Verna McGinley of Creative Environmental Education teamed up with the Wingfield Pines Conservation Area Saturday and offered a tour through the marshy wetlands. McGinley also introduced a group of children and adults to her menagerie of scaly and slimy friends.
The naturalist showed off a cornucopia of cold-blooded creatures, including a toad, turtles, a tiger salamander, a skink and two snakes. McGinley cautioned her young audience, “Amphibians don’t make good pets. If you’re in the wetlands environment, you need a fishing license to remove them from their natural habitat.”
She explained about the variety of reptiles and amphibians to eager young children, who were fascinated by the scaly and slimy. The kids were invited to hold the reptiles and amphibians—a few brave boys and one girl held the ball python. McGinley invited the adults to hold the snakes, with fewer takers.
She talked about the skin shedding process and explained the variety of the lizards (a skink is a lizard with short legs and a less defined neck). She also chatted about how she cared for many of the creatures in her charge. She nursed several of them back to health after incidents with man or nature. A turtle in her care had suffered a dog bite and now would be unable to care for itself in the wild.
After her presentation, McGinley led the group on a walk around the wetlands. She pointed out local flora and fauna. McGinley believes that today’s children are tomorrow’s scientists and loves to introduce youngsters about the natural sciences.
Emilie Cooper, stewardship director at Wingfield Pines, also pointed out some of the treasures of the marsh. Wingfield Pines is part of the Allegheny Land Trust, a non-profit dedicated to conserving and stewarding lands that support the scenic, recreational and environmental well-being of communities in Allegheny County and its environs.
The highlight of the tour was a small black box at the top of a tall tower. In it, 98 brown bats slept the day away. Though nocturnal creatures were napping, some of them were squealing and squeaking. It was a small edifice for a large number of bats.
Simon and Sherry Ren from Upper St. Clair enjoyed the presentation.
Simon said, “It was cool. I really like the tiger salamander and the ball python. Those were my favorite.”
His sister Sherry, in first grade at Baker Elementary, added, “I liked the tiger salamander, too.”
Two young boys from South Fayette, Tyler and Trey Skeen, were enthralled by the various creatures. Tyler said, “It was awesome. I had a great time!”
To learn more about Wingfield Pines or the various properties of the Allegheny Land Trust, click here: http://www.alleghenylandtrust.org/