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Springtime Is Vernal Pooltime

It’s spring so our first back-to-nature post will deal with a singularly spring phenomenon: vernal pools. These shallow pools form in ground depressions in forested areas or meadows in early spring and are a great way to observe life-cycles of smaller animals such as frogs and salamanders. Pools in the Midwest and East, often formed by snowmelt, typically have different characteristics than those in the West, but at any vernal pool you’re likely to see a variety of amphibians, from the spotted salamander (above) to the Western spadefoot toad. The best vernal pool shows come at night, when all the critters are active – and when you’ll get to hear these guys, a sound guaranteed to take you back to being a kid. The beauty of vernal pools is that they are often so small you can find them in relatively compact places. However, finding them is half the adventure – they’re tough to pinpoint, since those most familiar with the pools like to keep them pristine and often won’t give precise locations. But here’s some info to get you headed in the right direction:

New York City: Matthew Brown, Supervisor of the Soil and Water Lab at Central Park Conservancy, hints that the Azalea Pond area in the Central Park Ramble might be a good place to start. Outside Manhattan, Queens' Cunningham Park and Staten Island’s Long Pond Park Preserve promise vernal pools.

Boston: The Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife says there are seven vernal pools in Boston. Many of the city’s Urban Wilds, such as the 90-acre Allandale Woods, would appear to be viable vernal pool locations, as would Mass Audubon’s Habitat Education Center and Wildlife Sanctuary, just six miles from downtown, and Boston Nature Center in Mattapan.

Chicago: The guys at the Chicago Herpetological Society would sooner pass up a face-to-face encounter with a Fijian iguana than divulge vernal-pool locations. But they are chock full of species info and their members post some truly gorgeous photos. Also, the Chicago Wilderness Consortium offers plenty of facts about Chicago-area wildlife and indicates that vernal pools can be found at their Gompers Park Wetland.

So all you need now are your mudding boots, a flashlight, and a sense of adventure – a healthy sense of adventure that is – don’t wander around unsafe places at night and don’t trespass on private property. Report back with your findings!

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“Springtime Is Vernal Pooltime”