Have you ever heard ducks calling by the
hundreds in the spring and not been able to locate any? Chances are very
good that you are hearing the breeding chorus of the wood
This is a handsome frog whose body coloration
varies from tan to reddish dark brown to almost black. The wood frog is
most identifiable characteristic is his black "raccoon" (or robbers)
This wood frog breeding chorus (or rapid
"quack"), along with the familiar high-pitched whistle of the spring
peeper, and the migration of the spotted salamander, signals the beginning
of springtime amphibian breeding activity on Cape Ann.
Much of this breeding activity takes place in
What is a vernal pond
Temporary bodies of fresh water
Vernal means spring, and the ponds are full of water for at least
two months during the spring.
Vernal ponds generally dry up in the summer months.
Vernal ponds are typically small - rarely exceeding 150' in
width, and sometimes measuring only a few feet across.
They are fishless - ponds that dry up cannot support fish
populations, a factor which is very important to the unique ecology of
Where are vernal ponds
Most of the vernal ponds on Cape Ann occur in woodland
They can also be found in meadows, sand flats and river flood
Why are vernal ponds
Some species are totally dependent on a vernal pond habitat for
one or more stages of their life cycle. They are referred to as
species, or obligated to vernal ponds.
Other species which can be found in vernal ponds, but may not be
totally dependent on them are called Facultative
What species can be
found on Cape Ann?
Spotted Salamander, which is black with bright yellow spots and
large (up to 9" long).
Fairy Shrimp, a fascinating, tiny (1" to 1.5" at full growth)
back swimming crustacean.
Spring Peeper, a tiny frog, 3/4" to 1" in size, is one of the
worlds loudest animals for its' size.
Green Frog, up to 3 1/2" in size, who's call sounds like a loose
banjo string being plucked.
American Toad, up to 3 1/2" in size, the "hop toad's" voice is a
long musical bird-like trill. This pleasant sound is heard later in the
spring and most often not identified as the call of the toad.
The Red-Spotted Newt
Caddis Fly Larvae are protected by tubular cases which they
construct out of materials from the pond. Adults look somewhat like
small brown moths.
Button Bush, Bur-reeds, Pond weeds, St. Johns Wort, and many
Vernal ponds are an
important part of the food chain.
Animals in this region that visit, and some examples of what they
Turtles - some species feed on egg masses
Snakes - feed on tadpoles and frogs
Ducks - feed on frogs
Great Blue Herons - feed on spotted salamanders
Raccoons - feed on frogs and tadpoles
Are Vernal Ponds A
Since a 1987 ruling, certain vernal ponds in Massachusetts are given
strong protection from the State's Wetlands Protection Act. To receive
protection they must meet the following requirements:
Be confined basin depressions.
Hold water for at least two months of the year.
Lack fish populations.
Provide an important wildlife habitat - especially for
Must be certified by the Natural Heritage and Endangered Species
Program of the Division of Fisheries and Wildlife (certain other
requirements may apply).
How are Ponds
Get specific information and forms from the Natural Heritage and
Endangered Species program.
A field observation form, to be filled out by the person, or
persons working on the project.
Locate and identify vernal ponds by:
Listening for the clucking wood frogs, and spring peepers song.
Observing mating activity of wood frogs and salamanders.
Photograph evidence of vernal pond species i.e.: wood frog egg
masses, salamander egg masses, fairy shrimp.
Photograph the pond full of water.
Draw a map of the pond and identify important permanent
Provide a written description of how to find the pond via major
routes, roads and significant permanent landmarks.
Get tax and topographical maps from the city or town offices
and identify the position of the pond on the maps.
Get a USGS map and identify the location of the pond on it.
Contour lines on these maps make it easy to identify recessed basin
FOR MORE INFORMATION on the certification process MASS CERTIFICATION GUIDELINES
- pdf file