Your favorite snake is back this month to highlight a cool activity that my coworkers complete every spring! In case you haven’t picked up on it yet, amphibians are very important to our park. Students get to visit the Frog Pond during field trips, programs like nature walks explore their diversity and unique adaptations, and my friend Tommy the Toad even helps with outreach events. Because of this, my coworkers pay very close attention to all of the different frogs, toads, salamanders, and newts that live in the park.
Each March and April, we conduct amphibian surveys to identify the species that are breeding in the park and document how many individuals are present. Our last spring amphibian survey was conducted two weeks ago on a night with lots of Eastern American Toad breeding. Surveys have to happen at night because it is easiest to count amphibians when they are most active!
During surveys, we check in at different spots where frogs and toads are known to breed. These could be wetlands, ponds, and even small vernal pools that are wet in the spring and dry out over the summer. At each location, we listen to the different calls/songs to see which species are present. Wood Frogs sound a little bit like ducks, Spring Peepers say “meep,” Eastern American Toads have a long musical trill, and Pickerel Frogs sound like they are snoring! Check out this video to hear some frogs and toads in the park.
We also use a spotlight to try to count the number of frogs and toads present. During the last survey, we counted over 120 individual toads in various parts of the park. Surprisingly, we discovered that they were using a new breeding location this year – a small pool of water in the drained lower trout pond! In addition to the toads, we heard at least 5 different Pickerel Frogs, saw a bunch of Bull Frogs and Green Frogs, and found 1 very loud and determined Spring Peeper.
With the data collected during this survey, my coworkers are able to identify locations in the park that are important for amphibians. This helps us know how to manage those spots. Do we need to delay mowing around a certain trail to protect traveling toads? Can we plant some trees to provide additional cover for a vernal pool in a sunny spot? Do we need to do some invasive plant management around a heavily-used wetland? The more information we have, the better we are able to protect our favorite amphibian species!
Thanks for reading my blog, friends. I’m going back to hide under my log now – I am not a nocturnal snake, and all of these late nights of frog and toad counting have been messing with my beauty sleep!