May 25, 2018
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Peepers, salamanders worth seeking out in April

By Judy Kellogg Markowsky For the WEEKLY, Special to the BDN

Fields Pond Audubon Notebook

Frogs and salamanders are two of many April highlights. Spring peepers are tiny tree frogs, about an inch long, that have come from their underground hibernaculum to find their breeding ponds.

The males arrive first, and once the temperature is at or above 42 degrees they start singing. They typically sing from a shrub near or in the water.

In some ponds there are so many peepers that the din can seem deafening if you are close by. But it’s worth it to get a look at a peeper.

It is best to go to a pond at dusk or at night, wearing boots and bringing a flashlight. Shine the flashlight low on the shrubs that are in the water – you have a chance of spotting one, if you are lucky.

Spring peepers tend to stop singing when a person comes to see them. If you stay still, after a while they might start singing again.

Each tree frog has an “X” mark on its back, and each toe has a tiny sphere at the end. That helps it cling to twigs and bark.

Only the males sing; females find the males and then they mate. If you are lucky enough to see a male singing, you’ll see his throat make a bubble under his throat as he produces his ascending trill.

In contrast to the raucous noises made by spring peepers, spotted salamanders are silent – but they are beautiful little animals, six to eight inches long, shiny black with pairs of yellow spots on their backs.

On a rainy April night, I went with several friends to find salamanders. Wearing boots and rain suits, and carrying flashlights, we walked along the edges of vernal pools at dusk.

As it became dark, a spotted salamander appeared in the pool. The salamander was eight inches long, black with yellow spots on its back.

Undulating back and forth as it moved in the water, it was sometimes swimming, sometimes walking on the bottom of the pool. We were entranced as we watched it.

We continued to walk along the string of pools, finding more and more salamanders. Most were spotted salamanders, but a few were blue-spotted salamanders.

Only in mid-April can you easily find these fascinating, colorful salamanders at their vernal pools; through the summer they make underground tunnels in wet, dark soil.

For information on Fields Pond Audubon Center, call 989-2591.

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