While on an afternoon walk, I gathered these items from the forest floor. Remember to only take parts of a plant (like twigs, branches, cones, fruit, flowers) from the ground and never directly from the plant! 

Here I have some red oak leaves, American beech leaves, white pine cones, acorns, white pine needles, birch bark, lichens, and a guinea foul feather!

Week two

A Day Outdoors

Sit spots and Nature arrangements

We can learn a lot about our environment when we take some time to sit back, open our eyes and ears, and patiently observe a place. This week, try finding a sit spot outdoors. It can be a favorite spot you already have, or it can be a place you are discovering for the first time. Take a few minutes to just observe your surroundings – would you want to give this place a name? Who else is there?

Another way we can learn about the nature that fills our environment is by creating nature arrangements. Do you sometimes pick up little forest nick-knacks on your walks? These are perfect building materials for nature arrangements. Try identifying the items you gathered, and arrange them in a creative display for your home. It can be a table topper, porch decoration, the beginnings to a great fairy castle – whatever you feel like! 

 

 

 

Signs of Spring 

Vernal Pools

This week we are highlighting the importance of a seasonal ecosystem that springs to life as the snow pack melts and rainwater floods the dips and gullies of our northeastern forests. 

Vernal Pools, also known as “spring pools”, are shallow depressions in the forest floor where water temporarily collects during the wet, spring season. They generally hold water for several months and are dry by late summer. These pools are crucial breeding habitat for amphibians and invertebrates. Vernal pools have no inlet or outlet for water to travel through and are instead filled by melting snow and rain. Vernal pools are unique as they do not support breeding fish populations, making these pools a nearly predator-free habitat to live and breed in. The next time you chance upon a vernal pool, take a moment to carefully examine it and see if you can spot any interesting critters!

Wood frog egg masses

Wood frog egg masses

lithobates sylvaticus

Wood frogs are among the first to arrive to vernal pools on the warm, rainy nights of early spring. Male frogs come together in a breeding chorus awaiting breeding females.  The have very quack-like calls. Females can lay between 1,000 and 3,000 eggs! These eggs can develop and hatch within 30 days.

Spotted Salamander

Spotted Salamander

Ambystoma maculatum

Spotted salamanders are a type of mole salamander that spend most of their life hidden underground, tunneling beneath logs and leaf litter.  Male salamanders deposit spermatophores packets on the bottom of the vernal pools that females pick up. After laying a few days later, they return back to the forest awaiting the next spring. These spotted salamanders can live up to 20 years!

Feeding a forest

Feeding a forest

Recycling energy and nutrients

The invertebrates and amphibians found in these vernal pools are apart of a larger food web extending into the surrounding forest. invertebrates become a critical food source for developing amphibian larva and these in turn become a food source for birds and mammals.

 

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