|Fairy Shrimp in action. Credit: Jack Ray|
In the meantime, here are some more tips for spotting wildlife at a vernal pool:
- Look for egg masses early in the season, from around mid-March to mid-April. They shouldn’t be too tough to spot in small and unvegetated vernal ponds, which offer clear views of the entire pool, Leppo says. We might have to look around a bit in pools with a lot of vegetation.
“Wood Frogs and Spotted Salamanders (the two most common vernal pool indicator amphibians) have large egg masses that are usually floating at or near the surface of the pool,” Leppo says. She suggests checking out this handy guide for identifying different species by their eggs.
- By May, many of the larvae have hatched, and some egg masses, like that of the Wood Frog, have fallen apart. But that doesn't mean there aren't interesting things to find. Leppo says we still might be able to locate egg remnants of the Spotted Salamander. “The egg matrix is very durable,” she says.
- Fairy Shrimp and Clam Shrimp are tiny at first but mature to sizes large enough to be seen. (See photos.) And of course there are the tadpoles and salamander larvae. Baby salamanders look a bit like tadpoles but have feathery gills on the outsides of their bodies. The Pennsylvania Natural Heritage Program has more photos to help identify the different larvae of a vernal pool.
| The smaller long, thin creatures are mosquito larvae, and the larger |
fluttery ones are Fairy Shrimp. Credit: Betsy Leppo