So much to report today. Hard to believe it's been a year already and what a year it's been. We hope everyone has navigated the covid chaos safely and things will begin to turn to some kind of new found normalcy. For me, it was a time to explore new natural areas and hiking trails around Middlesex County. There are some really wonderful places I never knew existed and I'm looking forward to revisiting them this spring. So, how about the first Salamander Update of 2021 to make everyone excited (me too!).
What a month February has been with all the snow! A full month of snow on the ground had me feeling very caged in. But things are changing and salamanders and frogs can't be far off now. The very earliest signs of spring are showing, maple buds are swollen, our honeybees are leaving their hives for short periods on warm days, the snowdrops in the front of our house are just poking up, the birds are starting to chatter a bit, Bald Eagles around the state have laid eggs, and I've even seen a few insects on warm sunny surfaces. As Bob Dylan sang "the times they are a changin".
So, what's going on with the spotted salamander and wood frog migration to the vernal pools? We've been keeping a close eye on conditions this week and the East Brunswick Police Department brought the barriers to Beekman so we are ready (they have been nothing short of wonderful with their help to protect our precious amphibians). Yesterday we visited the pools to assess conditions and feel confident it's just a little too early yet. The woods are still covered with snow and the larger vernal pool doesn’t have any ice free areas and the ice was thick enough to support me walking a little way out. The smaller pool has a discontinuous narrow open edge but is also otherwise covered by thick ice. Without the snow, I’d say tonight would be a shot for some early movement. The forecasted rainfall amounts and timing also looks good but the temps today and after dark are very stable and don’t rise beyond 42. That’s a few degrees below what I’d like to see. So, the combo of snow, ice covering the larger pool and the temps, will likely lead to us to not close the road tonight. I’ll check the area mid to late afternoon just to confirm conditions and confirm our thinking. If something changes we can close the road then, but I doubt it. It looks like a dry period after the weekend, and the next forecast for good conditions is a long way off in the ten day forecast. Time will tell…Dave
This year we also have a Boy Scout working with the New Jersey Endangered and Non-Game Species Program and Conserve Wildlife to collect data on the migration. He will be leading a research team of other scouts and they will be stationed at various places along the road. Please help them out by being as non-intrusive as possible in their study zones because the data they are collecting is based on the natural movements of the salamanders and frogs crossing the road.
The county also has installed a wonderful interpretative sign at the larger pool, so check it out if you wander down that way to hear the Spring Peepers calling on a warm day.
And one final, incredibly critical note on safety. I know everyone is excited about the migration but there are some rules that are mandatory:
SAFETY, SAFETY, SAFETY A few VERY IMPORTANT AND MANDATORY Rules!
Human Safety -
Beekman Road and Church Lane are always dark. Cars driving on them are moving fast and don't expect anyone to be there. It is simply DANGEROUS and extreme caution is the rule!
NEVER walk Beekman Road when it is not closed. Never means Never!
NEVER let children cross Church Lane without holding their hand.
Wear bright colored clothing so you are highly visible.
Parking is best at the small county lot on Beekman Road (accessed from White Pine on the South Brunswick side) just before the closure and on Crispin Lane off of Church.
Do NOT park in front of the barriers.
Use exceptional caution when parking as it is often dark and rainy and visibility of visitors and other cars maybe limited.
Amphibian Safety -
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!