Tadpoles, salamanders and fairy shrimp live in them but fish do not. This is the time of year for spotting vernal pools, the fascinating and biologically rich temporary ponds that form in woodlands and uplands from rain, melting snow and high water tables. Ordinarily small and always isolated from other water bodies, vernal pools are flooded for just a short time each year, in the spring. And because no fish live in them, they provide a protected domain for tiny invertebrates to lay and hatch their eggs, safe from predators.
In a 1994 column about vernal pools in the Gazette the naturalist E. Vern Laux wrote:
“Brightly colored salamanders, black with brilliant yellow spots or sky-blue flecks, flock to them to conduct mesmerizing mating dances and lay their eggs; tadpoles turn to wood frogs in them; fairy shrimp awake from dormancy to swim in undulating circles when they form. By July, creatures have hatched, grown and matured or gone dormant, and nothing remains of each tiny oasis of life but patches of mud surrounded by ferns and grasses.”
If you think you’ve found a vernal pool, the Massachusetts Natural Heritage and Endangered Species Program would like to know about it; they document vernal pools in the commonwealth. Mostly it is fun to go look for them; all you need is boots and a beautiful, wet spring such as the Island is having this year.