Monday, April 12, 2010

FOWL Friends in Wetlands

Now appearing in most wetlands near you: Marsh-marigold, Caltha palustris!

While many spring ephemerals have poked through the ground and are putting on their best April attire, the wetlands are simply golden. Fowler Woods in Richland County has one of the most spectacular displays of Marsh-marigolds to be found. And while pre-scouting for the Managing Wetlands for Biodiversity conference, we just had to take it in.

A member of the buttercup family (Ranunculaceae), this wetland gem creates a sea of color. Marsh-marigold can be grown in the landscape too, if you give it enough water.

If you are looking for biodiversity, healthy wetlands are chocked full of it! Wetlands support a host of interesting species, including this Redback Salamander. Abundant and some-what common, the dark red line on its back makes this one easy to remember. However they are occasionally found unstriped, and called "lead phase." While they do not breed in vernal pools, they certainly have a predilection for these damp forested habitats.

Greg Lipps was our amphibian and salamander expert, a source of infinite knowledge of all things slimy, including gelatinous eggs. Wading deep into dark waters, he found salamander and frog egg masses in several vernal pools in Ashland county.
His program, "Small, Messy, and Diverse: Why Vernal Pools are Full of Life" got the folks reved up to investigate wetlands on our afternoon field trips.

Nothing got past this crew. The Black Forks Wetlands provided good looks at fairy shrimp and a mayfly in this small pool. Jan Kennedy, Lori Totman, Patty Saunders and Tim Mason were scanning the ditches for interesting life forms usually left unnoticed.

Not a staged photo! Hard to believe, but this candid shows how much fun naturalists can have on a sunny day, with a few friends and a water-hole.
Thanks to all our speakers: Greg Lipps, John Mack and Jim Bissell for opening our eyes to the fauna and flora of wetlands. Also, to the Ashland Park District volunteers and Ray Stewart of "FOWL" (Friends of Wetlands)- we couldn't have done it without you.

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