Sunday, October 23, 2016

Plum Island, MA 10/21/2016

Spadefoot toads are a state listed Threatened species in Massachusetts. The Massachusetts Natural Heritage and Endangered Species Program published this natural history description of the species here: Eastern Spadefoot Toad (Scaphiopus holbrookii).

Earlier this summer I went out with Dr. Bryan Windmiller and a team of volunteers from Grassroots Wildlife Conservation to conduct a Spadefoot toad survey during a warm summer night at the Parker River National Wildlife Refuge on Plum Island in Newburyport, MA after getting a research permit from the Wildlife Refuge managers. Our team spent two or three hours searching the sand dune habitat without any success. This past summer most of Massachusetts was experiencing a severe drought which meant the toads were likely burrowed deep under the sand waiting for more ideal conditions to emerge for feeding or breeding.

The other night I went out to re-survey the same site. The weather was unusually warm for the end of October with heavy rains most of the day and into the night. I had a feeling the warm rain event would trigger activity and sure enough I was correct! Over the course of a 3 hour survey I found 25 Eastern Spadefoot toads.

There happened to be one car leaving the Refuge late at night and unfortunately I found three squished toads that were not there at the beginning of my survey. Luckily the Refuge is closed to traffic entering the Preserve after dark which greatly limits the risk for road mortality.

I was caught in a heavy rain/wind/lightning storm during most of the survey. Thankfully I was wearing full chest waders and a rain jacket. My camera (Samsung Galaxy S6 phone) got a bit wet and after the battery died decided not to charge until the next day after storing it in our rice container overnight. Luckily it worked the next morning and I was able to save and share these photos.

Update: My friend Don Lyman wrote this story up for the Boston Globe North print edition on 11/27/2016.

Road cruising survey vehicle, 1979 Honda Hobbit moped.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Lynnfield, MA March, 17, 2016

2016 saw it's 'Big Night' amphibian migration on March 10 with warm weather and heavy rains. The following week had more of the same weather that provided ideal amphibian migration weather. This amphibian migration event happened a few weeks earlier than what we typically see in New England.

On March 16 I received a phone call from my friend Patrick Zephyr who is an accomplished nature photographer:

Patrick asked if I could take him to a site where he could find blue spotted salamanders so he could add a portrait to his wildlife portfolio. Blue spotted salamanders, Ambystoma laterale, are a 'Species of Special Concern' in Massachusetts and can be very difficult to encounter in the wild if you don't know where to look.

The following evening we went for a drive to a secret location in Lynnfield, hiked into the forest, and searched a few vernal pools until we found a pool that had exactly what we were looking for! That night we observed six blue spotted salamanders and had a great time photographing a few of them. These pictures were taken with my new camera phone (Samsung Galaxy S6), I was pleasantly surprised by how incredibly good the camera feature is in this model phone.

That night we also encountered wood frogs, green frogs, red spotted newts, and countless aquatic invertebrate species.

Patrick Zephyr surveying a vernal pool

Blue spotted salamander
Blue spotted salamander (uncropped photo)
Ambystoma laterale posing on leaf litter.
Patrick Zephyr with blue spotted salamander portrait

that's me with a blue spotted salamander