During this challenging time, nature is a refuge. The safest place you and your family can be now is outside in fresh air. Activities in vernal pools have not been cancelled. (This spring’s hike scheduled for April 4th has been due to the Covid-19 pandemic.)
The Middleton Stream Team urges you to visit vernal pools alone or in small family groups. You don’t need team members or anyone else to show you where they are. There may 200 in small Middleton alone. A vernal pool is roughly defined as a body of water that will most years have water through early July before it dries up. They range in size from a large bath tub to an acre or more in area, two to four foot deep. They have no flowing streams going in or out and since most years they dry up they have no fish. Yellow spotted salamanders and wood frogs travel from the surrounding woods on moist nights in late March and early April to mate in them. Fairy shrimps and many other organisms living in the leaf litter and soil in the bottom of the pools come forth to mate. Insect eggs hatch, insect larvae become active, and snails and small worms are seen moving about. The mating salamanders and frogs leave egg masses behind.
There are no fish to eat the eggs and larvae of vernal pool creatures so these pools are essential habitats for reproduction by many aquatic and semiaquatic animals. Go forth on warm rainy nights or at other times and see the life in these now busy pools. If you go at night bring flashlights or head lamps. Bring fine meshed, light-weight nets with long handles, and white opaque plastic or ceramic bowls to examine your catches in. Handle any creatures caught gently as you study and perhaps photograph them. Put them carefully back in the water where found. Egg masses are best studied in place. The stream team recommends an excellent guide entitled A Field Guide to the animals of Vernal Pools by Leo P. Kenney and Matthew R. Burne for $5.00. You can search on line for information about the organisms mentioned above and other vernal pool animals. https://www.vernalpool.org. If you want a book or have any questions about vernal pools in our area please call 978-774-1507. Also let us know what you find at firstname.lastname@example.org or post on our Facebook page.
The Middleton Stream Team