Northampton, MA wildlife biologist Molly Hale’s love affair with vernal pools began 20 years ago when she attended a workshop on them at Arcadia Wildlife Sanctuary. “My eyes were opened” she said. “They were magical for me.” On a Sunday afternoon in early April, Molly easily conveyed that feeling of magic and mystery to 25 or so folks who joined her on a Vernal Pool Walk sponsored by the Hilltown Land Trust.
Vernal pools are temporary pools that dry up in late spring or early summer. Because they can’t support a year round population of fish, vernal pools provide a relatively safe and essential habitat for a variety of invertebrates and amphibians, such as spotted salamanders, fairy shrimp, and wood frogs.
During the walk, Molly led us to four vernal ponds located in different terrains of the Fox Den Wildlife Management Area in Worthington. Each pool offered a sample of the varying characteristics and inhabitants of these important resources.
If certified by the Natural Heritage & Endangered Species Program, vernal pools are somewhat protected from development, irrigation, and overuse of fertilizers under the Wetlands Protection Act and local bylaws.
To learn more about these critical habitats, visit www.vernalpool.org or the Natural Heritage & Endangered Species Program website.