This Saturday past, I attended a wonderful workshop on vernal pools. It was held at the Stratford Ecological Center, a jewel of a place not far north of Columbus in Delaware County.
The workshop was organized and sponsored by the Ohio Environmental Council, and featured a cast of fine speakers on a variety of topics.
I arrived well in advance of starting time and the arrival of the other attendees. I wanted to wander in solitude through some of Stratford's 236 acres, and drink in the ambience of the large vernal pools. Just in case you're not up on wetland types, a vernal pool is a depressional wetland that floods only for a relatively brief period. Many vernal pools are small, and in this part of the world they are typically found in forested habitats. Winter snow melt and spring rains fuel them, and vernal pools are brimming with water in March. Come summer's end, they'll start to lose water as rainfall lessens and evaporation takes its toll, along with the increased thirst of surrounding plants wicking up the pool's water. By late summer, vernal pools are often bone dry.
But now, at their peak, vernal pools are packed with an incredible abundance and diversity of fauna. The pool in the photo is an absolute gem of a place. It's loaded with salamanders, frogs, fairy shrimp, caddisflies, Wood Ducks, and scores of other beasts great and small. Small, mostly.
For much of the year, these frogs are quiet and retiring, and not likely to be noticed. Not now. They just can't be missed.
Western Chorus Frogs are a classic sound of spring throughout Ohio and the Midwest. In order to keep this froggy symphony playing, we have to protect the vernal pools and other ephemeral wetlands that are the frog factories that crank them out.