Big Night last night

Last night the conditions were perfect:  about 45 degrees, light rain, and the ponds and streams are largely un-frozen. 

Perfect, that is, if you're a Vermont-resident frog or salamander who's been waiting, beneath the leaf-litter and snow, for a chance to make more frogs & salamanders.

So the folks at the Bonnyvale Environmental Education Center in Brattleboro sent out the message to their army of volunteers:  a Big Night is at hand!

Catherine and I, after a chance encounter with a spotted salamander last spring, had put ourselves on the mailing list and volunteered to "own" the area around the Westminster West school.  So we put on our high-visibility gear, grabbed our "Salamander Crossing" warning signs and flashlights and set out to be "crossing guards" for the frogs and salamanders who would be out in search of a mating pool.

Me, in my high-visibility gear

Once it got fully dark we started walking up and down our stretch of Westminster Road, scanning with our flashlights. Almost immediately we started to see tiny spring peepers and less-tiny wood frogs making their way across the road.  Where it seemed necessary (it was pretty chilly and the frogs were moving awfully slow) we helped them on their way, before the next car came.

It was getting on toward 10 pm and we were about to pack it in, when we started to see the spotted salamanders.  These guys are quite a bit bigger than the frogs, from 7 to 10 inches long...but pretty hard to see (they're dark and from a car can look just like a fallen twig in the road.)  An awful lot of them fall victim to passing cars, even on the fairly quiet Vermont roads...they just move awfully slow!

One of the spotted salamanders we helped to cross

By 10 we had helped 8 salamanders to cross and decided to pack it in.  But we resolved to drive very slowly and carefully, with the fog lights on.  As a consequence, it took us over an hour to drive the 5 miles home, and we assisted another 30 or so salamanders en route...including a couple of fairly rare Jefferson Salamanders:

Jefferson Salamander (about the same size as Spotted)

We tried not to get discouraged by the (large) number of frogs and salamanders we saw who did not make it safely across the road.  You do what you can.

-- Bill Clark


I so enjoyed reading this!

Gerri — Apr 29, 2015