Cornelius' Corner:

"Take a Tour with Tadpoles!"
24
Nov

Cornelius’ Corner: “Take a Tour with Tadpoles!”

View from above of large tadpoles underwater with bright green duckweed floating on the surface.

Everybody wants the best sunbathing spots!

Hi, friends!

I hope you enjoyed my last blog post all about the habitat remediation work that has been taking place in the Frog Pond and the fishy neighbors that moved in next door. For this blog, I want to show off some of the completed work and the brand new wetland that my coworkers built! If you haven’t been following along with the silt remediation work, I recommend that you read my last blog post to get caught up on the background details.

During the project, all of the animals living in the Frog Pond had to be removed and the pond drained. Small animals were moved to safe wetlands that were untouched during construction, while some of the bigger or more aggressive animals (ahem… looking at you, bass!) were permanently relocated to deeper pools in the creek.

Because frogs are so important to the Frog Pond, my coworkers paid special attention to the bull frog tadpoles they found. These were the only tadpoles still around because they take two years to go through metamorphosis instead of weeks to months like the wood frogs and green frogs. Instead of moving to another wetland, the tadpoles got an exclusive, all-expenses-paid trip to a tadpole resort (i.e. a kiddie pool behind the Visitor Center). While on vacation, the tadpoles got an all-you-can-eat algae buffet that included exotic spirulina wafers, unlimited access to sunbathing decks, and regular housekeeping services provided by the ram’s horn snail cleanup crew!

View from above of a blue kiddie pool filled with water, with green duckweed floating on the surface.

Our exclusive temporary tadpole resort

Unfortunately for the tadpoles, all vacations must eventually come to an end. They were able to go home to the newly renovated Frog Pond last week, and they are happy to be back in their big pond with lots of leaves for hiding and good mud for hibernating in. They were all also excited to see the newly expanded wetland next to the pond. It doesn’t have water in it yet because there is still a little more work to be done. My coworkers need to adjust the way the water moves into the pond – instead of a pipe that puts water directly into the pond from the millrace, there will be a spillway that moves water from the millrace into the new wetland, and then from there down into the Frog Pond.

View into a water-filled orange bucket from above with a bass swimming in it.

A large bass from the Frog Pond, ready to be released into the creek

Since there’s no water in the wetland yet, I volunteered to check it out and tell the tadpoles all about it! I started at the top of the wetland, where there is a ramp and a large deep pool. This pool is designed to be a stilling chamber that helps silt settle out of the water instead of moving downstream to clog up the rest of the wetland and the Frog Pond downstream. This means that we will never see the kind of damage that led to this remediation project again!

From there, the water will spill out of the pool and down through a series of shallow channels and plateaus. The channels help water (and animals) move through the wetland, while the plateaus will have saturated soils or very shallow standing water. My coworkers will be adding lots of native wetland wildflowers like swamp milkweed, scarlet beebalm, and duck potato. All of these plants grow lots of nectar, seeds, and fruits for wildlife – including birds and pollinators! Contractors Flyway Excavating Inc. helped move rocks and large old stumps onto the plateaus as well, to provide shelter and basking spots for wildlife when they move back in.

A large yellow excavator digging soil in front of a forested background, with a large, flat muddy area in the foreground

Flyway Excavating, Inc. building the new wetland island

Besides the braided channels, there are also two deep pools for larger wildlife. These are going to be great places for the big snapping turtles and sunfish to swim. If we’re lucky, maybe the park’s wood ducks will like them too! Next to the larger deep pool is a big island, which will be reachable by a boardwalk. My coworker Eva is building a cool frog-themed bench for the island using wood from one of the giant sequoia trees that used to be by the new Tree Gallery. The bench and the island will be shaded by a bald cypress tree planted in the water so it grows lots of prehistoric-looking root knees! I’m not much of a swimmer, but I can’t wait to climb through that tree’s lacy leaves.

Behind the island is a taller ridge with a depression behind it, left from when the railroad berm was built (this berm is where the Industrial Trail runs today). When the wetland has water in it, the ridge will be surrounded by water, making it a great place for special woody plants like viburnums, buttonbush, pussy willow, and winterberry holly. All of these plants provide tons of food for songbirds like catbirds and thrushes, and my coworker Jessica thinks it will be a great place to visit during the park’s monthly bird walks. Luckily, there will be a boardwalk along the opposite edge of the wetland, so visitors won’t have to wade through the water and mud to see it!

Annotated photo of the newly-excavated wetland, showing the stilling chamber pit in the foreground with (from front to back) rocks & stumps for wildlife, braided channels, deep pools, a higher ridge, and island, with the existing wetland in the background and forested area all around.

The new expanded wetland area before watering

Just past the island and second deep pool, the water will gently cascade into the small wetland that my coworkers built several years ago. The contractors were very careful to avoid disturbing any of those existing plantings or pools with their equipment, so that area will still be the same when the wood frogs come back to breed in March. From there, the water will cross under a bridge into the Frog Pond itself, before moving down to the Trout Ponds and back out into the creek.

I hope you all are as excited about the Frog Pond repairs and the new wetland as I am! It is going to be so much fun to explore when all the pieces have been completed.

Don’t forget to say hi to the tadpoles in their new improved pond on your next visit, and if you do, be sure to stop into the front room of the Visitor Center to tell me all about it!

Your friendly neighborhood corn snake,

– Cornelius

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*** FYI – Park Access Restrictions – February 20th thru March 7th ***

Please be aware that there will be a film crew on site February 20th through March 1st. If you are visiting on those days, there will be certain trails and areas of the park closed off to visitors.

Activities like this help support our programs and projects. Thank you for your patience and understanding!