What a gorgeous day for a pond study at Murphys Point! Several Super Kids In Parks, grown-ups and volunteers came out on Sunday, April 28 to muck about in ponds and along the shore of Loon Lake as part of a great program led by park naturalist Tobi Kiesewalter.
We started off from the main park entrance and meandered along the “in” road towards the Park Store, stopping at a couple of “vernal pools” along the way. These spring ponds form from melt water and run off in the spring and tend to dry up over the summer. While they are active, though, they are like nurseries for all kinds of amazing creatures that come to breed there, including frogs, salamanders and multitudes of insects!
At our first stop we saw a sleepy snapping turtle and some bullfrogs. We played a quick card game where we tried to match adult creatures to their babies, and soon learned there are an awful lot of insects whose babies don’t look anything like them!
At the next stop Tobi had set out a container of water scooped from a vernal pool, which was alive with a variety of insect larvae. We learned that mosquito larvae breathe by using a snorkel-like appendage at their rears. We saw a tiny fingernail clam, water fleas and one of the coolest finds was fairy shrimp. These tiny, orange-tinged, translucent crustaceans are related to lobsters. The adults we saw live for only a few weeks and breed in the vernal pools. Their eggs, however, can lay dormant for many years, even when the pools dry up!
The next pool featured water beetles, green frogs and snails (with some hepatica along the way).
After a quick snack at the chalet, we headed for the shores of nearby Loon Lake, where we were cut loose with nets and containers and made lots of great discoveries. Tobi had set up a minnow trap earlier, and we were able to study tadpoles, several species of dace and baby fish. We saw many other insect larvae, including damselfly and mayfly, and a couple of watersnakes even made appearances. All this with the sound of geese, songbirds and hawks all around us, not to mention some turkey vultures.
Thanks to Tobi and our volunteers Heather, Judy, Linda and Steph for another great SKIP program, and to everyone who participated. It was a great day for sure! Watch the website for details of future SKIP programs.