Just a few days after I celebrate two years without an alcoholic drink, Picton Preserve is holding a walk and bonfire.
If you’re local, why don’t you think about joining us in exploring this lovely preserve.
For a little background, here’s an article I wrote about a vernal pool program at Picton last year.
By Bob Quarteroni
Vernal (meaning spring) pools are the Rodney Dangerfield of the natural world: They get no respect.
The pools are also known as “ephemeral pools” since the small, shallow wetlands do not have a permanent inlet or outlet of water.
Because of that they only last for a season, aren’t mapped geographically, don’t have a name and thus, aren’t considered important by many. If they are only temporary, how can they be?
Let us count the ways.
“Most people don’t know what vernal pools are and why they are important,” said Charlene Wildes, North Branch Land Trust naturalist. “But they are one of the of the only places in nature where amphibians, frogs, toads and salamanders lay their eggs. Since they are fish-free, they are a perfect environment for amphibians to flourish.”
As the Upper Susquehanna Vernal Pool Program points out, these pools provide a unique habitat that supports a diverse collection of life.
“Most of these organisms rely solely on this habitat for their life cycles. Although ephemeral wetlands are frequently overlooked in the regulatory arena, these special types of habitat provide a multitude of benefits that are necessary to a healthy functioning forest ecosystem.”
To demonstrate the vitality of vernal pool life, the land trust held a “Study the Vernal Pools” program at the Picton Wildlife Sanctuary off Pond Creek Road in White Haven last Sunday.
After watching an introductory video, 10 or so people gathered at the lovely vernal pool on the property as Wilde waded in and scooped up loads of frog eggs, salamanders, insects, exoskeletons (and one unfortunate dead catfish) for all to examine
Wildes displayed her encyclopedic knowledge in explaining everything from the growth patterns of frogs to the importance of salamanders in the environment to how two giant snapping turtles might be impacting the number of amphibians wriggling around the vernal pool.
And the participants were entranced.
Dave Searfoss of Hanover Township said, “Charlene is the most knowledgeable person you’ll ever meet. And I’m interested in nature so I always like to find out about what’s out here. The way she explains things just puts a whole new perspective on what you’re looking at. It’s great. All the (land trust) programs are wonderful, just very informative.”
Bob Romanansky of Mountain Top agreed. “I love these outings. All their programs are very informative and I’m interested in what I can learn. And when you can come out on a beautiful day like this and learn things – and I learned a lot of things today – it’s very enjoyable, very informative.”
And that’s exactly what NBLT has in mind when it conducts its programs.
“NBLT manages the George & Lillian Picton Wildlife Sanctuary as it was entrusted to us, as a sanctuary, leaving it as nature intended,” said Barb Romanosky, director of development for NBLT. “It is a quiet, contemplative place where you can walk in silence and observe nature all around you.
“The Land Trust is passionate about connecting people to the land through our varied programs. Connecting with the land enables people to better understand NBLT’s land conservation mission and how important open space is to our quality of life.”
The George and Lillian Picton Wildlife Sanctuary (South), where the program was held, is the larger of two parcels of land that make up the preserve. Most of the sanctuary is forested with mature oak, sassafras, maple, ash, and birch.
The preserve is open to the public but the gate on Pond Creek Road is locked except when there’s an event taking place. But it’s an easy mile or so walk or bike into the preserve.
More information on the land trust is available at nblt.org.