My Montana

My Montana
My Montana

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Surveying the Vernal Pools

My first on-going job is to help staffer Mike survey some designated Vernal Pools. This survey has been going on for several years and Mike has been the main guy doing the surveys. So he knows the deepest part of each pool, one piece of data we have to gather, as well as if and where we will find spotted salamander and frog eggs.

Most of the vernal pools are in the woods

The involves a lot of walking. It took us most of one day and parts of two other days to complete the surveys of the twenty-three vernal pools. On those days, we walked over two and a half miles to six and a half miles. And we have to walk around the rocky edges of the pools, and sometimes go into them to look for the eggs so there is a lot of hard walking involved. Three of our ponds are not near any trails, and for one pool, we had to fight our way through small trees, then try to get across a swamp without falling into pretty deep holes. Then we had to continue through the woods to the next pond. I came home from that outing and fell into bed and took a nap before I could cook supper.

Mike taking a picture of a pool

Mike is a forester and is willing to tell me all about the trees here which mostly consist of balsams, white pine, red pine, alders, eastern red ceder, and birch, some kind of spruce. (I'm not the best of students so I don't remember all of them.) He also has retained and honed his curiosity and is way ready to pause our official work to show me wondrous stuff. For instance, we walked about forty feet past our turn to go through the forest to a pool to show me the power of steam. 

The rocks I first noticed - with obviously sharp edges from being cracked

The hole with a little of the rock showing in the ground

Part of one of the largest rocks and the tree it scraped down as it
hit the tree and fell to the ground

Two years ago, lightning struck a pine tree and went down into it's big root, which was growing in a seam of rock. The sap in the tree boiled and formed steam and exploded out the rock from an area, about the size of a spa tub. The seam of rock was split into several rocks, weighing probably 5 pounds to  several hundred pounds, which were blown from five to maybe fifteen feet away. 

Mike also enjoys birds and is sensitive to the sight and sound of them. So I feel really blessed in getting to work with him and learn from him. And did I mention he is just fun to be around?

We are anticipating getting to see these swans babies - they aren't nesting yet

When we arrive at a pool we are to survey, we have to note the start time, enter codes for light and wind conditions, then measure the air and water temperatures, and the pH and conductivity. We also have to measure the length and width of the pool and the depth of the deepest part. Then we have to count the wood frogs and the spotted salamander eggs. We are also looking for the eggs of the more rare blue spotted salamander eggs. We have to take photographs of at least one set of frog and salamander eggs at each pond, plus a picture of the pond itself. And we have to enter our end time. 

Mike entering data - this ended up my job while he measured the stream length, width, and depth

Some of the ponds still had ice on them

Mike trying to keep a white tray under eggs while he takes a picture - and tries not to fall in

The first spotted salamander eggs we found

These are wood frog eggs - there are usually up to 6 bunches all stuck together.  SO glad we don't have that many kids at once

It is such a joy to get to be out and get to see so many neat things. Mike is willing to stop and let me take pictures.  These are some things I had to take.

A pretty pond view

A tiny little "cave" under a root filled with snow

I think this may be bobcat scat - please comment if you know what it is

There are many beautiful lichens

This rocky little bluff is unusual here

And sometimes the long view is very beautiful

I just realized that this is Wednesday night - not Tuesday night. Sorry for the lateness. I did another job today and collected lots of pictures - and only needed rescuing once. But that will be the subject of another blog.