Amphibian Spring Migration - 2016

It's now a week into April and while I'm sure some amphibians will trickle away from their breeding grounds, my herping for them is probably over. least until the second wave of later breeders start to move.  I figured this would be a good time to recap the herps I found during two nights of cruising/walking wet streets.  

I'll summarize a list of herps from one night on the Delmarva Peninsula and one night in Lebanon,Lancaster, and Chester Counties in Southeast Pennsylvania.  Each area offered a few different herps with a lot of overlap.  I'll include some locations with the photos.  As you'll see, I tried a darker, posed style on most of these frogs and salamanders.  For whatever reason, that was just the direction I took this Spring.  :)

It should also be noted that not all of these amphibians are traveling to a vernal pool or wetland.  Some are just out and about because its wet.  Anything found while I was out on those nights is fair game for this blog post.

In no particular order...

Southern Leopard Frog - New Castle, DE

New Jersey Chorus Frog - New Castle, DE

Spotted Salamander - Kent, MD

Cope's Treefrog (could be a Gray) - Kent, MD

Pickerel Frog - New Castle, DE

Marbled Salamander - Kent, MD

Spring Peeper - Kent, DE

Wood Frog - New Castle, DE

Eastern Tiger Salamander - Kent, MD

Four-toed Salamander - Chester County, PA

Northern Red Salamander - Lancaster, PA

Northern Two-lined Salamander - Lebanon, PA

Northern Dusky Salamander - Lancaster, PA

Eastern Red-backed Salamander (lead phase) - Lebanon, PA

Red-spotted Newt - Lebanon, PA

Jefferson Salamander - Lebanon County, PA

American Toad - Lebanon, PA

I missed some species, but saw some I didn't expect.  Together with a friend, and my children, we helped cross at least a few hundred herps.  Most of them were on their way to vernal pools.  Hopefully most of them made it back safely.  Despite efforts, we saw TONS of roadkill.  I'm numb to it nowadays.  I look at the silver lining.  At least we help.  It's tons of fun.  And its bonding time with my kids outside of the house.  It's an activity I look forward to every Spring, and its a reason to love the rainy nights.

...step into the outdoors.

Red Things on a Warm Winter Day

It was a warm Winter day... warm enough that I thought my kids and I might have a shot at some snakes at dens.  Of course, we would have to wait until the sun warmed the ground long enough to coax them out.

All of my kids have seen foxes, but always at a distance.  With no new birding opportunities available, the stars aligned to take them to a local beach where the foxes get close.  Of course, they are ruined mammals.  They tolerate people because of illegal feeding.  I told the kids I would not partake in this, not that it mattered much.  I tried to impress upon them... Just because you could, doesn't mean you should.

So we set off for the coast.  We weren't going to feed them, but the silver lining was that they did provide some awesome photo opportunities.  We rode up and down the barrier island trying to find some foxes that were more "wild" and not just hanging around cars hoping for a handout.  We succeeded in finding one after two passes.

Red Fox

I told myself this fox wasn't hanging out hoping for a free meal, but I'm sure it was.  I'm sure they are all ruined.  I mean - what wild fox scratches an itch while humans are 30 feet away?!  Sigh.

We spent some time on the beach.  It was still chilly, but the sun was fighting through the clouds.  Surf and Black Scoters, Long-tailed Ducks, and Common Loons were afloat on the water.  Gulls flew by, but nothing other than the normal brigade.  I decided to make one more pass before heading into the Pine Barrens.

We saw one more fox on the blacktop certainly hoping for some food.  I took some shots, but didn't get out of my truck, as I was aware of people looking for someone breaking the law.  I had nothing to give to it, but why draw attention to myself, I thought.

We pulled into a parking lot just to see where it lead.  Bingo - this was the action.  Multiple cars, multiple multi-thousand dollar lenses, and multiple foxes.  It was neat.  I can't deny it.  Neat, and sad.  But I put on my rose-tinted glasses and enjoyed it and more importantly, enjoyed watching the kids with them.

Lily with a fox, taking a picture with her tablet as it trotted by her.  Photo credit:  Lawrence Pugliares

Red Fox

Red Fox

My favorite "single" fox shot of the day.

Before we left, there was one fox in the middle of the parking lot.  We watched another run with vigor towards it.  I even said to the kids, "Guys - it looks like something might happen."  And it did!  It was such a cool thing to witness.  They were so vocal and animated.  In such a canned experience, it seemed like the only natural behavior we had witnessed all day!  The best I've come up with after a conversation or two was that it was a male approaching a female who wasn't ready to breed yet.  Whatever it was, all I can say was it was AWESOME.  I overuse that term, but I bet I watched with my mouth hanging open.

So that was something!  Onto the Pines...

The day had warmed up a bit and the sun was on and off.  I wasn't extremely sure that we'd find anything, but as always, I was hopeful.  It turned out that we would find three snakes laying outside of their dens, trying to soak up a little heat.  I couldn't have asked for anything more.  One snake would have made my day, but oh yeah - the foxes already did that.  It was already a glorious Winter day.

Black Racer

Eastern Garternsnake

And the prize for the day... The largest corn snake I've ever seen in NJ.  I will provide a photo next to my sneaker (10.5) to show the girth of this girl.  If it wasn't Winter, I would have swore she was gravid.

Red Cornsnake

Red Cornsnake

Red Cornsnake scale detail

Red Cornsnake - Because sometimes I like to pretend I'm creative.

On the way home, just to add to our red-thing bonanza, we observed the first red screech owl I've ever seen during the day.  Some days are just too good to be true.

Eastern Screech Owl

I've had good days and I've had not-so-good days in the field.  There's never a bad day.  This was a great day and having the kids with me was the icing on top!  I would have hated experiencing all this on a weekend I didn't have them.  

...step into the outdoors.