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Word of the Week: Vernal
May 01, 2020 by Julia Miller-Black

Welcome to Word of the Week! Stay tuned for a new word each Friday to amp up your nature vocabulary!

Photo by Andrew Yee

Vernal [VER-null] (adjective): of, relating to, or occuring in spring.

Despite the recent instances of snow, the season of new beginnings is here which means it’s time to dust off some of that spring vocabulary! Vernal is a word that describes phenomena that only occurs in the spring. Many things could be described as vernal including the weather, plant growth, the return of migratory species, or the birth of baby animals.

The term vernal is commonly heard in reference to temporary pools of water, vernal pools, that are created when heavy spring rains cause water to accumulate instead of draining. Although small relative to other bodies of water, these ephemeral pools are ideal places for amphibians and invertebrates to lay their eggs far away from the hungry mouths of fish.

Another exciting vernal phenomenon is the return of migratory species to High Park! Some of the migratory animals returning with the warmer weather include monarch butterflies, baltimore orioles, indigo buntings, great blue herons, and red-winged blackbirds. Red-winged blackbirds are one of the first signs of spring in High Park, having returned from their winter home in north-west Mexico. Male red-winged blackbirds are jet black with patches of vibrant red on their wings whereas females are heavily striped with dark brown and white. Highly territorial and very loud, you are sure to come across this migratory species down by Grenadier Pond or in any of High Park’s wetland ecosystems.

The next time you’re in the park or up early in the morning, listen for the vernal calls of returning migratory birds. With each warmer day the chorus of bird calls will only get richer and more vibrant!

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