So far this spring, I’ve taken several hikes on public lands to do a little winding down but also to find more species for the PA Reptile and Amphibian Survey (PARS), a project that has been …
So far this spring, I’ve taken several hikes on public lands to do a little winding down but also to find more species for the PA Reptile and Amphibian Survey (PARS), a project that has been ongoing on since 2013. With this aim in mind, I made my way to an interesting looking pond on Department of Conservation & Natural Resources lands in the central portion of Pike County, PA.
On arrival, I found the trail that would take me to the pond. I got barely 200 yards down the trail when I found a small vernal pond, about 25 feet wide. Vernal ponds are always worth checking out in the spring as there is usually a wide assortment of early emerging amphibians utilizing these ponds in order to breed. Usually, you hear these ponds before you see them by a number of wood frogs and spring peepers calling for mates. This morning, though, there were no frogs calling. I did see evidence that much quieter amphibians utilized this vernal pond to propagate its species. The white egg mass of a spotted salamander was seen in the water; they resemble a couple of white cotton balls that are stuck together.
On my way to the larger pond I was able to see on the map, I started hearing red-winged blackbirds, Canada geese and spring peepers among other things; the sounds told me I was getting close to a wetland environment. On arriving, I found that the pond, at one time, was just a small stream. Beavers had arrived and built a series of dams that flooded the coniferous trees that were close to the creek. The trees died over the following years, creating a good woodpecker habitat; I heard several species drumming. There were wood ducks also present, using unused woodpecker cavities for their own nesting cavities.
On the way back to the trailhead, I found yet another vernal pond that had some wood frog egg masses present and a couple of tiny wood frog tadpoles. I heard a noise to my left and there was a porcupine at the base of a tree. It decided to keep its “social distance” and started to climb the tree, something they do a lot to escape predators.
With seven species of amphibians seen, countless bird species and my quill covered friend, it was a very nice day for a walk in the wetlands. For more information on PARS and how you can get involved with this citizen science project, visit www.paherpsurvey.org.