Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Howley, MA April 26, 2013

Today I went out in the field with my good friend Ben Jaffe. Our goal was to locate and survey six vernal pool sites across a mountainous landscape. Luckily the access roads were in good shape, unlike the previous day. We parked next to a trailhead in a forest clearing a quarter mile from the first site of the day.

The first pool was quickly drying and there were dozens of wood frog eggs that were above the water line and quickly drying. Amphibians walk a fine line between laying their eggs in the shallowest areas of the pond that are prone to drying early and too deep where the water is colder and the eggs develop less quickly.

Drying wood frog eggs.

Our second pool was a little over a mile from the first site except there were no trails connecting the two. When we finally got there we got lucky and found Jefferson salamander eggs right away, and lots of them!

The hike to our third pool turned out to be difficult since we walked along a mountain ridge most of the way there. The landscape and scenery was pretty amazing and worth the detour. Along the way we saw lots of bear and moose droppings.

Our third pool site turned out to be a naturally dammed up stream that had a few spotted salamander and wood frog eggs present in the water. Just downstream of this site is where Ben worked his magic. We found a rapid clear mountain stream with lots of rocks. Within 10 minutes Ben found three species of stream salamander, two of which I had never seen before in the wild!

two lined salamander

dusky salamander

northern spring salamander

the northern two lined salamander keeps its gills for many years before it fully transforms into a full adult

Ben surveying a small vernal pool. 

Our fourth site was successful, we found lots of Jefferson salamander eggs in what looked to be a small shallow pool but turned out to be 3 feet deep in the center.

Our final two pools only had spotted salamander and wood frog eggs. Overall 2 out of 6 pools had Jefferson salamander eggs. These two pools were the farthest away from one another showing the need for more in depth survey work in mapping local salamander populations. The information we gathered gives conservation biologists a course snapshot of Jefferson salamander distribution across western Massachusetts. This type of data can be used to by land managers to make decisions on which areas are most in need of protection.


  1. Loving the updates, can't wait to see more of them.

  2. That's great! I haven't found a spring salamander in MA yet, but look forward to taking up the search again.