|In case you were wondering, this is what a spotted salamander looks like. How could you not want to help a little guy like this get to his hot date at the vernal pool?|
Of course, in Vermont, the weather is always tricky, so in fact, I joined them twice. The first night, April 22, started out as significantly warmer than the days that had preceded it, and the forecast was for rain. Jon and I joined our friend Caitlin (and a host of people ranging from parents with little children excited to be staying up past their bed time to a group of three older women with walkers who told us they come every year) on Pond Road near Shelburne Pond and began our patrolling. Alas, very quickly the cold rain turned into hail and snow. Some amphibians had made the same mistake we had, though, and put their bet on the wrong night, so we spent an hour or so walking up and down our stretch of road and moving some little guys across the road and out of harm's way.
|Jon and Caitlin braving the cold and hail and snow to hang out with our amphibian friends.|
The next night, though was the real thing. A much warmer rain was following, and so we returned to our crossing, this time with our friends Amanda and Julia in tow. Jon was able to increase the rest of our amphibian knowledge and vocabulary, pointing out various types of salamanders and toads and their egg sacks, and increasing our vocabulary with words like "amplexus" (basically, foreplay for salamanders). We relocated teeny spring peepers, and larger (but still small) wood and leopard frogs, as well as spotted salamanders and red spotted newts.
|The tree frogs we gave escorts to were as cute as a button -- and not much bigger.|
Next year, the plan is to assemble a Salamander-Team-in-Waiting that will be on call for the big night so we can have dinner together and then head out for a few hours of crossing guard duty. Until then, I'm always on the lookout for my favorite amphibian, the adolescent version of the eastern newt, the red eft. Red efts live on land during their young adulthood, until they head back to the water and change to their adult form. They also have a charming habit of showing up during hikes and on approaches to rock climbing cliffs in Vermont, and I think a great day becomes a perfect one if it includes a red eft spotting.
The takeaway is this: if your age was in single digits the last time you hung out with frogs and salamanders, it's time to get outdoors. There's a whole hidden-in-plain-sight world of creatures (and people who know tons about them) all around us, and it's a really worthwhile endeavor to get plugged back into it.