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Visitors hop to Muddy Paws Marsh for annual Frog Fest

by on May 17, 2017 1:26 PM

SPRING MILLS — Muddy Paws Marsh attracted a large crowd of visitors during the seventh annual Frog Fest on May 13. The event, sponsored by the Penns Valley Conservation Association and Penn State Master Gardeners, featured several learning stations and guest speakers.

The marsh is owned by Greg and Mary Kay Williams, who also own and operate the Cooke Tavern Bed and Breakfast and the Cooke Tavern Soups Company, adjacent to the marsh along state Route 45. Decades ago, the marsh area had drains installed and was used as a pasture. When the Williamses bought the property, they had the drains removed — returning the marsh to its natural state — and opened it to the public.

During Frog Fest, visitors walked around the marsh to learn about different facets of marshland ecology. A returning speaker to the event was Dr. Jim Julian, a biology instructor at the Altoona campus of Penn State University. He holds a doctorate from Penn State and has worked on amphibian research in partnership with the U.S. Geological Survey and the National Park Service.

Julian said Muddy Paws Marsh contains a wide variety of amphibians. “The reason they have a huge diversity of amphibians is because they have a diversity of different kinds of wetland habitats.”

Julian also noted that the marsh contains a large pool of permanent water, as well as smaller pools of water that dry out in the summer.

“Wetlands don’t have to have pooled water all year around, and for some species of amphibians, that’s actually a good thing,” he said. “When that wetland dries out, it takes out fish populations which can end up preying on some of these species.”

Julian showed off tadpoles — representing several of Pennsylvania's native frog species — taken from the marsh. He described their lifecycles and breeding habits, as well as other facets of amphibian life, to a crowd of about 50 children and adults.

He told the group that each species of frog has its own distinct calls, which are used for mating and as warnings of approaching predators. He also played recorded sounds of various frogs, and shared that the call of spring peepers can often be heard as far as half a mile away.

Jim Flanagan, from the Penns Valley Conservation Association, discussed the many species of birds that inhabit or pass through the marsh.

“About 50 to 100 different birds (species) come through here every year,” Flanagan said. “Last year, we saw a sandhill crane and we have great blue herons pretty regular here.”

Frog Fest also featured several conservation and environmental-themed displays near the marsh. Making their first appearance at the event were Michael and Heather Shadow, representing Sun Directed Responsible Energy Solutions in State College. They brought along a a trailer fitted with a functional, off-grid solar electric system.

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