Early autumn is the time fog frequently shrouds valleys in the morning, and a heavy dew regularly coats unprotected surfaces for several hours after sunrise. As the atmosphere begins to cool with the change in seasons, moist conditions often develop at night and can continue well after dawn. This is ideal for our various terrestrial amphibians, which require damp surroundings for their survival. Among the members of these moisture sensitive vertebrates is the red-spotted newt, a unique form of salamander that goes on the move as the foliage changes color. » Continue Reading.
Posts Tagged ‘Reptiles – Amphibians’
The unseasonably cool and overcast weather pattern that has prevailed over the Adirondacks for the past several months has impacted many forms of wildlife, especially the cold-blooded creatures that are early to awaken from their winter dormancy. Among the organisms that return to an active state as soon as the surroundings thaw are two common and highly vocal amphibians that spend winter embedded in the upper layer of soil, or beneath a pile of rotting, organic debris on the forest floor.
Within a few days of the frost melting from the ground around them, both the wood frog and spring peeper experience biochemical changes throughout their body that reactivate the tissues and organs that became dormant for winter. As soon as their muscles are functioning again, these small vertebrates pull themselves from the covering that engulfed them since last autumn and begin their journey to the vernal pools and shallow woody wetlands that serve as their breeding grounds. » Continue Reading.
Migration is the seasonal movement of an animal population in response to changing environmental conditions. While birds are best known for employing this survival strategy to cope with winter, many other forms of wildlife also engage in some form of relocation during autumn to deal with prolonged bouts of cold and an absence of food. Among the migratory reptiles in the Adirondacks is an abundant and widespread snake familiar to anyone that spends time outdoors – the garter snake.
As daylight wanes and the temperatures cool, garter snakes begin to travel to various sites that afford protection from the intense cold that settles over our mountainous region in winter. Typically, garter snakes rely on specific crevices that extend deep into a rocky outcropping situated on a south-facing slope. Also, garter snakes are known to utilize selected abandoned woodchuck, fox or skunk dens that exist deep enough into a hillside to get near or below the frost line. » Continue Reading.
Since as far back as I can remember, the sight of a group of turtles basking on a log has made me pause to enjoy their prehistoric appearance. Most summer days during my early childhood were spent wading in neighborhood ponds to stalk painted turtles and spotted turtles with a long-handled net, while avoiding the larger snapping turtles that were lurking beneath the surface. Stumbling upon an eastern box turtle or a musk turtle, something that has happened far too infrequently, was often the natural history highlight of my year.
This summer, I had what may be my best turtle day ever when I stopped my car to help a turtle cross the road. It turned out to be a rare wood turtle, the first I had ever seen, and an animal that is unmistakable for its striking appearance. » Continue Reading.
The damp weather pattern over the Adirondacks since mid-May, while being a challenge to some creatures, has been most favorable to many others. Among those forms of wildlife that benefit from a moist atmosphere and frequent bouts of rain are the numerous terrestrial amphibians that occur in shady locations across the region.
While the Adirondacks is home to over a dozen species of these moisture-loving entities, the largest and most frequently encountered is the American Toad, a chubby and slow moving animal that is among the most recognizable members of our wildlife community. » Continue Reading.
I just got back from the neighbor’s house, where we had a couple of beers by the fire. Even though I tend to have a beer by the fire whenever it’s not raining, it is nice to share the fire with friends.
On top of the pleasant evening, it is actually starting to feel like summer. We’ve had almost three whole days without rain. I am really excited. » Continue Reading.
Let’s start out with a riddle: What animal has 16 toes and a tail that breaks off when grabbed by a predator? Not sure? Here’s another clue: It’s the smallest terrestrial vertebrate in our area. If you didn’t guess four-toed salamander, don’t feel bad—it’s probably also the least-known salamander in the North Country.
The four-toed salamander (Hemidactylium scutatum) holds a number of dubious distinctions. Besides its diminutive size (a typical adult may only reach 2-3 inches in length), it is also the only terrestrial salamander with four toes on all four feet. With the exception of the aquatic mudpuppy (which happens to be our largest salamander), all other salamanders have five toes on their hind feet. Four-toeds also have specialized breeding habitat requirements, which probably accounts for their limited distributions in our region. Combine that with their small size and cryptic behavior, and you have a recipe for an animal that very few people have ever heard of, let alone encountered. » Continue Reading.
In the natural world predation is relentless, and evading predators strongly favors the evolution of camouflage colors in animals. How contradictory then, for small, defenseless creatures – like red efts and monarch butterflies – to be sporting a bright shade of orange. But there is more to their cheerful color than meets the eye. Both the eft and the monarch are poisonous.
Once a predator has tasted one, it soon gets sick, and from that experience learns not to eat another. Thus an individual eft or butterfly may sacrifice itself, but the education of predators benefits the species as a whole. And, in fact, efts and monarchs often survive predator attacks. Toads and snakes that swallow red efts have been observed to vomit up the prey unharmed in about half an hour. Birds that attack monarch butterflies often go for the brightly colored wings, the most toxic part of the insect. One peck may be all it takes to deter the bird. » Continue Reading.
I don’t usually think about snakes, but I’ve had a few run-ins in the last couple of days, and I haven’t really had a choice but to think about them. Now, I’m not one of those people who screams like a little girl when he sees a snake (anymore), and when I do happen to think about them, it’s usually because a garter snake is slithering away out in the driveway or curled up on one of the rocks out in the yard.
The other morning, I stepped out of the front door and was handed a small garter snake. My friend had picked the ten inch snake up right outside the door. We each let him run through our hands and then dropped him back into the grass. Now, I know it’s bad to handle wild animals, but it’s nice to feel the soft motion of the snake on your hands. It’s also a reminder that these guys aren’t out to do us any harm, and just want to eat the bugs around the garden. » Continue Reading.
The “peeper season” is in full swing now, and with much needed rain in the Adirondacks, they are loving it! Depending on who you talk to, the sounds of these little frogs are music to the ears or a complete annoyance. I fall on the side of music to the ears, and wouldn’t have it any other way! After a long Winter, these beautiful little amphibians are a welcomed sound! I captured this image of a gray tree frog with my Canon Powershot SX 110 IS, 6mm focal length, 1/60 sec. at f/2.8, ISO 80.