Turns out that over 100 salamanders moved into Windhover Pond a couple Wednesdays ago when around a dozen people came to see them be released while more salamanders mosied in. That stretch of rain brought a few nights of migration to put the total over 160 for the year. Winter is not leaving without a fight, though, and overnight temperatures look to be near freezing for the next week or so. The last warm and rainy night only brought 1 salamander in, which usually means they’re pretty much done for the year, but we’ll see how things play out when spring comes back.
So far, this season continues a trend dating back to 2010 where the number of captures has hovered around the 150 mark:
Only a few individual salamanders will breed for longer than seven years, so this may be a sign that the number of new arrivals in the population has been enough to offset the number of animals leaving or dying. The new guys could have been born in Windhover or immigrated from another pond.
The numbers from recent years are well within the ranges found for other spotted salamander populations, but they’re small compared to the thousands of captures seen in many of the first 10 years of the study. Those seasons also had a lot more year-to-year variation:
It’s hard to say what caused that early population boom or the dip to the more stable numbers, but conveniently there are only a few ways to change the size of a population: births, deaths, and migration. Since we are only dealing with the breeding portion of the population, another factor is whether animals skip breeding in a given year.
These guys live a long time. I saw some salamanders last week that were old enough to vote in Tuesday’s primary. This is one thing that makes long-term studies like ours necessary and worth the delayed gratification. As the study approaches the 20 year mark, the data should now cover the lives of many individual salamanders, so we can start to dig in to investigate what’s going on underneath trends we’re seeing.
We ended up with a decent amount of rain Wednesday night that wasn’t in the forecast early in the week. Looks like that brought in around 80 salamanders, maybe more. Pretty big for the first action if the year.
We’ll host a walk Thursday night when we release the salamanders. Since we don’t have to wait for new salamanders to come in, and salamanders don’t care about Daylight Savings, let’s meet earlier than usual at 7:45.
See here for details on where to meet and how to prepare, but remember about the time change.
It looks like spring is here to stay in the Akron area. Forecasts this week are calling for warm temperatures and rain. That’ll bring the salamanders out in Steiner Woods. Keep an eye out for a walk announcement as we get closer to Thursday (March 10).
Here’s Windhover Pond on that 70 degree Saturday we had a few weeks back. The whole place was covered in snow 3 days earlier AND a few days later. What’s that quote from Merry in the Fellowship of the Ring? Something like: “I don’t think they know about second winter, Pip.”
There was a large turnout for the salamander walk on Thursday. Thanks to all who came.
105 salamanders showed up at Windhover Pond that night, highlighted by the longest individual I’ve measured. She’s a little over 8 inches long and was so lipid-dense that she floated by default. She was actually not the heaviest of that day, which says that some other female out there was bringing a whole lot of eggs into the pond.
Check out her massive tail and picturesque coloration.
It’s already >60 degrees out and there is a 100% chance of rain, so the walk is on for tonight.
We will meet at 8:45 pm at the Bath Center parking lot.
See here for more on how to prepare and what to expect.
See you out there!
The weather is looking salamandery for Thursday (April 2). Keep an eye out for an update on that day!
With the warm weather yesterday I went out to some amphibian breeding ponds to see if anything was moving. Most were either still frozen or had nothing going on except a single spring peeper calling somewhere near the heron rookery off West Bath Road.
At one site, despite the fact that it was mostly covered in ice, I saw the familiar undulations of salamanders swimming through the water. These turned out to be Jefferson salamanders, which typically start a few weeks earlier than spotteds. They look a lot like spotted salamanders without spots (we have seen a few of these), but are more slender, have pointier snouts, and freakishly long toes. I also caught a glimpse of a frog, either wood or green, swimming for cover under some leaves.
Female Jefferson salamander at the edge of the pond.
There was some action back at Windhover as well. We caught some newts and a spring peeper in the buckets. The newt in the picture below thought I wanted to eat him and responded by curling his body back over itself to show me his bright orange underside (called an “unken reflex”). This is a poisonous salamander’s way of saying “if you eat me, it will suck.” This is the most extreme version of this I have ever seen; I’ve never seen the tail wrapped around the neck like this!
Female spring peeper in a bucket. She was chubby with eggs.