Sunday, May 8, 2011

Vernal Pools and Bogs- Spring Nature Field Trip

We had the distinct pleasure of joining our homeschool group on a field trip to a local Nature Center. This one happens to be very local- no more than ten minutes away local and it is really fun to know what amazing places are so close by!

We got to visit a bog and a very large vernal pool. Bogs differ from the vernal pools and ponds because they do not have an external water source. It's a closed system which is only fed by rainfall (and run off from rainfall). Very little evaporation occurs and only a tiny bit leaches out. The bottom of a bog is made of bedrock not soil and the vegetation that grows there (sphagnum moss) produces so much acid that the pH of a bog is very low- this one measured around 4 in the center. So, nothing really decomposes in a bog. It's really a very interesting part of the landscape. We were excited to learn some things about both.

We arrived at the visitor's center and found all sorts of critters. Look at all these tadpoles!

The vernal pool- we netted all sorts of things, caught a snake, and saw a dead coyote. They are going to let him finish decomposing and then take the bones back to the visitor center. Yuck!

This is a very large vernal pool which here in NY could really be classified more appropriately as a ephemeral pool. Vernal pools are only around in the spring, but here in NY ephemeral is better because it lasts a portion of the year not just spring.

J5 was my partner and he and I caught a lot of critters! Trust me when I say that whole coffee can was brimming with life! We were on the lookout for some species of shrimp in the adult form. We found lots of them in the larval form and some cool tadpoles. We did get to see the shrimp because there some kids who caught them. They are an indicator species- proves that this is truly a vernal pool and not a pond. Lots of amphibians like the vernal pools because they are safe from other predators here- like fish!

R10 is holding a Christmas fern and a trout lily leaf from the edges of the vernal pool.

Love the trillium which was in bloom all along the trail.

This flower remains unidentified. Despite knowing there would be a naturalist with us, I brought a few field guides and sadly our Golden Guide on wildflowers did not show us this one. When we find it, we'll report on it. Do you all know what it is?

A beaver lodge! J5 spotted it as we approached the water. Judging by the trees all around, there are some very active beavers here!

The bog sphagnum moss- you can walk on the mat and the kids go to try! This is a very unique ecosystem which was created as the glaciers retreated. This area of NY is about the furthest south you'll find a bog.

R10 and J5 got to take some pH meter readings at the bog. J5's is from the tap water at the visitor's center which is basic due to the chlorine they add. R10's water is from the edge of the bog which is closer to neutral. The center is at 4.2- that's like vinegar!

Trout Lily flower- these cute little plants only flower once every few years.

The weather finally seems to be breaking into something that makes us all smile. In the forecast there is no precipitation until later in the week! We've had more than 19 days straight of rain here so this is really big news. The kids are anxious to do some more exploring. R10 had brought sketching materials, but there was no time. I bet she'll do some sketching from the pictures we took.


Naptime Seamstress said...

very interesting! I am glad you posted a picture of trillium (trilium?) I read about it in Patricia MacLachlan's _All the Places to Love_. I never knew what it looked like and never thought to look it up. :)

Barb-Harmony Art Mom said...

I learned some new things about your special habitat from your entry. Thank you so much for sharing your day and all the wonderful images of things you saw.

I am thinking that the trillium and the trout lily are in the HNS and since we don't have them here in CA, it is interesting to see them in real life (well, images of your real life).

Great entry!

Kelsey said...

What a fascinating place to visit! Thanks for sharing!

Susan @ learning ALL the time!! said...

This sounds like a great field trip and I definitely learned from your post!
(I'm from NY too, by the way--upstate, near the VT border)