Ah, spring.  Snow melts, days get warmer, and you finally get to put away your winter boots and pull out….rain boots!  Spring is famous for rainy days, which might not be that fun if you’re stuck inside; but spring rains make great things happen, so why don’t you put on your rain coat and splash into spring!

“April showers bring May flowers” is a true saying.  Warm rains help thaw the frozen soil, bringing seeds to life and carrying nutrients down from the surface to feed growing roots.   Come to Terra Cotta early this year and catch the colourful show of Trout Lilies, Trilliums and Violets!

Melting snow and rain collect in big, long lasting puddles called “vernal pools”.  Vernal is a fancy word for “happens in spring”, and is a great name because these temporary pools will dry up by late summer.

vernal pool
vernal pool

Terra Cotta and Silver Creek Conservation Areas are great places to see vernal pools.  Bring along your magnifying glass and peer into these amazing puddles to see all the wacky and wonderful animal babies that grow up there.

Vernal pools are used by all sorts of wildlife as a safe place to have their young; salamanders, frogs, toads and insects all lay their eggs in this fish-free aquatic zone.  Jefferson Salamanders, Wood Frogs, and Fairy Shrimps are all animals that are born only in vernal pools.

Jefferson Salamander with Eggs
Jefferson Salamander with Eggs

You may already know that a baby frog is called a tadpole.  Wood Frog tadpoles hatch 20 days after the eggs are laid, and take about two months to develop into frogs.  The little froglets then hop off into the forest where they will live under wet leaves.

Salamander Larvae
Salamander Larvae

What does a baby salamander look like?  Not that much like its mother!  Salamander babies are called “larvae” (LAR-vee) and look like fish with arms and legs, wearing feathery necklaces.  What looks like a necklace is actually a set of gills, similar to what fish use to breathe under water, except salamanders wear their gills on the outside and fish wear them on the inside.  As they grow up, salamanders lose their gills and develop lungs – but mostly breathe through their moist skin.

Fairy shrimps are tiny crustaceans – similar to the shrimp you might have had for dinner last week, only much smaller.  They swim on their backs, and lay eggs with thick shells that stay on the forest floor all winter after the vernal pool dries up.  The eggs hatch the following spring when the pools re-fill.

If hanging out in the rain isn’t your thing, Terra Cotta offers many other springtime activities, kicking off with the Sweet Taste of Spring festival on March 23rd and 24th.  Join us for a pancake breakfast, maple syrup activities, birdwatching, gardening workshops, wagon rides and live entertainment.

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