Monday, April 30, 2007

Eastern Spotted Salamanders

Sunday, 8:35 PM, April 30, 2007

Just as a follow up to my earlier post about the Amphibian Monitoring Program I wanted to show you some pictures of the salamanders I relocated last night. I really wanted to get out again tonight but we have high winds predicted and things are already swirling in good shape. The road I have to take is through Groton State Forest and the chance for downed trees is very good tonight. Cutting trees in the dark is not something I want to learn to do.

This first picture is of two Eastern Spotted Salamanders. The one in the front has a little note attached as I am questioning the blue spots. There are Jefferson and also Blue Spotted salamanders in Vermont and there are hybrids of those two. I wasn't aware that the Eastern (yellow) Spotted hybridized. Alex tells me "no" which means he listened to the lecture better than I did. He cannot, however, tell me how blue spots got on a Eastern (yellow) Spotted Salamander.

These salamanders get to be a foot long. The largest last night was 8.5" That translates to several years old but again I don't remember the exact ratios. I noticed that they don't mind walking all over their friends and fellow salamanders so they do have some human traits too.

When these guys walk, they can cruise right along but nonetheless they are very difficult to spot. When they do stop, they raise their heads but this is only half an inch off the ground so there's not a lot to perceive. If you pick them up and then place them back down they hold in a kind of lame posture with tail curled and head pointed down towards the ground. I was a little apprehensive when I picked up the first one as it turned its head toward my hand and I didn't know what to expect. Probably been around Karl the wonder dog too much. He always bites the hand that feeds him!

One time a reader commented that he enjoyed reading my blog even if I took a circuitous route to get to the garden topic. There's no garden issue with spotted salamanders but the fact is they are part of our environment. If we are good gardeners, we're always thinking about what lives where we garden. Sometimes the absence of certain things such as frogs or the presence of things such as long horn beetles I've never seen before, makes me think about how our environment is changing. Having a new piece of land to work at a new, much lower elevation will encourage us to look at new plant and animal relationships. If you have any questions or comments, let us know.

Karl wants to go out and the way the wind is blowing, I hope this is the last call for tonight.
Gardening wishes from the mountain above Peacham Pond where Wayfarin Strangers plays High On A Mountain ..........where the wind blows free...... and the spring peepers and wood frogs have already called it quits for the night.

George Africa

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