Friday, April 22, 2011

Sandy Neck Vernal Pools

We tend to think of areas next to the sea and full of sand dunes as being salt water environments, right? Some of these areas, most on the Cape in fact, are actually very diverse areas and have freshwater areas as well. Many of these freshwater areas are ephemeral, meaning they come and go according the seasons and in many cases they qualify as vernal pools. This spring has brought us a lot of rain and the water table is quite high, making these pools a bit larger than usual. It is hard to imagine many will dry up by mid July...
One of the obligate species, meaning one of the animals that must be present, of Massachusetts vernal pools is the yellow spotted salamander. This one is being held in a container by Ian Ives of Mass Audubon's Long Pasture Sanctuary during a recent program he gave on Sandy Neck.
This jelly like mass in his hand is actually a mass of spotted salamander eggs. Like most amphibians the salamanders lay their eggs in water. When the young hatch they will look more like fish than tadpoles and will even have gills that look like tiny feathers on their necks.
In the forefront of this photo you can see the silvery water of this shallow vernal pool. On wet spring nights spadefoot toads crawl out of their sandy holes to mate and lay their eggs in places like this.
Their eggs look more like little dots than little worms like the salamander eggs do...

It's a busy world out there on wet foggy nights in spring....

You can read the full article on our walk on Sandy Neck that I wrote for the Barnstable Patriot here.

No comments:

Post a Comment