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

eastern newt, Notophthalmus viridescens

An Eastern (aka Red-spotted) Newt, Notophthalmus viridescens

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:

Notophthalmus viridescens, the red-spotted newt

here's looking at you.



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1 Comment »

  • Susan Scheid Said,

    Always surprises when it comes to turning things over, or even checking birdboxes. One of our boxes went on a slant on its pole. I went down to re-set it, knocking a little first so as not to disturb. No answer, so I began to adjust it, and lo, a tree swallow came flying out. I left it as was, on the chance that eggs were already laid and would be disturbed by shifting the box. Our bluebirds tried once to nest, and it sadly failed. They tried again, and this looked like it might be a no-go, too, so I thought I’d best brave it and check to see if it should be cleaned out. Knocked lightly, no answer. Turned the latch, out flew a bluebird! Glad to say neither were disturbed enough to leave permanently, and I’m not about to go back until I know they have to have gone.

    And then there’s one more: house finches! They tried to nest on the front porch lantern. This was NOT going to work, so I cleared the material away quickly, only later to discover (and too late to stop it going forward) that they’d made a nest inside the back porch light, which, unbeknownst to us, was missing a pane. We only hope they depart by the time Mom arrives for her visit. She’s not too fond of nesting house finches, which caused her to lose her balance while trying to shoo them away from her porch, the result a badly broken ankle which has never been the same. Ah nature . . .

    Ah indeed,

    One more example of what I recently learned is a classic real estate competition: bluebird vs. tree swallow. Sounds as though you have enough boxes for at least one of each, and thank goodness for that.

    As for the house finches, pretty funny — at least to those of us who don’t have to worry about worrying our moms. With luck, they’ll be gone by the time she arrives but if not maybe you can keep her so busy watching the bluebirds she doesn’t notice the nemeses nesting over the back porch.

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