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Monday, May 19, 2014

Vernal Pools Walk Turned Wild Flower Wonderland

I receive newsletters from The Couchiching Conservatory and was so excited when I heard about a Vernal Pools workshop and signed Sierra and I up to attend. There were only 8 participants in total including the facilitators so I was very excited when we got a spot.

Those of you who know us personally, know Sierra loves toads, frogs, snakes and snails etc. She has been trying to find a salamander but we have not had any luck... ever. This workshop sounded like the perfect opportunity to finally see some salamanders.

We met at the Copeland Forest on Saturday morning and talked for a bit with Bob Bowles about the importance of Vernal Pools and you can learn more about them at the Ontario Vernal Pools Association website.
Truth be told on this walk we didn't find any true Vernal Pools. We found small pools of water but they weren't big enough to remain wet for the completion of a salamanders life cycle and therefore weren't technically Vernal Pools.

We also found some that had a flow to them so they were not true Vernal pools either.

What is a Vernal Pool?
By definitional "a Vernal Pool is a seasonal body of water that typically forms in the Spring from melting snow and other run-off. It dries out completely in the hotter months of summer. They are free from fish and provide important breeding habitats for many terrestrial or semi-aquatic species such as frogs, salamanders and turtles."

We still enjoyed ourselves and learned about so many other plants and animals. We saw a Green frog visiting the small pool above but he was too quick for a picture.

We found an interesting trail of holes which we learned were created by Voles as they typically skim closer to the surface when digging their tunnels. We later found mole mounds of dirt as well but I didn't take a picture. Moles tend to dig deeper and make larger mounds of dirt on the surface.
We also found a dead mole on the trail and Bob talked about some of the differences between moles and voles and how to tell them apart.

Sierra wanted to take him home but she learned that as part of the life cycle it is best to leave dead creatures where they are so they can decompose and go back into the earth. Since we found him right in the middle of the trail she did move him off to the side and gave him a nice final resting spot at the base of a tree.


The white Snow Trilliums were bountiful and beautiful and I took many, many pictures of them.


We saw the occasional pink Trillium...these white trilliums turn pinkish as they age,
A few red ones and even a yellow Trillium. We learned that the yellow variation are actually mutant genes within the red trillium and year after year that plant will always be a mutant colour.

Sierra really wanted to pick just one...but Trilliums are protected wild flowers and event though it looks like they are plentiful here; if everyone who visited picked just one then they would be depleted in no time as it takes 7 years for this plant to mature and bloom and picking the stem below the leaves kills the plant...she did not pick any.


We learned about many other plants too like the ground cover pictured above with the trilliums is called Squirrel Corn. Here is a close up.

 It is related to Dutchman's Breeches but the Squirrel Corn has more heart shaped flowers where the Dutchman's Breeches look more pantaloon like (Sierra took some of her own photos with my phone today and I used my Canon).
Our next new wild flower we discovered was wild ginger. At first all you see is the green foliage but if you look closely and down low you can find the deep purplish/burgundy flowers that were in bloom on our walk. I didn't get a great close up of the flowers themselves.


These little Yellow Violets were such a bright little beauty but were very sporadic.

Another treasure we found were Jack-in-the-Pulpits


 

 I remember only ever seeing one of these before when I was a child in NS. It was growing under a bridge near my grandparents house but it was huge when I saw it so I was quite surprised to learn these will grow much bigger too. I'd love to go back in a month or so and see how much they have grown.
 We saw Wild Oats/Bellwort
More Trout lilies
Leatherwood... it's branches were so flexible.

 I am racking my brain trying to remember what these are but I can't...do you know?


 Sierra asking about this fungus called Horseshoe Fungus and she learned that it got it's name from it's shape looking like horse hooves. She also learned that early settlers used it as in their fires to burn.


The fairy houses were plentiful too but we didn't manage to catch a glimpse of any.

Sierra found a little slug and he joined her on part of the walk in a little home she made him with a piece of bark and some leaves.


Some other interesting fungi.

Sierra even found this tiny old chrysalis...I wonder what emerged from it?

It was just such a beautiful walk. Everywhere you turned there was something beautiful to stop and admire.
Including this cute little Spring Peeper!



He would have looked adorable sitting in this Scarlet Cup Fungus I found.
I fell behind the group here as I stopped to take a couple pictures as I had no idea what it was. At first glance out of the corner of my eye I thought it was a fallen egg??? 

Apparently these Fungus usually grow in clusters near decomposing maple trees. If I knew that I would have searched a little longer for more under the leaves but I thought it was a one off and had no idea what it was. Bob knew though as soon as I showed him the picture. He is truly a walking encyclopaedia when it came to all things natural. He knew all the common names, scientific names, tidbits of info about every single plant and animal we saw. A wealth of knowledge and information. I certainly will keep my eye out for other walks and workshops with him as spending a couple of hours with him teaches you so much.

Our time came to an end though and we had to head back to the parking lot... a few hours passed but so much was learned. Even though we didn't find a vernal pool or salamanders it was still an amazing morning.

Sierra took a look through a couple of Bob's books seeing some of the salamanders that we had hoped to find. She enjoyed her day anyway too. I'm so happy she at least got to see a spring peeper, that was her high light of the morning.

One last share...I loved this group of ferns... no flowers on ferns, just lush, green, new growth...

Round as a ring without an end...so is my love for you my friends. May you all be enjoying this Spring as much as we are here.