We are getting close to the beginning of spring here around Boston, MA. Today was a balmy 55° F under clear skies (by mid-day), and we'd been having some light precipitation over night last night. No murmurings of amphibian movements...anywhere, which seems a little strange, but it's no doubt getting close.
Out in the Minuteman National Historical Park with a local high school group and a Park Ranger we came across a quite-impressive breeding congregation of the mighty Springtail. We noticed a few of the wee beasties floating and springing about on the surface of a little brook, and happened to notice a massive aggregation of them a little ways down stream.
These little guys are always neat to come across, and at this time of year certain species come together in and near wetlands like vernal pools. Keep an eye peeled for little flecks disturbing the surface of puddles and streams, and an ear out for the sound of light rain on dry leaves - you may be rewarded with a great big, tiny treat!
~ M.R. Burne
Monday, September 28, 2015
|The male is quite a bit smaller than the female in this pair.|
The heavily damaged tail on the female is an interesting feature, and one that will allow us to keep tabs on her going forward. We've been seeing a large garter around the office for some months, and now have a pretty good characteristic to look for which will help us determine if it is she all the time, or a collection of large garters in the area. The vent is just below this damaged area, which leads me to wonder if she experiences any difficulty in reproduction, but I expect that will remain a mystery.
Begs the question, though: how do those males know she's ready, and where she is?! My snap answer, of course, is "Pheromones!" But it turns out that's something I need to look up.
What a nice treat for an early fall afternoon! Get out there and see what you see this fall!
~ M.R. Burne
|This female's tail is heavily damaged.|
Monday, June 16, 2014
I came across this (very large) female toad sitting on a stump in the woods. She is fairly colorful for an American toad. In two days, I'll be doing an "indoor field trip" for fourth and fifth graders, so she went for a ride with me to be a part of the fun.
She was placed in a terrarium with dark mud, some leaves, etc. Within an hour, and much to my surprise, she was a very different-looking toad. The field color had turned dark, chocolate-brown, spots containing the warts were still nearly black, and the only white left on her was the belly.
This doesn't come as a complete surprise. Amphibians are quite variable in their coloration and I've always sort of assumed there was variability at the individual level among different species. However, it's the first time I've seen an American toad make this rapid and drastic a change.
Now I wonder about those yellow green frogs...
~ MR Burne
Monday, March 31, 2014
I had the pleasure of the company of Mrs. Waldrip's 8th grade science class from Malden's Ferryway School, along with a whole cadre of parents, in addition to a good number of other folks out for the night. All told, we had about 40 people in attendance. I think that outnumbered the salamanders we saw, but sometimes, that's ok. The big win is for a bunch of city kids to go out, close to home, and see the annual spring amphibian migration.
Thanks go to the DCR for arranging a Ranger to be there, and to the Friends of the Fells. ~ MR Burne
Sunday, March 30, 2014
It turns out that in one population in eastern Massachusetts, there is a good number of spottless salamanders (would that be A. nonmaculaum?). Every year I turn up at least one at this particular site. This fellow had four very small spots, one of which is visible mid-way down the tail. The others happen to be on the side facing away from the camera.
Hmm. I find at least one at this pool every year. Salamanders live 10 or 12 years in the wild. Hmm... Wonder if I have any pictures of him from last year...
Saturday, March 29, 2014
Reports of spotted salamanders, blue-spotted salamanders, redbacks, wood frogs, and spring peepers are starting to trickle in from observers around Massachusetts, and the weekend's weather promises to get spring going in a big way.
So we seem to be under way with the great spring amphibian migrations. Get out and enjoy!
Friday, November 29, 2013
Given that it’s hunting season (are you and your dog wearing orange out in the woods?), this seems an appropriate topic to ruminate upon. A video was posted to youtube recently which documents a salamander collecting trip on state property. I was disturbed by the video, but not for the same reason as some other folks I know.
For better or worse, there are no prohibitions on collecting (read: hunting) a wide variety of native wildlife in Massachusetts; this includes most of our amphibians and reptiles, with the exception of the state-listed Endangered, Threatened, and Special Concern species. There are also some species, such as the Spotted Salamander (Ambystoma maculatum), that are on a “watch list” and can’t be possessed without a special permit from the state (listed here). There’s an open season on everything else. There's not even a bag limit - you can possess as many as you can catch - on snappers, Green frogs and Bullfrogs.So what’s disturbing about the video this kid shot in the Blue Hills? If you watch the technique, logs and stones are flipped, cast aside, and left to roll away. Imagine a giant that comes into your village, curious about humans. It tears the roof off of your house, picks you up to poke and prod, then decides to put you back on the ground and move on. You look up and shout, “Hey, jerk! put my roof back!” but to no avail. You’re left out in the driveway with compromised shelter.
Collecting has its place in growing up and in exciting kids to become scientists. State land is “our nature,” to paraphrase one major landowning state agency, and people will collect wildlife from state lands. If they’re collecting according to the Bay State’s hunting and fishing laws, then I say have at it. But for crying out loud, put the roof back on the house. It’s the ethical way to pillage. ~ MR Burne