Signs of Spring

Vernal Pools are bodies of water which are fed primarily through melting snows, rains, and overflow from nearby wetlands. There is no stream or creek bringing them water and, subsequently, they dry up with the summer heat. Because of their relatively brief existence, fish cannot survive in vernal pools making them ideal, preadator-free breeding grounds for our amphibious friends, namely frogs and salamanders.

This past Sunday afternoon, a glorious spring day I might add, was spent hiking to and exploring some of these pools at Muscoot Farm in Somers. Muscoot Farm was a working dairy farm until it was acquired by Westchester County in 1967. It currently operates as an interpretive farm offering educational programs for schools and families and 7-miles of trails.

We set out on a mile-long, gradual uphill hike with Jessica, the farm’s curator. On past visits to Muscoot I haven’t made it beyond the farm buildings and animals so it was a pleasure to check out the trails, which are very pretty and well-maintained.¬†Upon reaching the pools, Jessica gave us a brief overview of their various inhabitants, how to find them, and how to explore in a way that would respect the creatures and their future offspring.¬†The kids then spent time gleefully, but gently, capturing little spring peepers, searching for woodfrogs and fairy shrimp hiding in the leafy water, trying to spot egg sacs along the shoreline, and turning over rotting logs in hopes of salamanders. They were rewarded by visits with many of these springtime critters, releasing them carefully to their habitat before heading down the trail.
Arriving back from our woodland foray, we discovered that a new baby lamb had been born only moments earlier and watched the tiny, fleecy bundle as it was warmed by lights and snuggled by its mama. There were other baby lambs in the sheepfold, a new foal, a pig getting a bath, a coop full of chickens and a tractor to climb on. Spring on the farm.

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In the meanwhile I owe accounts of two Wacky Wednesdays after what feels like a long hiatus. On March 25th, another beautiful, warm afternoon, we headed to Rockefeller for a hike along the Gory Brook Trail.It was a comfortable loop and we had quite a crowd, not all of whom stayed dry, but all of whom had a lot of fun. On April 1st we took to the other side of the Preserve setting out for the summit of Eagle Hill in a bit of chilly drizzle. The kids were unfazed by the weather and ran ahead with umbrellas and enthusiasm, clearly happy to be set free.

We’ve really been having a great time and, if you ask around, folks will tell you that it keeps getting easier, getting the kids out the door and onto the trails. Hope to see you soon!

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