I decided to go on the Rotary trail that extends from Peterborough up to Lakefield. It’s a good hike that I try to do at least once a year. Before I even started I managed to find my first Common Snapping Turtle of the year. The weather was unusually warm compared to previous days and it brought out a large amount of Eastern Garter Snakes which could be found along the trail. I soon came across my first Midland Painted Turtles of the year though I’m positive there will be more. Once at lakefield I headed to some of the sewage ponds as they often attract migrating birds. Among the Buffleheads and Hooded Mergansers, I also managed to find a pair of Common Looms which seemed curious about my presence and cane right up to me. I could not stay long as I still had a few hours of walking ahead of me and did not wish to walk after nightfall. Heading back I managed to capture of photo of the Belted Kingfisher along with a North American Porcupine sleeping in a tree.
Tonight; Jordan, Baz and I went to the Peterborough Field Naturalist’s Annual Night of Salamanders and Frogs. This event happens every year where a bunch of members come out (over 30 today!) and learn about some of Ontario’s underappreciated amphibians. I managed to find the first Eastern Red-Backed Salamander and soon many more were found along with some Blie-Spotted Salamanders. We were hoping to see a Four-Toed Salamander but sadly none were out tonight. We did, however, get to see the egg masses of Yellow-Sptted Salamanders which bred prior to our arrival. The pond the eggs were found in also had spermetaphores, a sign that salamanders were breeding. Many Eastern Red-Backed Salamanders later some of the group heard a Barred Owl Call in the distance. Overall I’d say it was a fun experience to educate people on the different species of salamander in the area although for the more vetrened herper, small groups are the way to go so not to feel rushed and to avoid trampled cover. On the way back, Jordan and I managed to do some road cruising where we found two Blue-Spotted Salamanders, a Spring Peeper, a DOR Northern Leopard Frog and a DOR Banana.
Getting to campus I headed over to the snake hibernaculums to see if anything was out. The sun was setting and it was last peak snake hours, regardless I managed to flip an Eastern Garter Snake under my lucky rock. Under this rock I have always found a snake when snakes are out and so I have dubbed it my lucky rock. Heading back I ran into Ruchi and headed out for frogs. The frog pond was filled with the calls of Spring Peepers and Wood Frogs and although they are tempting to catch I had my heart set on the Western Chorus Frog, the only calling frog out that I had not yet photographed this year. Sure enough in only a few minutes I found a lone male calling in the open. I quickly scooped him in my net and got some photos before safely returning him to the exact spot I found him. It looked as though he had a cut on his throat although I am now lead to believe that this is in fact Rana Virus. We went to another pond and soon saw some Northern Greeb Frog Tadpoles and two Blue-Spotted Salamanders, the first one was close to shore so I scooped him up in my net for photos. He was a male which is rare as it means he is a pure form rather than a Unisexual Mole Salamander which make up 90% of the population in the area. The second was also in the water although far enough out that I couldn’t reach. After the ponds we managed to find another Northern Leopard Frog and a Blue-Spotted Salamander on a trail, this individual salamander was female making it hard to tell without DNA tests whether it is a pure form or not.
A pretty successful night of herping. Tonight I met up with Baz and Brenda and headed to the first pond of the night. The pond was alive with the calls of frogs and Insoon came across a large Northern Leopard Frog calling away. Not a metre away was a Wood Frog, larger then the previous night, also calling. My heart was set on finding, catching and photographing a Western Chorus Frog so I waited for the calls. Sadly it knew I was there and was reluctant to call. I focused my attention on a nearby Northern Spring Peeper which was singing away not far from me. I got some in hand shots and Brenda was happy to see both her first Wood Frog and Spring Peeper. The Western Chorus Frog started up again so I headed over and waited. I managed to see it but in my excitement I went to grab it before getting a photo and the little bugger got away. I’ll have to try a different night. Coming out of the pond and towards the road I managed to find my first Eastern American Toad of the year before we headed to the next pond. The next pond was also filled with calls but mainly of Northern Spring Peepers as Wood Frogs and Northern Leopards don’t tend to breed here. We managed to find some more Northern Spring Peepers in the pond and got some insitu photos of them. As we walked around the perimeter of the ponds, Baz saw a Blue-Spotted Salamander swimming, I caught it in my dip bet and we photographed it before release. We managed to find two more Blue-Spotted Salamanders, one of which was a male which is exciting seeing as they only make up 10% of the population in this area. Heading back to the buildings we found some Northern Leopard Frogs on the road and a Blue-Spotted Salamander right by the doors of Otonabee college. We watched as it scampered into a hole in the wall never to be seen again. Baz and I predict there is a population living under the Buildings of Trent University.
After my last exam I met up with Baz and Jordan to see if any snakes were out by the hibernaculums. While there was nothing under the rocks we did manage to see one Eastern Garter Snake slithering in the underbrush. This was the first Ontario reptile of the year! We then went for a walk around the Trent Wildlife Sanctuary and managed to find many different bird species such as a Northern Harrier which flew over, a Pine Warbler, a couple Eastern Blue Birds preparing their nests and by the silver maple swamp some woodpecker species and under some dead bark was a bunch of Springtails, also called Snow Fleas. As night approached we headed over to the ponds on Trent Campus for frogs. While we heard Western Chorus Frogs calling we were unable to find any but did find a little Northern Spring Peeper and a Woodfrog.
Before studying I figure I would quickly check the snake dens to see if anyone was out. Sadly we found no snakes but heading back we heard the calls of Western Chorus Frogs, Wood Frogs and Northern Leopard Frogs. We went in to the wetland to try and find the Wood Frog but the water was rather cold and we were ill prepared with only hiking boots at our disposal. We did however manage to find several of the Northern Leopard Frogs but only managed to catch one. Again we were ill prepared and I didn’t even have my camera as I showed up to campus foolishly thinking I would be studying.
After my exam I went out herping with Matt and Jordan to see what we could find around campus. Before even getting to one of the ponds we managed to find a Blue-Spotted Salamander crossing the parking lot. And not long after we found another in some tall grass. Circling the pond, we found another but it disappeared into the dark water of the pond before we could catch it. Coming back there was yet another close to where we had started just sitting there looking at us as if it had watched us walk by it and continued around the pond. We checked out some other ponds that Matt says he found Yellow-Spotted Salamander eggs but we were unsuccessful in our search as all we turned up was the distant call of a Woodcock. Pond number three still had some ice but we managed to find a minnow trap. Lifting the trap out of the water we found a massive Blue-Spotted Salamander likely full of eggs.
As night approached I headed out to a few of my salamander spots in the hopes of finding some Blue-Spotted Salamanders. At the first spot I checked, I managed to find one in the water, scooping him up in my dip net I got some photos of her on land. I tried to photograph her under water with my under water camera but had no luck. I walked around the perimeter of the pond with my flashlight in the hopes of finding more, while I did not find more salamanders at this pond I did manage to find a rather large Northern Leopard Frog that had some trouble swimming as it was bloated like a balloon. Calling in the distance was one lonely Spring Peeper, a good sign that they are beginning to come out in this area. I headed to the second pond of the night which was largely covered with ice but as I walked along the edge i noticed two Blue-Spotted Salamanders swimming together in the shallows. I thought this behavior was odd as Blue-Spotted Salamanders do not mate in this way and they were both females (likely complex). I scooped them up in my net, got some photos before safely releasing them in the same spot I found them in.
Last night I headed to campus to check to see if the Spring Peepers were calling and to write my contact info on some newly placed boards (university policy for cover boards). There were unfortunately no frogs calling although as I walked around the edge of a stormwater pond I saw what looked like a black eel swimming among the pond weeds. It stopped and its legs became apparent. I scoppped it up in my dip net and sure enough it was a beautiful Unisexual Mole Salamander, a memeber or a strange hybrid complex. This individual had only a few spots on its underbelly and was jet black otherwise. It’s tail was as long as the rest of the body and had some serrations suggesting something tried to predate it at some point. We placed it on a nearby chunk of snow to get our photos before releasing it back into the watery void. Jordan and I walked further around the ponds and cane across a clearing, free of reefs. Here, tadpoles were plentiful so I got some in hand shots to help identify later. The tadpoles were not out of the water long and safely returned after our photos were taken. One tadpole was more blueish in colour suggesting an axanthic colour mutation. While crossing a stream back I almost stepped on a large Blue-Spotted Salamdnder sitting in the grass. We got some photos of him in the parking lot as we would soon lose him in the grass and risk stepping on him. He was safely returned where we found him.
On Trent campus Jordan and I went to check some snake spots, after checking all of them we found no snakes but then headed to some ponds where I managed to find a few tadpoles. Later on I headed to one of my salamander spots and found nothing but did see a Common Look which makes for a new observation for campus.
I'm Mac Marzolini and I created this blog for a variety of reasons, the first of course is to open a window into what is happening in my life (cause my grandmother reads this), but also to help myself catalogue some of my favorite photos from my many adventures.