Nature Strollers

The mission of the Nature Strollers is to support parents and grandparents in their role as primary interpreters of nature for their families; to provide opportunities for families to enjoy unstructured time outdoors; to familiarize families with local trails, refuges, sanctuaries and preserves; and to develop networks among families with a common interest in nature.

Saturday, April 05, 2008

Glenmere Lake, 05 April 2008

More of Laurel’s lone ramblings...

To the right of the entrance at Glenmere Lake is a large vernal pool. It is a magical place. The bottom is carpeted with last year's oak and maple leaves, the trees trunks and branches are reflected in the water. Around the base of each tree is a mossy coronet, green even in winter. It is a quiet place, most of the time, but for several weeks in the spring it can hardly contain the voices of woodfrogs. On this day, there is a different visitor. Not fifteen feet in front of me, at the base of a mossy oak is a pileated woodpecker. The largest species in our region. It has a dark gray back and a red Mohawk. A second pileated was on a nearby tree. When I opened my car window to see them, they flew a short distance with their characteristic dips, showing the white underside of their wings. They settled on trees on the opposite side of the pool. I watched them for five minutes before they flew out of sight, regretting that I could not get a picture without startling them.

The pileated woodpeckers were an unexpected surprise, I was drawn to the pool expecting to see eggs and I found them, even though they were pretty well hidden. The dimpling of the pool’s otherwise smooth surface gave them away. Wood frogs lay their eggs near submerged shrubs and sticks. Females tend to lay them in the same area, so you may see huge rafts of them floating just under the surface. These eggs look just about ready to hatch. Wood frogs dependence on vernal pools to keep their eggs away from fish, has meant that their tadpoles must be rapid developers, leaving the pool before it dries up, as vernal pools are apt to do as the season gets warmer and drier.

Without children in tow, I was able to venture farther along the trail. In some water-filled ruts I noticed large aggregations of black insects. Upon closer inspection I recognized them as springtails, sometimes called snow fleas. These primitive insects really seem to have springs as they can catapult themselves many times their length using their forked tails to launch them. These tails are held under a little latch when not in use. Springtails' role in nature is in the construction of rich soil.

I took a detour onto a little used trail, this one is covered in moss and winds its way through the junipers. It is a magical little place, of owls (well, I got a photo of an owl pellet) and lichens (reindeer moss).