Tuesday, April 12, 2011

April Amphibians

It's mid april here in the Wolverine state and this past weekend finally brought some decent weather conditions since we last had herp activity in late march. Friday night brought some much needed rain to southeast Michigan, and I headed out in the field to check some vernal pools for salamander activity. My outing gave me the chance to test my new Fenix HP10 headlmap out in the field. The HP10 is the brightest headlamp available that runs on AA batteries, with four settings ranging from 7-225 lumens. It is waterproof up to 50 fifty feet underwater and is virtually indestructible. My new equipment paid off quickly, as we spotted the first of many Spotted Salamanders swimming about in the vernal pool.

Spotted Salamander - Ambystoma maculatum

I observed a few egg masses in the pool itself and although a few males were seen, most of the salamanders seen in the vernal pool were large gravid females. It's been an odd spring here in Michigan, with some major temperature extremes that have really segmented salamander migrations and for the first time in a few years I wasn't able to observe a good migration. But even so, I was still able to see several more salamanders & newts in the pool. Several spring peepers were observed in the immediate area as well.

Spotted Salamander - Ambystoma maculatum

 Spring Peeper - Pseudacris crucifer

And then today, I had the chance to head down to Montcalm County from CMU with my buddy Bryson Church in hopes of turning up some Blue Racers. It ended up being cool and cloudy, and no racers made an appearance. But while in the field, we followed the sounds of a chorus of Wood Frogs to this nice vernal pool nearby. There was an abundance of sphagnum moss and I mentioned that it looked like pretty decent habitat for Four-toed Salamanders.

I decided to wade out in the the pool, and pull back some of the sphagnum moss on the fallen tree in the center of the photo above. What I found was well worth the outing today, a gravid female Four-toed Salamander.

Four-toed Salamander - Hemidactylium scutatum

That's all for now. Until then, happy herping!


  1. We didn't get out there as I had hoped to. I keep waiting for a night when it's raining at 9 or 10 so the kids don't have to stay up too late. I've probably missed the window and will have to attempt again next year. Our Spring Break was pretty successful anyway, although we didn't get to the Metroparks as you had suggested. We saw Spotted, Blandings, and Painted Turtles. Heard four species of frogs and saw two. Saw a toad. Saw all three species of Garter snakes.