Please note: Our next winter lecture, Vernal Pools, will be on February 25th at 1:30pm. The Sanctuary will be closed on Saturday, February 18th for Presidents’ Day.
Spring seems far off today, a feeling that is being reinforced with the forecast. I am an optimist, however, and before the last snow fall I was delighted to see that the vernal pools along the trail here were filling with water. This is a sign of spring, a sign that correlates with the longer day length and perhaps most importantly, a sign that the drought may be weakening.
Our lecture on the 25th will be focusing on vernal pool habitat and the critters that depend up on them, presented by yours truly. Vernal is rooted in Latin and means “of the spring”. These temporary ponds typically fill with water in spring and dry up during summer, preventing fish from surviving there. Of course, in nature, the only rule is that there are always exceptions to the rule. Some pools don’t dry entirely or don’t dry out every year and some fill in fall. Regardless, vernal pools are important habitat for wildlife including some amphibians (wood frogs and spotted salamanders) and invertebrates (fairy shrimp) that use these sites exclusively for breeding.
Visiting a vernal pool in spring is really fun, no two visits are alike. You can be extraordinarily lucky and have marbled salamander larvae swim up and sit on the toe of your boots. Of course, the flip side of that is striking out completely. I have visited before things have woken up, and while it smelled like spring, the wind whispering through leafless branches reminded me to be patient.
One of my favorite experiences is taking someone out who has never heard the quacking of wood frogs or seen a congress of spotted salamanders. All of this really cool stuff happens right under our noses and some people have never had a chance to see it, or even knew it happened at all. These are fleeting moments that happen quickly in spring and not on a pre-determined date. You have to pay attention and be patient.
I hope you will be able to join us on the 25th! Please email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 413-267-9654 to reserve a spot.