Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Amphibians of Trout Brook Valley

Twan and I spent much of today in the field surveying the Trout Brook Valley Conservation Area, part of the Aspetuck Land Trust, where we are developing a conservation and management plan. While we looked for birds, plants, mammals, insects, and more, much of our focus was on amphibians, and we had some exciting finds. Twan knew it would be a good time to find some of them active and possibly breeding in this unbelievably warm weather and our results backed up both his optimism for the habitat and the conditions. Take a look...

 Wood Frog egg mass

 Wood Frog egg mass now out of water, able to survive for some time still

Masses of Wood Frog eggs, some immersed, some not

 An American Bullfrog that should not be coming out until May or June

 Jefferson Salamander eggs! A state-listed species that was a fantastic find

Spotted Salamander egg masses, another important species - one pool we found had dozens of egg masses

Early for this Eastern Newt to be out and about, but we saw a few

Here are some great shots by Twan with his underwater camera...

 Spotted Salamander eggs

 Spotted Salamander eggs, note the positioning on the stick

 Spotted Salamander spermatophores

 Wood Frog eggs with Newts

Close-up of Wood Frog eggs

Finding those salamanders, plus more like Marbled Salamander, was a great sign for the health of some of Trout Brook Valley's precious habitats, and further motivation to do everything possible to protect parts of the sensitive areas of the preserve. However, there is one major problem - most of the eggs you see above of all species will likely die because the vernal pools are evaporating and drying out at a much faster rate than usual (you can see the beginning of this with the Wood Frog eggs). Twan remarked that some of the pools had water levels they normally would in June or July. Once again abnormally warm weather is to blame, and without any snow melt whatsoever or much in the way of rain lately, the majority of these will perish if we do not have substantial and sustained amounts of rain soon. Amphibians really do put all of their eggs in one basket, and they may not have another chance to breed until next spring.

Climate change alters every single system on the planet, and while we have all enjoyed lovely weather and flowers blooming a month early, it is wreaking havoc on the rest of the world around us. Not only do we have to do much more to protect sensitive vernal pool habitats and the threatened and conservation priority species that inhabit them, we have to now cope with a changing world that is throwing everything off. A year here or there may not manner in the grand scheme of things, but incredible weather and climate events are becoming the norm here, and that is a very dire scenario. Nevertheless, we left happy knowing that Trout Brook Valley possesses a fair number of very important salamander species and can really be a significant breeding area for a variety of amphibians and reptiles. We will be checking back on these pools very soon and keep you apprised of what happens to them and the life they hold.

Scott Kruitbosch
Conservation Technician
All photos © Scott Kruitbosch and Twan Leenders and not to be reproduced without explicit permission

No comments:

Post a Comment