Monday, April 30, 2007

Spotted Salamanders, Amphibian Monitoring

Monday, April 30, 2007

A dark, gloomy day here on the mountain above Peacham Pond. The rain is pounding on the standing steam roof and only a kid like Alex could sleep through this kind of noise. Karl the wonderdog already greeted me in the office, looked out the window and went back to bed. He doesn't like the rain but this morning I think it's good to see. We have about 10,000 pots planted right now and they always can use some water. Water from the sky is easier on labor, time and cost than from a garden hose.

arrive from Today more delivery trucks come. I suspect that this morning the soil and supply truck will arrive from Tewksbury, Massachusetts. This is coming from Griffin Greenhouse Supply, one of the two big east coast suppliers. We have used them for years. I don't even want to think about the bill as petroleum prices have affected every single thing that comes to us.

Since buying this piece of property we have thought more about the environment and what's going on to the land we use. The fact that the Winooski River borders a piece of the land gave us a chance to get involved with others with similar interests. A few weeks back we went to a great lecture on amphibian monitoring and this weekend we figured it was time to do some night surveys. On the list of things to be on the lookout for are the Eastern Spotted Salamander, the Jefferson Salamander or hybrids of this and the Easterns, the Eastern Red Backed Salmander, the Easter Spotted Newt, the Wood Frog, Spring Peeper, American Toad and other frogs.

Friday night it looked like I'd be on my own as Gail and Alex had a busy day and Karl isn't all that good at spotting things at night. I made it as far as Owl's Head on Route 232 and then turned around and gave up. The fog was so thick that seeing to drive was enough of a challenge. Sarturday night after some rain I thought things would improve but the temeprature here plunged to 38 and the fog was again quite intense. Last night was different except that I still couldn't find any companions to help with the lookout. My proposed search area was the Railroad Bed East that runs from above MarshfieldVillage to Wells River. It's part of the old Montpelier to Wells River RR.

When I checked out the road yesterday morning it was passable. There were rough places with a few real bad spots made worse by the Vermont boys possessed to challenge their ability to get their trucks stuck in mud. The beavers had been working in different places but the wildlife staff seemed to have most under control.

Last night I found 4 Eastern Spotted Salamanders in the less than half a mile section I had ear marked for survey. I also found one American Toad who did not want to move out of the way, innumerable wood frogs and a bunch of spring peepers. Not having ever done this before I figured the frogs would see me coming and hop away but that's the problem, they don't. Although peepers and wood frogs go silent as you approach a vernal spring or other wet area they sing from, they are in their favorite environment then and they dive under the water. On land they remain motionless and this is how they become pancakes when traffic passes.

One of the most eerie parts of the evening was adjusting to the constant calling of the woodcocks which find the swampland on either side of this road a find place to reside. On a typical night they no doubt feed for worms along this roadbed but last night I interrupted their schedule. They flew back and forth over my head at high speeds and although I never saw one, I heard what sounded like hundreds. I'll have to mention this again to the Audubon folks who are currently surveying this block of Vermont.

Today will get busy real fast so I have to get clicking here. What I did last night was really enlightening and a side of nature you might never see unless you make the effort. Just walking a road in the middle of the night changes perspective. I need to get to the new land and do a similar night survey. If you get a chance, check out your own neighborhood and you might just be surprised as I was.

Wet gardening thoughts from the mountain above Peacham Pond where the absent snow uncovered the winter workings of just too many moles.

George Africa

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