Monday, March 16, 2015

Searching for Sallies!

My daughter and I and our neighbor friends went out this past Saturday morning on a Salamander and Vernal Pool hike at a metropark here in Central Ohio.  Someone asked me how I found out about the program, to which I said "Please! Any park district worth its salt is doing vernal pool programs right now!"  So if you're looking to find one, check out your nearest park district or nature center.

What is a vernal pool hike? Well, let me first answer by telling you what a vernal pool is.  Vernal pools are low, wet areas in the woods that hold water each spring (hence the term vernal) long enough for a variety of amphibians and aquatic insects to reproduce in them.  These pools provide CRITICAL breeding grounds for these creatures.  And they are in significant danger all over the country due to lack of knowledge about these seasonal wetlands.  So a vernal pool hike is when you get to explore these amazing little areas of romance and reproductive action.  Plan to get wet and muddy because you have to get down and dirty to see all the cool things that are in the water.  This is yours truly helping my daughter and her friend explore a restored vernal pool at the park.

Me, Katie and Cassidy looking for sallies.
 Every naturalist does their hikes a little differently, but most include an opportunity to walk out into the pools.  You might be asking "doesn't that damage the habitat?" Obviously, some damage does occur, but as long as you're not bringing large groups in every day for the week or so that the action is taking place, these areas can easily withstand a group or two without any major detriment.

Shortly after this picture was taken, I had to "rescue" my daughter
from the mud as she went in over her boots.  It happens!

Almost all the programs offer a chance for participants to handle the salamanders, or sallies as my daughter calls them.  With hands clean and wet, giving kids and adults alike an opportunity to hold these unique and, let's face it, adorable little creatures is key to gaining their interest and appreciation. A friend once told me that his "threshold experience" was exploring a creek and turning rocks and finding salamanders when he was a kid.  These kinds of experiences are what bring out that passion for nature in children, and adults!  Just look at the expressions on their faces!

Trying their best to take turns, and learning how to
hold the sallies properly.
She told me later that this was her favorite part. :-)

I love her multi-painted nails. She certainly didn't mind getting them dirty. :-)
No fear of these slimy little creatures!

And it's also fun to find all the other creatures that live, breed, and hunt these vernal pools.  We had a veritable gold mine of finds on our Saturday morning hike, including predaceaous diving beetles, isopod larvae, spring peepers,

Spring peeper belly

and even a dandy of a garter snake.  The group got distracted for a good 15 minutes by this beauty!

Beautiful garter snake

So, if you're looking for something to do in the next few weeks, get yourself and your kids out and explore a vernal pool near you.  Be sure to work with a knowledgeable person, have permission from the property owner, and handle those critters gently and with clean, wet hands.  Hopefully, it will be the threshold for a love of all things nature for both you and your kids for years to come.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for the fun photos and words of encouragement, Jen! looks like it was a great time outdoors :)