Tag Archives: vernal pool

It Was a Warm and Rainy Night . . .

By Barbara Walvoord

Originally published in the Lathrop Lamp Post for April 21-27, 2018

Snoopy thinks a “dark and stormy night” is the best setting for drama.  But a warm, rainy spring night is the setting for an amazing drama in Lathrop’s vernal pools.

On one such spring night, hordes of 7-inch spotted salamanders emerge from underground hibernation in the forest. They begin a dangerous, life-or-death march to a vernal pool to mate and lay their eggs.  Vernal pools dry up periodically, so they have no fish, which would otherwise eat all the salamander eggs. So it’s vernal pool or bust.

Predators’ talons, claws, and jaws snatch many of the marchers, but the rest keep going. Continue reading It Was a Warm and Rainy Night . . .

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New Discoveries at Lathrop

by Barbara Walvoord

Originally published in the Lathrop Lamp Post of April 14-10

We humans at Lathrop might be a bit like Christopher Columbus, claiming to “discover” something, when lots of creatures knew it was there all along.  But, led by the distinctive “quacking” of mating wood frogs, we’ve “discovered” two vernal pools on the east campus (in addition to the ones already identified on trail maps for east campus and Fitzgerald Lake: https://lathropland.wordpress.com/trail-map-easthampton/)

Wood frogs can live ONLY in vernal pools, which dry up periodically and thus have no fish to eat the wood frog eggs. (Sounds, photos, and information: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EF0DZ8TQBd8.)

Columbus reported his discovery to his queen.  We will register our vernal pools with the state, which protects these increasingly rare habitats. Continue reading New Discoveries at Lathrop

Lathrop’s Quiet Vernal Pools

by Barbara Walvoord

First Printed in Lathrop Lamp Post, Nov.  18-24, 2017

Last spring, our vernal pools were jumping with visible life.  Mating wood frogs quacked in a loud chorus.   On rainy nights, salamanders paraded en masse to the pools from their woodland borrows and rockpiles. New-hatched fairy shrimp darted about in the water. Later, tadpoles and baby salamanders popped out feet and developed lungs. Predators circled–turtles, snakes, owls.

All that springtime life and movement is a race against time, because, at least every few years, vernal pools, by definition, dry up in summer, creating an environment free of the fish that would otherwise eat the eggs of vernal pool creatures.  Fish-free is good, BUT–the creatures have to adapt to the summertime drying and wintertime freezing of the pool.  Fairy shrimp lay eggs that stay in Continue reading Lathrop’s Quiet Vernal Pools

“I’m Freezing!”–Literally

by Barbara Walvoord

(From Lathrop Lamp Post Feb. 9, 2017)

Sharon and I found this wood frog on November 16, on the east campus wide woods path. near two of Lathrop’s vernal pools (see trail maps of both campuses at https://lathropland.wordpress.com/trail-map-easthampton/) .

Yikes!  What is this tender little creature doing now that its world is all frozen?

It’s hunkered down in the leaf litter–frozen.  Its heartbeat and breathing have stopped. A special antifreeze keeps its cells from freezing, but  ice has formed between its cells.

In early spring,  our wood frog will thaw out, emerge from the leaf litter, start eating slugs, worms, bugs, and snails, and, if it’s not picked off by some snake, turtle, raccoon, coyote, fox, or bird, go find the vernal pool it was born in.  Though a vernal pool, by definition, has no streams running into and out of it, it fills up in spring with snow melt, rain, and ground water, just in time for frogs to mate. Continue reading “I’m Freezing!”–Literally

Lathrop’s Vernal Pools

by Barbara Walvoord

(from Lathrop Lamp Post, Feb. 2, 2017)

Vernal pools are a unique and threatened habitat.  Lathrop’s east campus is very fortunate to have two just off the wide woods path, and one just off the southwest corner of the mid-woods meadow (map, see https://lathropland.files.wordpress.com/2014/10/trail-eh.pdf)

A vernal pool, by definition, has no permanent above-ground outlet. It fills with seasonal rains, and it dries up in late summer, at least every few years.  That drying eliminates fish, who otherwise would gobble down small critters like fairy shrimp, wood frogs, and mole salamanders who can survive only in a vernal pool. Many other creatures use vernal pools for food or habitat.  

Jefferson salamander. . Photo by Virginia State Parks staff (SH Jefferson Salamander Uploaded by AlbertHerring) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
Jefferson salamander. . Photo by Virginia State Parks staff (SH Jefferson Salamander Uploaded by AlbertHerring) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons
Some creatures spend their whole life in the vernal pool, laying eggs in the bottom that can survive both drying and freezing.  Others spend part of their life cycle in the surrounding forest. Marching to the pool to breed, many are crushed crossing roads. Continue reading Lathrop’s Vernal Pools

The Waters of Lathrop #2: Vernal Pools

by Barbara Walvoord

“Vernal” means spring, which is a long way away. But Lathrop’s vernal pools are in their winter garb, covered with ice, and very beautiful.

A vernal pool by definition has no outlet above ground. It fills with water in certain seasons, especially spring, and then is generally (but not always) dry by late summer.

On the east campus, if you start at the blue shed and walk down the wide path into the woods a few hundred yards, you’ll see a vernal pool through the trees on your left.

Another vernal pool, pictured with this article, you can find by walking along that wide path all the way to the meadow, and then crossing the meadow and going to Continue reading The Waters of Lathrop #2: Vernal Pools