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Monday, April 1, 2013

Salamanders and the Midnight Rain

Last night's rains came too late for most to observe the amphibian migration, but that spelled good news for frogs and salamanders who suffer heavy casualties during the higher-traffic hours just after sunset.  It was still too cold and snowy in most of central Vermont, but in the Champlain Valley, numerous species were on the move.

I spent 2 hours at the crossing site near Shelburne Pond, starting just after the rains arrived at around 10:30 p.m.  At first only a few frogs were moving.  Then, as the rain soaked the cold ground, more began to emerge.  Activity gradually picked up, with salamanders joining the mix by midnight.  Just about the only things that weren't moving on the road were cars. 

The lack of cars was remarkable.  The last time I monitored this stretch of road for 2 hours, a total of 14 cars drove through, crushing 24 Spring Peepers, 1 Leopard Frog, 2 Eastern Newts, and 4 Spotted Salamanders.  Last night, only a single car passed by twice, resulting in one fatality.  The effects of cars on migrating amphibians is clear, and while midnight migrations may not help humans see this spectacle of nature, it is a relief to know that as we sleep and dream of salamanders, the migrating amphibians are better off.

Here are some pictures of last night's activity at Shelburne Pond, which consisted of 1 Eastern Newt, 13 Wood Frogs, 3 Green Frogs, 23 Spring Peepers, 4 Spotted Salamanders, and 1 Blue-spotted Group Salamander.


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