Friday 12 April 2013

Spring amphibians

April 8 dawned cool and rainy, but the rain persisted all day and the conditions seemed good for the first major night of amphibian migration to their breeding ponds. I headed out around dusk and made my way to one of my favorite local areas near Cambridge.

Right away I found frogs littering the road - mostly Spring Peepers and Wood Frogs. It was good to see these species again after a long, cold winter!

Spring Peeper

Wood Frog

The rain made photography difficult, but every now and then a break in the weather allowed me to take a few photos.

Wood Frog

As the night wore on, several Northern Leopard Frogs made appearances on a different road that passes through some grassy areas.

female Northern Leopard Frog

female Northern Leopard Frog

Eventually I stopped at a favorite forest of mine, complete with many ephemeral wetlands that a variety of amphibian species use for breeding each spring. After checking some small vernal ponds, I arrived at one of the better pools in the area - a shallow, wide, fish-less wetland that slowly drains into a large cattail and sedge marsh. I made it half way around the edge of the pond until my flashlight beam caught a glimpse of black and yellow. The first Spotted Salamander of the year!

Several males were near the edge, presumably waiting for a female to enter the pond. A few more latecomers were clambering down the hillsides.

male Spotted Salamander

I continued on after close to an hour with the Spotted Salamanders. It's always a special moment for me every spring to visit this particular site and lay eyes on the first Ambystomatid salamander of the spring.

The Blue-spotted Salamanders weren't in any ponds that I checked, but the first few ones were on the move, crossing trails in the light mist. Considering their short stubby legs and small body size, an obstacle as small as a large twig can be quite the obstruction. It is amazing to think that some of these salamanders will travel upwards of 1 km to find their wetland that they return to every year!

male Blue-spotted Salamander

While not a great photo, I thought I would share the following because of the cool behaviour it depicts. This is a female Spotted Salamander laying eggs near the bottom of the wetland. The small ball of eggs will be deposited on a stick, and as the eggs absorb water and swell they will increase substantially in size. I've only photographed this once before so I was happy to again.

female Spotted Salamander laying eggs

Estimates for the night:
20 Wood Frog
15 Spring Peeper (+ around 50 calling)
6 N. Leopard Frog:
35 Spotted Salamander
4 Blue-spotted Salamander

Surprisingly no newts were seen, but it was very early in the season. I also did not cross paths with any Jefferson Salamanders, though most seasons I only see a couple of them.

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