Rock of Ages

A rock lies at the center of this story; orbited by other rocks, and salamanders, and other creatures.  I paid the rock a visit on a warm November afternoon, with a warm wind blustering out of the south.

It lies in the sand on the slow side of the stream bend, across from a shale slide.  This rock and others like it were carried here from the north by the great ice sheets that once covered the land here.  They were left behind when the ice retreated, and along with the torrents of melt-water, helped carve this canyon through layers of sandstone and shale.  Some of these glacial boulders lie in or along the stream; others have come to rest in the surrounding forest.

Each time I come here I like to visit this old friend of a rock.  It is worn smooth, and is cool to the touch, and often wears a film of condensation.  It is of a single tan hue, and pleasant to look at.  Other people who come here know this rock;  it invites the eye and a touch of fingers.   Over the years I have found some interesting creatures close by, and on this November visit it is a Zigzag Salamander (Plethodon dorsalis) under a small rock in the leaf litter.

This past summer, three small eggs lay under a piece of shale just a few feet away from the rock.  Most probably they were the eggs of a Ringneck Snake (Diadophis punctatus).

This bend in the stream is also a good place for juvenile Northern Water Snakes (Nerodia sipedon sipedon).  I never see adult sipedon here, only juveniles; this shallow stream pours into a larger creek about a mile downstream, where adults can be found in abundance.  I suspect gravid females may travel up into the smaller stream to give birth, but it may be that neonate sipedon make their own way up into these shallow waters.  Either way, it is a good place for small water snakes, affording plenty of cover and little fish, frogs and toads to eat.

Across  the stream from the rock, sections of the shale bed break loose and slide into the stream.  Sometimes I find Queen Snakes (Regina septemvittata) under these thin sections.  I usually see juveniles, rarely adults.  The shallow riffles provide feeding grounds for crayfish, the Queen Snake’s principle prey item.

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