woodland pools photo including red eft

Wednesday Wanderings: Woodland Pools

“The salamanders

like tiny birds, locked into formation,

fly down into the endless mysteries

of the transforming water,

and how could anyone believe

that anything in this world

is only what it appears to be—

that anything is ever final—

that anything, in spite of its absence,

ever dies

a perfect death?”

– Mary Oliver, “What Is It”

Spring doesn’t like to make final decisions. On a Saturday, the sun emerges, the smell of warm soil rises from the ground, and the calling of birds fills the air. On a Tuesday, you’re running to the hardware store to buy more salt and filling the car’s tank just in case of extra snow.

The season seems to jerk between extremes – from sun to snow, calm to wind, frozen earth to mud puddles.

And sometimes, those puddles of transforming water hold their own mysteries. Though woodland pools (also called vernal pools) seem to disappear during the dry season each year, they emerge again and again during the damp times. In spring and fall, these relatively shallow and small water bodies too small for fish to live in reappear.

I like to imagine the salamanders, frogs, and toads greet the woodland pools as old friends. Woodland pools are essential for amphibians. As the temperatures rise and the rain falls, these animals wake up from their imperfect deaths. After spending winter beneath a log or buried in mud, their blood turned to a kind of antifreeze, they wake and make their way to woodland pools in order to mate and lay their eggs. The cycle of life begins again.

If you’re looking for woodland pools, be prepared to get muddy. Several CLC properties are home to pools that are visible from the trails – Harris in Austerlitz, Hand Hollow in New Lebanon, and Borden’s in Chatham. If you’d like to get up close and personal with a pool and learn more about our slimy-skinned amphibian friends, join CLC for a Woodland Pool Exploration March 30 at the Harris property. Pack your warmest socks and most waterproof footwear, and we’ll look for pools, critters, and eggs together. Visit ColumbiaLand.org/events to register.

I’d love to hear about your wanderings and what you find on them. Email [email protected] or share your photos on social media – CLC is on Instagram @ColumbiaLand, and each CLC property has its own Facebook page.

Troy Weldy is the President of the Columbia Land Conservancy. Contact him at [email protected].

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