Wednesday, March 9, 2011
|Don't let the cap of fresh snow and melting ice underneath fool you.|
Vernal ponds are about to be wild with lustful little creatures.
photo by Jonathan Schechter
Vernal Ponds are places of wonder and re-birth. But without the rains of March and early April
the life cycles of many amphibians would end. These highly sensitive, under-protected and often vanishing woodland ponds that also go by the name ephemeral ponds are the source of life for many
of our frogs and salamanders. An evolutionary miracle of nature is about to occur in
Oakland County. Wood frogs, one of our tiniest frogs, will soon thaw from their rock hard cyrogenic
state of suspended animation and hop to the icy ponds. This mass nocturnal migration is
usually sparked into activity on the first night of late winter or early spring with rain when
the temperature is near 50 degrees. In our neck of the woods that often happens within
a week of St. Patricks Day, even if ice edges the pond and even if they (must attempt to) cross roads
or trails to reach breeding ponds.
After a very short courtship, "Hey, Wanna mate?" these tiny frogs with a dark mask on their
faces pair off "OK then, let's hook up!" and eggs are laid in communal masses without a hint
of modesty. And they will not be alone in their ponds of passion, for salamanders will emerge from
under decaying logs and march off enmass to the ponds for lustful lunges at most anything that
moves. And sometimes they get it right! Fact of the matter is clear: Lackluster appearing vernal
ponds are about to be alive with sensual seduction, kicking and swimming, mating and egg laying
and then a new race begins -- a race for the eggs to hatch and mature before the ponds dry out in
early summer. And that raises the question: Why not just mate in a lake and be done with it?
The answer is actually not a secret. If that happened the "big night out" for our seductive
amphibians would be a bust and the fish in the lake would feast on the lustful gatherings.
And young amphibians need the shallow and shaded nutrient rich waters of vernal ponds for
their rapid spurts of growth. Nature's way if often beyound our understanding. But it works.
Let the rains come, for this is the way of nature to restore our vernal woodland pools of sex,
love, wonder and beauty--at least for our amphibians.