POST #1 ON THE 2013 AMPHIBIAN MIGRATION
by MacKenzie Hall, Amphibian Crossing Project Coordinator
For the 98 volunteers signed on to help with this year’s amphibian road-crossing efforts, yesterday brought on the first flurry of excitement. Forty degrees! The promise of nighttime rain! Saturday’s soaker had helped to get the ground thawing, though many of the amphibians’ breeding pools were still capped in ice. The conditions weren’t going to be perfect, but surely some eager salamanders would be enticed to come out from their winter burrows and set off on migration. And when their tiny feet hit the pavement of peril, we were gonna be there gosh dernit!
So our “scouts” got ready for night (and rain) to fall, to go check on a dozen or so road-crossing hot-spots in northern and central NJ. Then, as volunteer Phil Wooldridge of Warren County put it, we experienced a little deja-vu. The rain started later, the temperature was colder. North of Route 80, snow and sleet fell instead. We amphibian crossers have gotten used to the shakiness of weather forecasts, and to the somewhat complex combination of triggers that set an amphibian migration in motion. At any rate, we basically got skunked last night.
The only sign of life came from Hampton, in Sussex County, where Sharon and Wade Wander found a single Jefferson salamander crossing the road to his ice-covered breeding pool. Tough little salamanders, those Jeffs. Our first one of 2012 came out during a wet snowfall, too, around 2:00 am on February 24th.
The town of East Brunswick was also counting on last night’s forecast when they decided to close Beekman Road – a town road bisecting an amphibian migration path. The town’s Environmental Commission has coordinated the closure for the past 10 years to protect the spotted salamanders, wood frogs, and other migrants on 4 to 10 nights every spring (read about it here). Even there, only one male spotted salamander was seen making his way to the pool.
So, we’ll keep doing our best to predict the amphibian migration and to be in the right places when it happens. Clearly the big long nights are still in front of us.
To learn more about our Amphibian Crossing Project and experience the migration through video, please visit our “Amphibians Crossing!” webpage.