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Amphibian migration 2022?

East Brunswick, NJ

rain 43 °F

Although my schedule has been absolutely non-stop as of late, I did manage to make it down to New Jersey this evening for a special evening of naturing. Early every spring when the temperatures rise into the 40’s and drenching rains soak eastern forests, a phenomenon of amphibian movement happens during the nighttime: frogs, toads, salamanders, and newts all move to the fish-less pools of the forest to lay their eggs for the next generation. So far this spring, the two nights that have produced migration (Feb 22 & Mar 7) in the NYC area, I have either been busy or out of town.

Tonight, though, was shaping up to be different as temperatures were to hold steady around 43F and there should be intermittent rain throughout the evening. So, I took the subway, NJTransit, and an uber to Beekman Road in rural Middlesex County, NJ to hopefully observe amphibian migration. Spotted Salamanders, Eastern Newts, and Spring Peepers are the most conspicuous migrants here, though occasionally one can find less common species such as Four-toed Salamander, Pickerel, & even New Jersey Chorus Frog (the latter two would be lifers).

Upon arriving, I heard a smattering of “peeps” from Northern Spring Peepers in the vernal pond deep in the woods. Hopefully a good sign!

As it happened though, the rain showers turned out to be more intermittent than I would have hoped (early spring is pretty much the only time a herper hopes for rain!), and it became evident that after an hour of walking the road fruitlessly, amphibians would be hard to come by tonight.

Therefore to my amazement, after walking up and down the road for nearly two hours in the cold rain showers, I was rewarded with a beautiful male Spotted Salamander s l o w l y making his way across. He was cold!
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I had studied a map of the vernal pools nearby early today and interestingly enough, this salamander was migrating east, away from these particular pools — meaning breeding has already taken place and I had come for the tale end (and usually less exciting part) of salamander migration.
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Even though I ended up only finding this one salamander, I consider tonight to be a success because shortly after moving the salamander off the road, two cars cruised by from both directions — there is a good chance it would have been crushed had I not been there. Here he is after being moved off the road:
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A conservation organization closes off the road to vehicular traffic on large migratory nights but apparently they had the foresight to understand that there would be fewer amphibians out tonight, so therefore cars would occasionally whiz by.

A quick uber and long train ride back to the city landed me back to the dorms by 2am, so let’s just say it wasn’t your average weeknight. Even just seeing one salamander migrating was an amazing phenomenon, and I pray that these remaining population fragments of these vulnerable species will be here for us to see and appreciate for many generations to come.

Bird-wise, I may have seen an owl at one point but I wasn’t sure, so my bird-of-the-day designation will just have to go to some distant Canada Geese I heard honking while I was walking the road!

Good birding,
Henry
World Life List: 1128 Species

Posted by skwclar 16:42 Archived in USA

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