Quoddy Nature Notes April Amphibians



Wood frogs like to lay their eggs together

April is National Frog month.  What better way to celebrate than to get some kids and tromp around some vernal pools and see what can be found?  I like to go at night.  Flashlights, frogs, mud, water and the excitement of a late evening outside have a magical effect on kids, and a wonderful opportunity for me to sneakily try and instill my love of nature in them.  If the child is riding in a car, the frog or salamander in the road is just a lump in the road.  However, if the scene is at night and you are walking, the senses are alerted and then a frog is a discovery to be picked up and carefully examined, and remembered as a friend.  I’m sure that was the primary reason to declare a National Frog Month.

I try to schedule a couple of amphibian walks in the Quoddy region around the end of the third week in April.  The ideal event would be the first damp, foggy evening with the temperature above 50 degrees, as the objective is to discover the most amphibians migrating to their spawning ponds.  It is better to be a little late in the season than a little early, but it is pretty difficult to predict the optimum  time in order to get out any form of publicity.  This year I was pretty lucky, and on April 19th in Pembroke about a dozen enthusiastic froggers with flashlights arrived at 8:00PM, lit up Leighton Point Road and searched for amphibians.  We had a jolly time.  The Spring Peepers and Wood frogs serenaded us as we found many of their compatriots coming to join in the singing, along with a good supply of Spotted salamanders.  The night and the cool weather made the amphibians very tolerant of being handled, and we carefully helped them across the road after a good examination.  One of the female youngsters was closely examining a Spring Peeper, when the frog abruptly jumped and went down the front of her shirt.  There was a brief period of pandemonium, but Mom came to the rescue and happily both youngster and peeper survived unscathed.  It is interesting that when I was a youngster many years ago, amphibian watching and handling was only for guys, and girls wouldn’t even consider participating.  I think the change is for the better.  Usually the sharp eyes of the youngsters can pick out at least one calling male Spring Peeper, but this year they were too well hidden.  We didn’t note any Blue Spotted salamanders, but I had seen some earlier in the week.


Kids at my road sign in Pembroke

At Moosehorn in Baring on the evening of April 20th we had a group of over 30 participants, with over half being youngsters.  We noted very few amphibians migrating, but there were many already in the waters of Dudley swamp, with the near deafening serenade of Wood Frogs and Spring Peepers.  Wood frog spawning activity was apparent, but again there was a failure of anyone to find a calling Peeper.  There were some leeches seen, probably the American Medicinal leech, but not as many as I have seen in the past, and quite a few Spotted salamanders in the water.  A couple of interesting tidbits  have come up about Spotted salamanders.  The first of these is that they can supposedly vocalize as a defensive maneuver.  Now I have handled hundreds of Spotted salamanders over the years, and never have I heard a peep out of any of them.  I don’t know if they are supposed to growl, bark, chirp, hiss or sing ‘Mammy’ like Al Jolson.  Or maybe I’m just not threatening enough.  Another feature of Spotted salamanders is that apparently their embryos have the capability of photosynthesizing sunlight into nutrients.  Maybe some of the kids I lead on amphibian walks will eventually figure out how they do this.


Salamander spotted

A nice big spotted salamander. Probably a female loaded with eggs