Exploring a vernal pool

First Posted: 4/25/2014

Giggles rang out in the air at Lackawanna State Park the evening of April 24 as 4-year-old Saige Kleyman, of Bear Creek Township, held a red-backed salamander, carefully cupped in her hands.

“It’s name is Sally,” she proudly announced, as she displayed the creature to the rest of the group participating in a three-hour program, titled “Everybody into the ‘Vernal’ Pool,” led by John Jose, of Otter Creek Environmental Education Services, Vermont.

This wasn’t the first amphibian to receive the same name from Kleyman that day — a newt found by the group in a nearby pond was dubbed “Sally” as well before being released back into the water. After a couple minutes in the spotlight, “Sally II” was released to crawl back under the rock where it was found by Jose.

Finding the salamanders was a favorite part of the evening for another participant, Ethan Roberts. The 8-year-old said he also enjoyed learning about vernal pools and the animals that breed in them.

“I learned that wood frog eggs and salamander eggs both live in the vernal pool,” Roberts said.

According to a paper handout distributed during the event, “Vernal pools are small bodies of water, typically found in woodlands, which fill in the spring with rain and snow melt and dry out in the summer. They can be small enough to jump across or large enough to swim in.

“Vernal pools are identified by the animals that breed in them. These animals have special adaptations to survive in these ephemeral wetlands.”

Roberts’ family often sees spotted salamanders under the haystacks where they live in Scott Township, and he said he hopes to go out searching for them again.

“I like nature,” Roberts said, when asked what brought him to the park event, “and it’s a good chance to see new things.”

The evening also included an informative presentation in the Environmental Education Center, discussion on safe handling of the critters and tips and tricks on how to identify, photograph and record their calls.

Although no wood frogs or spotted salamanders were found during the search, the group did locate (and even get to hold) the creatures’ eggs.

For additional photographs from the event, visit TheAbingtonJournal.com.

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