Forty salamanders came to Windhover Pond last night. They started during our walk once it began to rain a bit. I’m going to release them before dark so they can do their thing once the sun sets.
There hasn’t been much rain yet today, which means few positive signs for salamander movement at this point. I will host a walk anyway to see what we can see, and then possibly another walk tomorrow if I have any salamanders to release. See this page for info on time, location, and how to prepare.
2017 continues to be an unusual year in Steiner Woods. After an early and heavy wave of salamander migration, the salamanders stopped coming in and then things froze over for a few weeks. It will be interesting to see whether the break in weather brings out more salamanders. I will host a salamander walk tomorrow (Sunday March 26) if it rains as forecast so you can come find out for yourself. I will confirm or cancel with another post tomorrow afternoon.
Meanwhile, this is the first night I have heard heavy spring peeper and wood frog choruses in Bath. Before the cold returned, wood frog breeding had come and gone at several ponds just miles away in the Cuyahoga Valley. Wood frogs are described as “explosive” breeders, because large numbers aggregate to breed over a short time, usually just a few days. This year’s weather has created an interesting scenario where frogs across small distances are facing very different climates and time constraints during development. Since wood frogs usually breed in ponds that dry out during the summer, that month’s difference could be very important for how much they are able to grow and develop before things dry out. On the other hand, it is very likely that those early laid eggs faced significant mortality and stress from the sustained freezing temperatures.
I will do a walk tonight. We will release last night’s catch and see if we can see others on their way in.
You can find what/when/where details here.
The 2017 salamander season is already well underway in Steiner Woods. This has been the earliest start to the season since the drift fence study began in 1999 (the latest start to the season was just in 2015). So far we’ve had over 300 salamanders arrive at the pond. This is the most activity there has been since 2008. I am currently busy making evening visits to several ponds in the area for other projects, but look out for a walk announcement soon.
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.