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.
While it has not attracted much attention yet, Preserve Associates has hired some biologists to conduct an amphibian study this spring to determine the presence of amphibians on some, but by no means all, of the lands proposed for subdivision and development at the permitted Adirondack Club and Resort (ACR) site in Tupper Lake.
According to APA correspondence, this survey is taking place or has recently taken place within 800 feet of all wetlands on seven of the small eastern great camp lots, and along Lake Simond Road Extension and the proposed but not yet developed Bypass Road. » Continue Reading.
Silence still prevails along the shores of marshes clad in alders, willows, dogwoods and wild raisins, but this will change shortly. The warmth forecast for the coming week should be sufficient to finally melt any remaining patches of snow and ice still on the edge of open wetlands. Additionally, the appearance of the sun and a period of mild showers should help eliminate the remnants of frost in the upper parts of the soil.
As the ground loses its winter characteristics, the spring peeper is quick to awaken from its winter dormancy, crawl from its shallow, subterranean shelter along with countless numbers of fellow peepers, and travel to a nearby marshy setting. Once it arrives at the water’s edge, this amphibian loudly announces its presence and willingness to breed. » Continue Reading.
Wander into a wood with your ears open in early spring and you are likely to quizzically turn your head to try and locate an indistinct sound, far off but not too far off, remarkable but subtle, an undertone of – castanets? That’s how we described the sound 29 years ago when as new homeowners we explored our forest and discovered the breeding quacks of the wood frog.
I learned by wandering that wood frogs bred in the hundreds, not just in that one forest pond (a vernal pool), but in several others hundreds of yards apart – but not in every pool, just in some. Twenty-nine years later, they continue to breed just in those same pools between March 15 (the earliest date I’ve recorded their sounds) and April 15 (the latest), depending on temperature. » Continue Reading.
Before winter sets in, all reptiles and amphibians must retreat to a location that provides shelter against the temperatures that would be lethal to their cold-blooded system. While some find refuge underground, others rely on the protection afforded by water and seek out a place on the bottom of an aquatic setting in which ice is unlikely to develop, even during periods of intense cold.
All turtles that live in the Adirondacks belong to this second group, including the wood turtle, a seldom encountered species that exists in limited numbers in scattered locations, especially in the eastern half of the Park.
» Continue Reading.
Animals display a dazzling variety of colors, particularly in the tropics. But even here in northern New England where wildlife diversity is comparatively limited, we enjoy a rich palette of colors and patterns. The majority of colors are produced by pigments–particles of color chemicals found within specialized cells. These include melanins, which are found in nearly all organisms and produce the earthy tones common to many animals (including humans), and carotenoids, which produce colors primarily in the red to yellow end of the spectrum (think northern cardinal and American goldfinch).
What’s surprising, however, is that pigments that produce blue coloration are all but unknown in the animal kingdom, even though we have plenty of blue-colored animals, particularly among birds, butterflies, and fish. So if it’s not pigments, what makes an animal blue? » Continue Reading.
The rainy weather that has persisted over the past month has returned the water in our rivers, lakes, and ponds to levels typical for this time of year, rejuvenated the trees and shrubs in our forests and the grass and weeds in our lawns.
It has also restored the moist soil environment necessary for the continued activity of numerous invertebrates, terrestrial amphibians, and other creatures that reside on the ground and in the dirt. Despite several frosts and the record cold this past Friday night that temporarily froze the surface of the soil, many of the organisms that exist in the ground remain active well into the autumn.
» Continue Reading.
On calm, mild evenings in autumn, such as those that occurred last Wednesday and Thursday, a familiar sound may be heard coming from a stand of trees close to an alder thicket or a woodland swamp. A crisp, one-note “peep” infrequently breaks the silence in these wooded settings at night and during the day when the air is unseasonably warm and moist.
This distinct call can perplex anyone who has visited a wetland in spring. Can it possibly be a spring peeper, known for producing the seasonal chorus of natural music after the soil thaws in April? Following a summer of silence, the male spring peeper redevelops an urge to announce its presence, this time in the area in which it may have spent the past several months.
» Continue Reading.
My garden is a joke. I tried, but the spot is just not very good. Too little light and mediocre soil make a great combination for disappointment. The peas are doing alright, and the lettuce is coming along, but the basil and carrots are struggling. Even my tomatoes are pathetic.
It’s a small raised bed made with flat stones. I didn’t do any real prep to the spot though. There was a rotten tree trunk in the middle and I pulled that out and added a little top soil, but not nearly enough. I weeded and turned the soil. I should have added more soil and some composted manure to help. What the garden really needs is to have a few trees cut down. » Continue Reading.
Spring is a season when the greatest abundance of natural sounds echo across the landscape. During the day, birds are primarily responsible for the variety of musical calls; however as darkness approaches, especially when the weather is mild, the voices of amphibians produce our most captivating sounds.
Around the alder-laden shores of ponds, marshes and rivers, choruses of tiny spring peepers regularly drown out the songs sung by all other creatures. During the latter part of May, after dusk, toads can be seen heading to similar shallow wooded waterways to engage in their nocturnal serenade. » Continue Reading.
The recent series of rain events that has occurred over the past several weeks has elevated the level of streams and rivers, reduced the threat of wildfires, and brought trail conditions back to a more typical spring muddy state.
This wet period has also helped greatly in rejuvenating vernal pools that are critical breeding areas and nurseries for many forest dwelling amphibians and has created the damp soil conditions essential to these wet-skinned animals. Among these moisture loving vertebrates that commonly occurs in stands of mature forests throughout the Adirondacks is a sizeable dark colored creature known as the spotted salamander. » Continue Reading.