Posts Tagged ‘amphibians’

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Frog Jumping and Ugly Ties: An Adirondack Father’s Day

2008615 Frogs #17My children have always embraced the nontraditional when it comes to gift giving. There have not been a lot of crazy ties or Old Spice that has crossed our door in anticipation of Father’s Day. Instead, my husband has endured his fair share of incompatible food tastings and inedible breakfast sandwiches. Like most fathers, he doesn’t really care what comes on the plate as long as he can spend time with his family.

According to the Town of Webb Publicity Director Mike Farmer, the Old Forge Frog Jumping and Ugly Tie Contest is about as nontraditional as one can get. For the past 44 years Old Forge has been the gathering spot for longest jumping frogs in the area. This event pits frog against frog in a series of categories like size, speed and longest jump.

“All frogs are safe and welcome here for Father’s Day,” says Farmer. “We make sure that the frogs have plenty of water and that they are released back into the wild. Annually over 30 frogs compete at the Old Forge Lakefront starting Sunday at noon. We run three heats of eight frogs each.” » Continue Reading.


Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Spring Music: Peepers, Wood Frogs, And Chorus Frogs

Spring PeeperEvery spring, Mother Nature takes the choir out of the freezer. And sometimes – this year for example – she pops them back in for a while. The choir to which I refer is that all-male horde of early-spring frogs: spring peepers, wood frogs, and chorus frogs. Even while an ice rind still clings to the pond edges, untold numbers of these guys roust themselves from torpor to sing for female attention.

While in our species it is mostly an inflated ego which causes males to become unusually loud attention-mongers when seeking mates, it is an inflated vocal sac which allows male frogs to be so noisy. This air-filled structure balloons out tight, acting as a resonance chamber to amplify sound. I don’t know how it is with all frog species, but the inflated vocal sac of a peeper is almost as big as it is. This contrasts with the human male, whose ego can sometimes swell to many times his body size. » Continue Reading.


Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Wetlands Politics: Justice Scalia’s “Transitory Puddles”

DSC_1373I feel a connection with the late Justice Antonin Scalia, albeit indirect. He had strengths, but an environmental and land ethic, because they were not enshrined in the U.S. Constitution, seemed irrelevant to the Justice. Just before he died, he joined the majority in putting a stay on the the Environmental Protection Agency’s clean power regulation and thus called into question American climate commitments made in Paris. But my story is local, not global.

Some years ago, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (ACOE) was involved in determining whether small, one-eighth acre, biologically active wetlands near our home that dry up in the summer, known as vernal pools, were worth protecting under the federal Clean Water Act’s Section 404 program. A developer wanted to build 18 homes – outside of the Adirondack Park – abutting ours that would directly impact the red maple swamp forest in which the pools lay. » Continue Reading.


Thursday, January 7, 2016

How A Warm Winter Impacts Local Wildlife

20160104_tdpt_decDuring a mild winter in our northern forests, there are those of us who cheer our lower heating bills and those who scan the forecast, hoping for cold and snow. In a classic El Niño year like this one, when we often get unseasonably mild weather well into February, there are winners and losers in the natural world, too.

El Niño refers to a natural warming of Pacific waters. This phenomenon occurs every three to seven years, when prevailing trade winds, which drive the direction and force of ocean currents, slow down. As a result, cold water from the depths doesn’t get mixed with surface water, the ocean’s surface temperature rises, and global weather patterns can be altered. This year’s strong El Niño is being complemented by a low pressure system in the far north – called the Arctic oscillation – that’s keeping polar air trapped around the North Pole. » Continue Reading.


Sunday, September 6, 2015

Snakes and Toads Provide Garden Pest Control

TOS_Toad_houseEncountering a snake in the garden causes many people to shriek or even panic. Yet snakes and another often unloved creature, the American toad, are among the most effective forms of pest control.

If you tolerate these herpetological visitors – or better yet, encourage their presence – you’ll be less likely to share your garden with ravenous bugs, or bottles of pesticide. » Continue Reading.


Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Climate Change is Altering Nature’s Clock

Salamander-Stager-600x383Scientist Curt Stager walks along the edge of the woods, his flashlight shining into the shallow water of a leafy, roadside pool on a dark night in Paul Smiths. It’s late April, and he’s out looking for spotted salamanders, wood frogs, and spring peepers that have migrated to shallow vernal pools to breed. After poking around for a minute, he lets out an excited shout: “There’s a salamander! There he is! He’s early!”

In the water is a dark, four-inch-long creature with bright yellow spots. In the same pool not far away, wood frogs float on the surface. In another week, pools like this will be a filled with breeding frogs and salamanders, which will leave behind egg sacks that hatch into larvae.

Spotted salamanders spend most of the year underground, so seeing them is rare except during these annual breeding migrations. Their journeys are triggered by the first rains of spring. » Continue Reading.


Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Some (Wildlife) Gluttons I Have Known

bass-shinertail-mouthThe recent annual Nathan’s Hot-Dog Eating Contest (really, it’s a sport?) reminded me of a few gluttons from my past – of the wildlife variety. The term is used loosely here to include some ambitious and/or instinctive eaters encountered during a lifetime of hiking and a lot of fishing in my younger days. Had cameras been pocket gadgets back then like they are today, some great illustrations would be accompanying this piece. At least a few would be of bullfrogs. » Continue Reading.


Friday, May 1, 2015

Vernal Pools: Hatch, Grow and Get Out

Vernal_poolsThree things happened this week: bluebirds and tree swallows returned, my road was graded, and the red maple buds popped. It’s time to search for vernal pools.

Vernal pools are small areas of wetland that form in the spring and dry up during the summer. Water collects in saucer-shaped depressions that have an impermeable layer of soil, leaves, or debris. Snowmelt and spring rains fill these puddles. Without an inlet to replenish the supply, summer’s sun and heat eventually evaporate the water, though a dense forest canopy helps delay the inevitable drying up. Some vernal pools may refill after a heavy rain, but the main characteristic is their temporary nature. » Continue Reading.


Saturday, April 18, 2015

Adirondack Painted Turtles In Spring

April24 089After a long slumber buried deep in the protective mud beneath Adirondack lakes, the painted turtle is awake. Chrysemys picta, the eastern painted turtle, is common to many of our ponds, lakes and wetlands, preferring areas with abundant aquatic plants, ample spots for sunbathing, and sunny places with sand for nests.

Painted turtles are named for their intricate shell pattern and very distinct yellow stripes on their heads. Reaching an average length of 5 to 6 inches, they can live for more than 40 years. Being omnivorous, they feed on insects, crustaceans, fish, plants and any other food (plant or animal) they can find. Like snapping turtles, painted turtles can live in a wide range of habitats. » Continue Reading.


Tuesday, March 3, 2015

How Wildlife Are Affected By Intense Cold

February 15 2015 Extreme ColdIntense cold is hard on all forms of wildlife, however, some of nature’s creatures are better adapted to deal with this type of adversity than others. Those animals whose geographic range extends well northward into Canada and Alaska have evolved various strategies to cope with prolonged bouts of sub-arctic weather and are quite capable of surviving the unrelenting cold that the Adirondacks has experienced this winter.

Conversely, some components of the Park’s fauna are on the northern fringe of their range and are better suited for functioning in a temperate region, such as southern New York and the mid-Atlantic States. These creatures are probably not faring well this season. » Continue Reading.


Monday, January 5, 2015

DEC Seeks Input on Threatened Species

Atlantic Sturgeon, Acipenser oxyrhynchus from artwork commissioned by the Fish and Wildlife Service in the 1970'sThe Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) is revising its list of Species of Greatest Conservation Need (SGCN), which includes species that are at risk in New York.  The list is now in it’s final draft form and DEC is seeking comments. » Continue Reading.


Wednesday, December 3, 2014

How Do Toads Avoid Croaking in Winter?

TOS_ToadOne warm fall day, while standing outside a lodge I manage, I noticed movement inside one of the window wells around the basement. Realizing that something noteworthy was about to happen, I ran inside to alert our guests.

Together we all crouched to watch the methodical shaking of the earth below us. Slowly the ground moved a little to the left, then to the right, then there was a pause, then left again, right again. Eventually something reached the surface. I reached my hand out and gently touched the rough, bumpy, and very well camouflaged back of an American toad. It continued to emerge, fully exposing its body. The guests and I started pondering all sorts of questions about toads and their habits, but the biggest question of all was: where do toads go in the winter? » Continue Reading.


Monday, September 29, 2014

Adirondack Salamanders: The Red-Spotted Newt

800px-Notophthalmus_viridescensPCCA20040816-3983AEarly 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.


Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Clams That Live In The Woods

TOS_clamsClambakes, fried clams, clam diggers, clam shacks ― we usually associate clams with the ocean. You may have also seen freshwater clams in rivers and lakes. But did you know there are clams that live in the woods?

In our region, there are several species of fingernail clam that inhabit vernal pools, the temporary woodland pools where frogs and salamanders lay their eggs in the spring. As temperatures warm and melting snow and rain fill depressions in the forest floor, these small clams, only the size and shape of a child’s fingernail, become active. » Continue Reading.


Monday, April 28, 2014

Adirondack Wildlife: Emerging From Dormancy

vernal pool at Huntington Wildlife ForestThe 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.



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