PLAYING IN THE POOL

Playing in a vernal pool, that is.  As the weather began to warm up a bit at the end of April it was time for me to check on one of the vernal pools on my property.  This pool had been severely damaged by the construction of a snowmobile trail and I had hopes of discovering whether or not any amphibians were using it.  Getting in there was difficult as there was lots of snow left and it was getting soft.  That meant that I had to be very careful that I didn’t go through the top level and wrench my delicate knees.  The first night I took in my gear I saw Spotted Salamanders!

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I had been told about their “dance” which is when the males move around a female to entice her to breed.  Unfortunately this occured under some vegetation and no photographs were possible.

I had researched the ways of counting salamanders and the next evening I took in a minnow trap one  before it rained to see if I could get an idea of how many were breeding in the pool.

First thing the next morning I went back with my camera gear, spray bottle, large plastic container and my walking stick.  It was just a short distance but difficult for me with many loose rocks, broken branches and logs.  To my great surprise there were thirty-three Spotted Salamanders in the trap.  Also, I had caught a couple of large water beetles and a caddis fly larva in its case.  I put all but three salamanders back in the pond immediately and watched them quickly disappear under the vegetation.

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I sprayed a nearby mossy log with water, sprayed my hands with water to make sure I didn’t damage their skin.  Carefully, I placed one of the salamanders I had retained on the moss.  I was able to get a few photographs before putting all three back into the pond. Once again they were sprayed with the pond water before their release.

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Note the snow in the background as salamanders begin to move from the surrounding forest into the vernal pools with the first warm rains.

After several more night visits I had photographed a few of the other creatures found in the pool and those are for another time.

This was quite an exciting and memorable experience!  Now that I know that there are many Spotted Salamanders using the pool I will not attempt to trap any again and plan on using the egg mass count method to judge the health of the breeding salamanders. They are really quite handsome creatures!

All the images in this and all my posts are the property of the photographer, Eleanor Kee Wellman, and may not be used for any purpose without written permission.