Last night we took a drive along Beekman Road, mostly out of panic that we had made a poor decision not to close the road. Throughout the day we were constantly evaluating the conditions and going back and forth what to do. It's surprising that NOAA, Weather.com and Weather Underground didn't all crash yesterday with the number of times we checked the forecasts. They were probably wondering what in the heck was happening in East Brunswick to generate so many clicks on their forecast pages! Yesterday was quite rainy up until around 3 in the afternoon and then still pretty damp through the evening. But temperatures stayed a few degrees lower than forecast, topping out around 44 or maybe 45. By nightfall, they were forecast to be dropping rather quickly toward 40, with some clearing and drying out and a rising barometer. At 6:30 the full panic set in with the temperature still at 44, decent cloud cover and everything still pretty damp. Fortunately, after spending about an hour at Beekman Road, not a single amphibian was found. The adjacent woods were very quiet, although I think I heard a distant great Horned Owl hoot a few times. Phew!!!...our decision was okay. I'd guess the next warm(ish) rain we get will trigger some movement. We are watching a few potential weather events next week but at the moment there isn't anything too striking predicted.
As Buffalo Springfield sang "There's something happening here, What it is ain't exactly clear". On Monday night, following a rainy and fairly mild day there were reports of one spotted salamander and a few wood frogs on the road but no significant movement. Last night I walked the road and didn't find any amphibians from about 6:00 to 7:30 despite a little intermittent drizzle and a temperature hovering around 48 or 49 degrees and a rather rainy day. I also turned over a bunch of logs in the forest and they were still quite dry underneath, so heavier rain might be helpful to trigger movement. So, the "big nights" are clearly still ahead of us and probably will occur on the next warmer rains. So, stay tuned...
Yes, Beekman Road will be closed tonight. We are hedging our bets based on the weather - will it rain enough and will the temperature be mild enough to trigger movement after last week's bust? Are we still too early? But out of an abundance of caution and because this winter has been so out of the ordinary, we are closing the road. Unfortunately, unlike Crinkleroot, we just don't "speak salamander"! Please fully read the important safety information we have posted, both for you and for the amphibians.
Nothing! Why? I'm guessing despite the incredibly mild winter, we are just a little too early. But then again, I'm not a salamander or frog, so what the heck do I know? To a human trying to predict nature, conditions looked pretty perfect throughout the day. It was in the 40's and rainy and on the heels of a few pretty mild days. In fact both Monday and Tuesday nearly touched 60 degrees. The forecast for Thursday night was for the rain to continue, get heavier and the temperatures to rise as well getting close to 50. But alas, a dreaded dry slot - an area of dry air that seeps into a storm system - took hold for a few hours and with it, the temperature never really rose, we might have even lost a degree for a few hours until the winds shifted to the southwest and the rain began again sometime around eleven. We always err on the side of caution when we close the road, so we don't miss protecting the amphibians as they cross to the vernal pools. Stay tuned...lots of amphibian joy is sure to be ahead. We are ready when they are! A huge thanks to the East Brunswick Police Department for getting everything setup.
Safety, Safety, Safety:
A few VERY IMPORTANT rules!
Human Safety -
Amphibian Safety -
We are anticipating closing Beekman Road tonight. We honestly don't have a clue what might happen and if any amphibians will be moving. Today is dreary and tonight is supposed to have heavy rain and temperatures in the mid-40's, weather that a few weeks from now would seem perfect. Tonight really seems too early and many of the markers we use to predict the migration haven't materialized yet or are just absent this winter (Spring peepers calling, a late winter thaw, a cold spell followed by warmish temperatures and heavy rain and ice melting on the vernal pools and a bunch of other somewhat amorphous factors). But this winter in central New Jersey has been anything but normal. It is by far the mildest in my memory and I simply cannot remember a winter where the ground hasn't really frozen and the vernal pools have lacked a decent ice cover. Unfortunately, we don't "speak salamander" so our road closings are our best guess at what might happen. Sometimes we are walking Beekman Road in the raw, rainy, dark with not a single amphibian, other times we are treated to a natural spectacle of migrating salamanders and frogs. But amphibians or not, it's always nice to know that we are getting closer to spring when we are out on Beekman Road thinking about vernal pools and the fantastic life they support. Below is a graph we have compiled of the early dates we have observed movement over the past 14 years.
A few VERY IMPORTANT rules! Beekman Road and Church Lane are always dark. Cars driving on them are moving fast adn don't expect anyone there. It is simply DANGEROUS and extreme caution is the rule! NEVER walk Beekman Road when it is not closed. NEVER let children cross Church Lane without holding their hand. Parking is best at the small county lot accessed from White Pine on Beekman just before the closure and on Crispin Lane off of Church. Do NOT park in front of the barriers. EVERYONE must have a flashlight. Phone flashlights are useless. Without a good strong bright flashlight there is a real risk of stepping on an amphibian, which completely defeats the point of our protection plan. PLEASE DO NOT handle the amphibians. They are slippery and easy to drop and our hands can transfer oils that are harmful to them. They know where they are going, so just enjoy them as they cross and take lots of photographs!