Friday, 12 April 2013

More amphibians (and a reptile!) on April 9

The following day had even better conditions to do some herping. This time a group of friends from Guelph drove down to meet up with me. We met around dusk and were greeted with occasional downpours and warm temperatures. The ideal situation to find amphibians!

We were discussing what would be the first herp of the night as we scaled a hillside, searching for Redback Salamanders and whatever else likes to take refuge under some of the flat rocks. Right before a Redback Salamander was found by Chris, someone else (I think it was Alex) mentioned a snake! Turns out it was a Redbellied Snake - definitely NOT what I was expecting to see on this night.

This was my first reptile of the year, and the earliest date I have seen a Redbellied Snake. It was probably out earlier in the day with the warm temperatures and planned to spend the night under that particular rock.

Northern Redbellied Snake

The great night continued. We found quite a few Red-backed Salamanders, then soon after Spotted Salamanders appeared on the hillsides. While walking beside Reuven looking for salamanders, his beam shined the bumpy dorsum of a Gray Treefrog sitting quietly in the leaves. Another species that normally we don't see until a few weeks after the first Wood Frogs and Spring Peepers make an appearance (though I have seen them as early as March 19). However with the really late spring compared to the previous number of years, the treefrogs are right on schedule - everything else is just late.

Gray Treefrog

Blue-spotted Salamanders again were moving across the trails en masse, but we couldn't pick out any Jefferson Salamanders with them.

Blue-spotted Salamander

Here is a Jefferson Salamander from a previous year. Compared to a Blue-spotted Salamander, note the overall gray body colour, the long snout and limbs, and the faint blueish flecking on its sides. Jefferson Salamanders often average much large in size.

male Jefferson Salamander - March 23, 2012

The most abundant species seen on the night were Green Frogs. Many were out in the open enjoying the warm(ish) rains.

Green Frog

As we walked a trail I happened to notice a tiny salamander curled up on the side of the trail. I was happy to pick it up and realize that it was a Four-toed Salamander! This dimunitive species, the only one in its genus Hemidactylium, is a specialist of spaghnum bogs and seeps. Because of its small size, wet boggy habitat, and secretive nature, it is relatively unknown compared to more abundant species like Redback Salamanders. This happens to be a good area to find Four-toed Salamanders and I have come across close to 50 over the years here.

Four-toed Salamander

We reached a road and decided to walk along it to find additional amphibians. The carnage here was everywhere - mostly newts however, and not Ambystomatid salamanders or frogs. Eastern Newts often migrate during rainy days, so what we were seeing was a full days worth of tire carnage. Fortunately many other species were spared because of the short window each night in which they travel.

Spotted Salamander

Spotted Salamander

And some Spring Peepers to finish off the post. Spring Peepers are often quite variable in colour and pattern, but they almost always have the dark X on their back - one way to distinguish them from the similar Western Chorus Frog.

Spring Peeper

Spring Peeper

In the future I plan on making a post showing some of the variation in this species.

Tonight the weather looks OK after this part of Ontario was hammered by an ice storm. My old high school actually had two snow days in a row! Just another run of the mill, mid-April ice storm. I am hoping to head out to the ponds again tonight. My goal will be to find a Jefferson Salamander, as unlikely as that often is.

No comments: