poetry and prose about place

snippets of landscape – vernal pools and the spring migration

with 17 comments

At the edges of our Grey Woods are several places where ‘vernal pools’ form.  As a result, these spring evenings are alive with the peeping and croaking of various frogs and toads.

‘Vernal pools’ are temporary accumulations of water in depressions.  This water may originate from snow accumulations or from rising water tables.  The word ‘vernal’ comes from the Latin ver meaning spring.

Although vernal pools are ephemeral, they create habitat for many animals, including insects and amphibians, often at critical life stages.  Amphibians such as Wood Frogs (Rana sylvatica), Spotted Salamanders (Ambystoma maculatum), and Blue Spotted Salamanders (Ambystoma laterale) depend on vernal pools for laying their eggs and development of tadpoles.  Other amphibians you may encounter in a vernal pool include Spring Peepers, Grey Tree Frogs and Bull Frogs.

During a rainy night in late April or early May, you may be fortunate enough to observe the early spring migration of Wood Frogs and other species as they make their way to breeding locations.  These frogs have remained all winter in hibernation and have unthawed in the early spring rains.  Unfortunately, many must cross roads to get to the ponds and vernal pools where they will lay their eggs, and many become casualties of their attempts to cross the road.



an uncertain spring migration


if it rains

the night road

leads home

to lowlands

and hollows

vernal pools

north of the highway

swollen with rain


mists crawl

towards me


sweep the windshield

frogs cross the roadway

follow ancestral memory

blurred by rain


some nights

the tail-lights ahead

are my only family

red streamers on wet pavement

tadpoles from the eggmass

grow legs

absorb their tails

follow the road


I watch

the phone poles

the potholes

the hidden driveways

the headlight echo on trees

frog legs

crushed on the pavement

mailboxes with uncertain names


the centre line is a zipper

seals the left side

to the right

the coming home

with the leaving

frogs plead

from the wetlands

never saying goodbye


Published as: ‘an uncertain spring migration’, Spring 1997, Green’s Magazine XXV (3).


© Jane Tims  2011


17 Responses

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  1. Vernal pools are wonderful microcosms to observe. Great art and verse!


    Watching Seasons

    April 26, 2012 at 8:50 pm

    • Hi. Thanks! They always seem to shimmer… all the life moving within… Jane


      jane tims

      April 27, 2012 at 6:29 am

  2. Wonderful poem and drawing, Jane. We had vernal pools in the woods behind our house. When my sister and I got near the water the frogs would often stop croaking, startled by our noisy chattering and footsteps. If we sat very quietly on a log we could see their eyes slowly start to emerge out of the water to see if the “danger” had passed. Then there would be a tentative croak from the bravest one and then, a few at a time, the others would resume their croaking, too.


    Barbara Rodgers

    April 23, 2012 at 5:08 pm

    • Hi. What a nice story and memory. Patience (and silence) are definately virtues when it comes to experiencing wild life! Jane


      jane tims

      April 24, 2012 at 6:59 am

  3. Enjoyed reading this. A lot of the time I think these sorts of temporary environments get forgotten in the sense of their importance & impact on ecology. But then a lot of ecology full stop gets overlooked & thought of as of no great importance so I suppose that’s no big surprise! We’ve got a tiny pond in the garden & I love watching the palmate newts that are in it. Like the frog drawing.


    Sonya Chasey

    April 23, 2012 at 2:08 pm

    • Hi Sonya. Thanks for the comment on my drawing. The raindrops are falling on our little pond today. When it stops raining, I’ll go out and see who is living there. Enjoy your pond! Jane


      jane tims

      April 24, 2012 at 6:50 am

  4. Wonderful photos and poem. The vernal ponds are such an important part of the ecosystem. Until I read this post, I’d never hear the term vernal pond. Here people generally call them potholes.



    April 22, 2012 at 3:50 pm

    • Hi Sheryl. The unfortunate thing about small wetlands is people don’t appreciate their value. Thanks for your comment! Jane


      jane tims

      April 23, 2012 at 6:47 am

  5. Jane, this is not only educational but has a great poem, pictures and illustrations, too. Absolutely A1!



    April 21, 2012 at 7:00 am

  6. I love this poem. I have been enchanted by peepers all my life. Your poem touches the poignant struggle that frogs and toads face…to survive. And catches the dangers that they face travelling to where they must be to procreate. The whole blog is delightful.


    Carol Steel

    April 20, 2012 at 10:10 pm

  7. Wonderful poem – the shrill songs of spring peepers are our first sign of spring – and now our little pond is decorated in strands of frog eggs – next springs songsters! Kathleen


    • Hi Kathleen. When we were kids, we used to collect the frogs’ eggs in jars, to watch them form legs and transform. Once, they went one stage too far and escaped to hop around my bedroom! Jane


      jane tims

      April 21, 2012 at 8:10 am

      • That is hilarious – I can imagine how fun that was as a kid – tiny frogs – everywhere! Have a wonderful spring day – Kathleen


  8. Jane, your wood frog is beautiful, as are the blueberries from your last drawing. Vernal pools are a special place, and you have done them justice. We had 8 yellow spotted salamanders and about 5 blue spotted in our pool last night, plus spermatophores. Keeping us company were the peepers peeping, and both a Saw-whet owl and a Great Horned Owl hooting in the night.



    April 20, 2012 at 9:13 am

    • Hi Lee. Thank you for the information you gave me for this post and for introducing me to the concept of the ‘vernal pool’ in the first place. The peepers are out here too, a regular chorus. I’ll be after you for more information since I want to do posts on all of our various wetland types eventually! Jane


      jane tims

      April 21, 2012 at 8:07 am

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