It’s still winter here. It’s was warm for a few days and melted some of the snow. Then it snowed several inches again. Ah well, spring will be here soon. Maybe you live somewhere warmer and spring has already settled in.
This week we took a walk to check out some of our favorite vernal pools. We learned about these cool ecosystems last year and have been observing them off and on through the changing of the seasons.
If you aren’t familiar with vernal pools, they are seasonal ponds. Over the course of a year they fill and dry out. The fact they dry up at times is essential to these unique systems. Fish and other predators can’t survive when these pools dry out, so the vernal pools become the perfect place for frogs, salamanders, fairy shrimp, caddis flies, and dragonflies.
We started studying the pools last spring to find salamanders, wood frogs and spring peepers. Now we make sure to take an occasional trip by our favorite spots to check the water levels and notice which animals are hanging around.
Despite a couple of days of temperatures in the 50s, we found the pools were still filled with ice, but the ice was starting to get slushy on top. All around us, the squirrels and chipmunks were busy, and the birds were singing.
In the distance, the boys spotted some deer.
At least a few of the deer spotted us as well. We watched them for several minutes, and were surprised to realize there weren’t 3 or 4 deer, as we had counted, but 8 tails running down the hill. Time to head home and wait for a few more warm spring days!
If you want to learn more about vernal pools, I highly recommend Frog Heaven by Doug Wechsler. The book follows the yearly cycle of a vernal pool in Delaware. The pictures are vivid and helpful for identifying the different creatures found in vernal pools. We checked it out from the library last year to learn about spring peepers. We ended up buying a copy to keep as a reference.