Vernal Pools Provide View of Unique Species

COURTESY OF THE BUZZARDS BAY COALITION Amphibians like spotted salamanders lay their eggs in protected vernal pools.

Amphibians like spotted salamanders lay their eggs in protected vernal pools.

BUZZARDS BAY – Spring is well underway across the Cape which means time is winding down to visit temporary habitats that are home to some interesting creatures.

Vernal pools are small ponds that appear every year in shallow depressions in certain wooded areas every spring. The pools are filled with rain and melted snow and eventually dry out when temperatures rise in the summer.

They are the home of amphibians like spotted salamanders, wood frogs and red-spotted newts, along with fairy shrimp and caddisfly larvae.

Many of these particular species lay their eggs in the pools and can’t breed anywhere else.

The habitats are extremely sensitive and are protected in the state with strong regulations.

There are dozens of these vernal pools in the Buzzards Bay watershed stretching from Westport to Woods Hole.

The pools should be viewed from a distance on solid ground and dogs and children should be kept away from the water to protect eggs and small species.

The Buzzards Bay Coalition has recommended 13 vernal pools to check out in the watershed:

Dunham’s Brook Conservation Area (Westport): Follow the easternmost trail at this Westport Land Conservation Trust property to the edge of an extensive forested wetland/vernal pool community. Visit near dusk, and you’ll be treated to a loud spring chorus of mating frogs.

Copicut Woods (Fall River): The Trustees of Reservation’s Copicut Woods is part of the Southeastern Massachusetts Bioreserve. This 13,600-acre area along the Fall River/Freetown border is full of wetlands. As you walk the three miles of trails at Copicut Woods, you’ll pass vernal pools and a special cedar swamp.

Parsons Reserve (Dartmouth): The Dartmouth Natural Resources Trust’s Parsons Reserve is home to a large vernal pool that thrives with many species in spring. Spot it from the Green Trail, in the back corner of the property.

Demarest Lloyd State Park (Dartmouth): From the northwest corner of the parking lot at Demarest Lloyd State Park, a trail leads through the salt marsh and brings visitors to a beautiful vernal pool in the woods.

Flora B. Peirce Nature Trail (New Bedford): The city-owned Flora B. Peirce Nature Trail is one of New Bedford’s best-kept secrets. The vernal pool here is just one of the surprises hidden in this natural area in the North End.

Shaw Farm Trail & Nasketucket Bay State Reservation (Fairhaven/Mattapoisett): The Coalition’s Shaw Farm Trail connects the local bike path with Nasketucket Bay State Reservation, where there are two certified vernal pools. Together, these trails offer a great spring day of exploration through the woods to the shores of Nasketucket Bay.

Old Aucoot District (Mattapoisett): The vernal pool in the Old Aucoot District is so large it has a name: Grace Pond (even though it’s actually a vernal pool). Stop in at this Mattapoisett Land Trust property off Aucoot Road for a springtime visit.

Doggetts Brook Recreational Area (Rochester): Just behind the Dexter Lane ball fields, explorers can enter Doggetts Brook Recreational Area. Look for a large vernal pool at the back of the field where the loop trail begins.

Rounseville II Preserve (Rochester): On the other side of Route 105 from Doggetts Brook Recreational Area, explore the Wildlands Trust’s Rounseville II Preserve. Look for the vernal pool at the base of the hill in the property’s back corner.

Myles Standish State Forest (Carver/Plymouth): Myles Standish State Forest is known for its trees and cranberry bogs, but there are vernal pools here, too! Look for one of several certified vernal pools around Barretts and East Head ponds.

Four Ponds Conservation Area – Bourne Town Forest (Bourne): Vernal pools and wetlands are common in the woods at Four Ponds Conservation Area, which sits next to Bourne Town Forest. Explore the loop trails here, and listen for frogs to help tell you where the vernal pools are.

Goodwill Park/Long Pond (Falmouth): Goodwill Park is a gateway to Long Pond, part of Falmouth’s extensive glacial moraine trail. Look for several vernal pools along the trails that lead from Goodwill Park toward the pond.

Beebe Woods/Peterson Farm (Falmouth): As you explore Beebe Woods’ network of trails, you’re sure to find ponds and pastures, but there are vernal pools here, too! Look for one along the trail in the property’s northwest corner.

A link to an interactive map which shows the location of all of the vernal pools in the state can be found by clicking here.

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