natural humans it claims only respectful consideration if we're careful, mortality if we're not prepared.
____________________Further reading thanks to Karen First, Director of the Nature Preschool at Massachusetts Audubon's Endicott Wildlife Sanctuary in Wenham:
Bernd Heinrich, Winter World
Mary Holland, Naturally Curious
David S. Lee, "The Complexities of Turtle Hibernation" (Internet)
Emerging also from a two-week sojourn "Appalachian Spring"
Roseate spoonbill, National Wildlife Refuge, Savannah
Spanish moss, Charleston
Civil Rights Museum, Greensboro NC, site of the first Sit-in, 1960
Here vibrated Black Mountain College on Lake Eden, Asheville
Proprietor's own stuff, Burnsville NC
Dogwood and redbud, Blue Ridge Parkway
Wild about phlox
Dr. Marian Wright Edelman receiving honorary degree at Monticello
Fife and Drum Corps at Thomas Jefferson's 273rd birthday celebration
Tallest peek in the mountains
Franklin Delano Roosevelt continues to lead, Washington DC