Friends of the East Brunswick Environmental Commission

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Salamander Migration Update #8

Posted by Friends EB EC on March 20, 2014 at 7:05 PM

What happened last night? From an ecological perspective, the temperatures were around 40 near dark and the steady rain held off until about 8:30. The afternoon rain that began about 4:00 didn't last long although it certainly increased the humidity and wetted everything down. For anyone arriving just after dark, at first it was simply an empty, cold, wet road. Still fun and exciting but lacking any amphibians. From about 7:30 to 8:30 the rain began again but was generally light and intermittent. But about 8:30 it began to rain steadily and with it there was an evident increase in amphibian movements. Up until that time, other than a wayward spring peeper not much was seen on the road. But with the steady and heavier rain a few spotted salamanders began appearing and so did spring peepers. With the appearance of a few spotted salamanders there were actually screams of joy from some of the kids that dragged their parents out on a school\work night. However, from our observations there wasn't an unhappy adult face in the crowd.  About 75 people were walking the road with flashlights and braving the wet chill (that's salamander weather) and reveling in the last night of a long, cold, challenging winter and the advent of spring! It was quite evident from the reactions of so many people that when you see a spotted salamander making its way across Beekman Road even when it is wet and raw, it is worth every second of being out there.

If you weren't able to make it, here is a list of some of the highlights:

  • Well, for one thing, everyone that came out probably saw a spotted salamander and a spring peeper! 
  • The Friends led tours to the vernal pools and everyone that came along got to hear spring peepers calling and to see how amazing they are.
  • Denise Contrino, our incredibly amazing town-centric Town Council member came out and saw her first ever spotted salamander. We appropriately named it "Denise". 
  • The 4th graders in town are studying vernal pools and salamanders as part of an amazing grant awarded by the EB Education Foundation and they showed up en masse. We typically reserve the wods en masse for spotted salamander migrations but it was equally appropriate for them last night. They all came with an incredible knowledge of the importance and ecology of vernal pools and asked amazing questions too!   

So what is next? Salamander migrations tend to occur in waves and these first two nights both featured movements. We suspect that on subsequent rainy nights, especially if it ever gets warmer, that we will have increased amphibian activity on the road. The spotted salamander migration may be largely done but there will almost certainly be stragglers. Since every female can carry 100-300 eggs we don't want to risk losing even one and will close the road accordingly as weather conditions warrant. We also are striving to protect the suite of other vernal pool species in our vernal pools including Eastern newts, snapping turtles, pickerel frogs, green frogs, bull frogs, gray tree frogs, cricket frogs and wood frogs.

Vernal pools are the "oasis in the forest". Over the years we've lost the vast majority in East Brunswick. We are so fortunate to have the ones along Beekman Road protected on County lands. But with Beekman Road crossing through the habitat we need to be vigilant in protecting the species that utilize these last remaining special habitats. Please let the Mayor and Town Council, Police and Public Works know how much you appreciate their efforts. A HUGE kudos is due their unwavering concern and protection of our spotted salamanders, turtles, newts and frogs!      

Categories: Salamander migration

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1 Comment

Reply Rachel Ruden
9:54 PM on March 20, 2014 
Very cool! We saw a lot of activity in Berks County, PA last night .. But from what I hear there was minor movement last week when you saw that big wave in NJ. Thank you Friends for making salamanders a priority!