A Robin’s Nest and a Red Eft
Yesterday, Bill and I were out at the edge of the yard, between one of our big rhododendrons and our neighbor’s shed, rushing through a pushback against said neighbor’s ever-invading kerria. Wham, slam, whack at the long, pliable canes of the wretched thing and then as I parted the next clump – EEK! – right in the middle, a nest. Four beautiful robins’ egg blue blue eggs.
Something like this happens at least once every year. Last time around, my reminder to clean up in a more mindful way was comfortably nestled in a chunk of rotten firewood. I had the chunk in my hand, all ready to pick up and pitch into the weeds. Just happened to turn it over, and there was
Or, since this one is in its terrestrial stage, a red eft, my favorite term as it has a fairy tale sound to go with their fairy tale look. The bright orange color and presence on land are both marks of adolescence, which lasts for only two or three of the species’ possible 12 to 15 years.
Before and after their teenage adventures, Eastern newts are a duller color and entirely aquatic, either in fresh water ponds or, quite commonly, somebody’s aquarium.
Notophthalmus viridescens isn’t an endangered species, and as far as I can tell it isn’t against the law to collect them, though many states do require some kind of hunting license, especially if the collecting is for commercial purposes. They’re not just kept as pets; some fishermen use them as bait.
For all the good it does them – probably not much – they’re the official New Hampshire State Amphibian. But given how they got the honor (byproduct of a science project) maybe they can do some good for us (besides eating mosquitoes, that is). I’ve never heard one sing, but they too are canaries in our shared coal mine. Watching their populations plummet is one way to track acid rain.
I put the log back where I found it and left it there for the rest of the summer, even though our little visitor probably left shortly after what was no doubt a traumatic experience. Even when undisturbed, they do a lot of traveling.
Oh, you were wondering about the robin’s nest? It’s fine. Nobody spilled, and I’ve seen mom coming and going several times. Just don’t hold your breath for a picture. I could go back in and take one; it’s unlikely a quick, quiet snapshot would cause terminal trauma. But I figure the poor bird has been hassled enough for now, and by the time things have calmed down the naturally beautiful eggs will have turned into naturally ugly baby robins.
That being the case, here’s a slightly different view of the cute newt: