Toward the end of February and the first few days of March, we had some mild weather with the temperature approaching 60° in some areas. Ice was completely gone or well on its way to being gone …
Toward the end of February and the first few days of March, we had some mild weather with the temperature approaching 60° in some areas. Ice was completely gone or well on its way to being gone on most waterways, and I did a little hunting with eyes and ears for early frogs and salamanders.
I didn’t hear any frogs in the vernal ponds near me, although I did hear some spring peepers at Liberty Marsh at Wallkill River National Wildlife Refuge. My friend, who works at High Point State Park in Sussex County, NJ, found a pond in the park that had Jefferson salamanders as well as egg masses in a pond in the park; that was a good find.
Locally, the vernal ponds I checked out had lots of red-spotted newts (Notophthalmus viridescens). This newt is commonly found now in small ponds as it prepares for spring breeding season.
This species of newt is the most commonly spotted newt in the area. In their juvenile stage, red-spotted newts are terrestrial, and it is this stage when they are most easily spotted as they are bright orange. They are terrestrial for at least two years. The newts I saw in the pond are aquatic-stage adults. All the bright-orange juveniles that survive their terrestrial foray will return to an aquatic environment and develop a tail fin and a dark green to olive-color phase.
As I write this, a near blizzard is coming tomorrow, so it might be a few days before any newt or herp hunting takes place. When nature lets loose of the last bit of winter and the days get a little milder, you can visit a small vernal pond or wetland and see and listen to newts and hear the spring peepers and the quacking of wood frogs; behold the early sights (and sounds) of spring.