Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Walk on the Wet Side

Vernal pools, also called vernal ponds or ephemeral pools, are temporary pools of water that provide habitat for distinctive plants and animals. They are considered to be a distinctive type of wetland usually without fish, thus allowing the safe development of young amphibian and insects unable to withstand competition or predation by fish. I was surprised not to hear any frogs.
Hays Kennedy Park in Prospect, KY, has a prime example of vernal pools. The long narrow pool is quite shallow. They are called vernal pools because they are often, but not necessarily, at their maximum depth in the spring ("vernal" meaning of, relating to, or occurring in the spring) and by summer, only a few frog puddles will remain.. Vernal pools may form in forests, but they are more typically associated with grasslands. While many vernal pools are only a few meters in width, playas and prairie potholes are usually much larger, but are still otherwise similar in many respects, with high water in wet periods, followed by dry conditions.
The pool usually hosts dabbling ducks such as Mallards, Northern Shovelers and Bluewinged Teal. Last year a pair of Red Necked Phalaropes found this pool, so you don't assume that nothing exciting ever happens here. In March, when we had a slight warm spell, you could hardly walk along the pool for all the goose poo on the banks. I never knew that teals make a peeping cheeping kind of sound. They sounded like baby chicks!
Meadow Larks sing on the other side of the water, but they usually hide down in the grass.
Between snow showers yesterday, the sun came out occasionally, highlighting all the crab apple trees in bloom. They grow so close together, you can tell they haven't been planted by anyone.
At least I think they are crab apples. Don't Bradford pears escape to the wild sometimes? I sank down into the squishy mud, hiding at the base of the trees. This is a very wet place in the spring.
But the only wild flowers would be considered weeds, such as this Dead Red Nettle...
...and the first Garlic Mustard of the season. Poison Hemlock is sprouting right behind the Garlic Mustard. Ah well, this is an easy stop on my way home from Creasey Mahan Nature Preserve, well worth the walk on the wet side.

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