Things Are “Hopp’n” At The Wattles Stewardship Center

American toads by the thousands are emerging from the newly constructed vernal pool at the Wattles Stewardship Center in Port Murray, NJ!  The young toads are the first of many amphibians species emerging from the newly constructed habitat feature, which is also supporting other amphibians (adults and young) such as green frog, wood frog, spring peeper, Northern gray tree frog, and spotted salamander. clip_image002[7]

In 2010, NJ Audubon implemented the construction of this vernal pool utilizing funding from USFWS Coastal Program, USFWS Partners in Fish & Wildlife, Corporate Wetlands Restoration Partnership, PSE&G and a donation of plant materials from Pinelands Nursery of Columbus, NJ.  NJ Audubon was able to take an existing (but dilapidated) defunct in-ground swimming pool that was left on site when Audubon took title of the property and convert it into a functional vernal pool. This converted pool is serving not only as prime suitable breeding habitat for amphibian species, but it also is used for educational purposes to promote the importance and ecological significance of vernal pools.

poolwattlesNJ Audubon believes it essential to bring public awareness to vernal pools because, even though the NJ Freshwater Wetlands Protection Act has been in place since 1989, it has done little to protect vernal pools because wetlands smaller than 1 acre (most vernal pools in NJ are less than 0.25 acre) were exempt from the regulatory protection and many were filled. Fortunately, we can re-establish vernal ponds that look and function like their natural counterparts, thus, restoring an important component of the landscape. Incentives to restore or establish seasonal wetlands are plentiful - to prevent flooding by holding rainwater; to have a place for specific species to utilize as part of their lifecycle. Not only do vernal pools provide suitable breeding habitat to various species but they also provide foraging grounds for various wading birds and reptiles. Replacing this vanishing part of our landscape is as rewarding to us as it is essential to the health of theclip_image002[4] environment.

Also confirmed utilizing the pool are many mico-invertebrates such as dragonfly larvae, water-boatman, water strider, and diving beetles. Additionally great blue heron, mallard duck and snapping turtle have been noted foraging in pool, not to mention several dragonfly, butterfly and songbird species also utilizing the area.

All photos taken at Wattles Stewardship Center by John Parke