Each spring the last few years around exam time a group of us head out to a shallow, fishless pond in a local park in Guelph where a few years ago Reuven found that Blue-spotted Salamanders come to breed. This year with the strange weather we've been having our group jumped the gun over a month ago, and we went out a few times in early March during that first warm spell that even had a few warm, rainy nights. After a few quiet and fairly unsuccessful outings throughout March (only herps in 3 or 4 nights out were 2 individual Spring Peepers and a single Blue-spotted Salamander) we held off on more herping for a while to let things warm up again.
Well tonight looking at the weather Kevin Kemmish saw it was going to be warm and rainy once again after our recent second bout of winter, so 4 of us decided to try the pond again.
|Local herping pond|
The pond itself is fairly shallow (although still slightly over rubber boot height in the middle) and full of grass, with some patches of cattails around the edges. This grass makes one have to work a fair bit harder to find salamanders than the clear woodland vernal pools I've visited in other areas, as you need to luck into an individual when it happens to be in a gap in the grasses.
Getting there a little early before it got dark, I was treated to a doe and yearling fawn walking around the pond, flushing an American Woodcock in the process. I also heard my first Eastern Meadowlark of the year give it's buzzy call from the adjacent field.
It was still fairly chilly as the sun went down and the frogs were silent. However, a couple nearby woodcocks filled the silence for us with their peenting and twittering sky dances. While listening to them, we were able to find a number of Wood Frogs quietly clinging to clumps of cattails.
At one point I briefly spotted what was likely the wriggling tail of a salamander, but before I could get a better look it disappeared into the sea of grasses. Luckily the second one wasn't quite quick enough.
|Blue-spotted Salamander trying to sneak away through the grass|
Over the couple hours we were there we found some 6 salamanders between us, all Blue-spotted. We have yet to find Spotted Salamanders in this location. The frogs remained very quiet, and we only heard the occasional quacking of a Wood Frog in addition to the regular calls of a single Spring Peeper. Unfortunately the peeper became uncooperatively quiet when we tried to get a look at him. We did also find an egg mass, which Steven Kell ID'd as Wood Frog. The eggs of a Blue-spotted would be larger and less densely packed.
|Wood Frog egg mass|
So all in all it was a successful evening. I was happy to see some of our Ontario amphibious critters before I head down to the deserts of Nevada this weekend, where amphibians are harder to come by.