Friday, 8 March 2013

Blast from the past (September 13, 2008)

Time for a new feature on this blog! When I have absolutely no new material, I will post photos from days gone by. I have quite a few photos from my pre-blog days, mostly of my many trips to look for reptiles and amphibians, so I might as well try to get some of them on the blog at some point.

Back in mid September of 2008, a sizable Atlantic hurricane was making its presence known on the Gulf Coast of North America. At this point I had only just started to look at birds, with herps easily taking the #1 spot. Birders see potential hurricanes as a source of fantastic birding, due to the large number of displaced birds brought on by the storm. Rare vagrant species from the Atlantic are always on the radar. Herps are obviously never displaced by hurricanes in Ontario, though their day to day lives may be impacted.

In mid September the remnants of Hurricane Ike were traveling north to Ontario after coming up from the Gulf Coast. While this tropical storm did not bring any rare birds to Ontario for a variety of reasons, it did cause a lot of rainfall in a 2 or 3 day period.

Hurricane Ike track (September, 2008)

September 13 had a high of 23 degrees C, a low of 18 degrees C, and a total of 27 mm of rainfall. I decided that I would spend my evening frogging!! With the warm weather and the heavy rains, all of the local species would be on the move.

Wood Frogs were one a frequently encountered species hopping across the road. This species occurs north of the Arctic Circle in some areas. In this part of Ontario it is easy to find in deep, dark, deciduous forests, where it breeds mainly in ephemeral wetlands.

Wood Frog - Regional Municipality of Waterloo

Wood Frog - Regional Municipality of Waterloo

A close-up of the head...

Wood Frog - Regional Municipality of Waterloo

While it rained on and off for the whole evening I managed to keep my photography gear dry by taking photos inside of the van. I opened up the trunk and set up a photography "studio", consisting of a tray with a pile of leaves and other natural looking artifacts. That way I could take a species like the below American Toad, place it in the "studio", fire off a few frames, and then release it on the other side of the road, away from all dangers. It was quite effective!

American Toad - Regional Municipality of Waterloo

American Toads were the 2nd most frequently encountered species with about 30 seen in all. Normally by mid September it can be quite tough to find toads, especially at the end of a long, dry period. The rains caused all toads to move at once!

American Toad - Regional Municipality of Waterloo

I tried some results with a home made diffuser that I attached my flash. It softened the light and diffused the shadows. The only drawback was the large catchlight visible in the eye of the toad below.

American Toad - Regional Municipality of Waterloo

Without a doubt the most abundant species was the Green Frog, though the Northern Leopard Frog wasn't far behind. I come across North Leopard Frogs most often when passing through semi-open areas with long grass. They seem to prefer more open habitats, such as the grassy meadows in the floodplain of a river, to the darker forests. However they are fairly common even in the forests.

Northern Leopard Frog - Regional Municipality of Waterloo

Northern Leopard Frog - Regional Municipality of Waterloo

How could I forget about Gray Treefrogs? On this night I only came across 3, however several more were heard calling. Each Ontario frog has its own window in which the males will vocalize. Wood Frogs are usually done by the middle of May, though Gray Treefrogs start up then and sing all summer long. The heavy rains on this night seemed to spur on a few desperate males to try their luck.

Gray Treefrog - Regional Municipality of Waterloo

And the most abundant species, the Green Frog. Any permanent body of water seems to have this species and they are particularly common in the Carolinian tracts of forest in the area. Unfortunately there were probably just as many dead Green Frogs as alive ones. Even in areas such as this which sees limited vehicle traffic, the death toll is high.

Green Frog - Regional Municipality of Waterloo

Green Frog - Regional Municipality of Waterloo

Finally, near the end of the night I encountered two Spring Peepers. This frog is often one of the first to sing in the early spring - their incessant "peeeeep! peeeeep! peeeeep!" continuing all night on most warm March and April evenings. It was great to come across a few of these after going all summer with only occasional sightings.

Spring Peeper - Regional Municipality of Waterloo

The following night had a low of 18 degrees C and a total of 15mm of rain fell, so I was back at it. I will detail the findings of that night in a later post.

3 comments:

  1. On September 14, 2008, myself, Mike Tate and Marianne Reid went to the Tip at exactly 6:00 p.m. to intercept the eye of Hurricane Ike. It was wild! There were hordes of birds flying by, including tons of terns really close. But no hurricane birds, it was a bust. During the wild weather the most unexpected thing we saw -- and I mean really unexpected -- were three elderly Mennonite woman, who came right to the Tip during the fury, all wearing bright pink and blue dresses --- it was the strangest thing! (Later we heard that Ike brought in a couple of frigatebirds to the Great Lakes.)

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    Replies
    1. Alan, that seems pretty typical for Pelee!

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  2. Josh what do you look like in a pink dress?

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