Monday, January 9, 2012

It aint over 'til its over!

November usually signals the end of herp season here in Michigan, as temps begin to dip below freezing and everything retreats below ground. In fact, the latest I've seen any sort of herp active in Michigan is mid-November. So herp activity in mid-December is completely out of the question right? On the evening of December 14th I got my answer. Temps had been relatively warm for a few days in a row (mid 40s for highs during the day) and there was a large system moving through the Midwest. The system moved right through Michigan and heavy downpours occurred the entire day of the 14th and continued into the night. The high pressure system brought moisture and also higher temperatures as the night went on, my car read 52 degrees Fahrenheit at 10:00 PM amid a heavy downpour. Conditions were perfect, so I loaded up my gear and headed out with my friend Chris to see if we could turn up any confused amphibians. We checked a few vernal pools which still had plenty of ice, so we both decided that driving roads was our best chance to intercept amphibians. Around 9:15 we had our first customer.

Gray Treefrog - Hyla versicolor

This was a good sized adult and I was a bit surprised to see this species out. I figured if anything it would have been the smaller frogs like Spring Peepers or Chorus Frogs which would be out, but I was wrong. He was quite alert, but noticeably more sluggish than usual. After a few quick shots, we parted ways. Encouraged by our success, we were elated when we saw several more treefrogs in the next half hour. In the distance, we could hear a few lone Spring Peepers calling and eventually came up on one on the road.

Spring Peeper - Pseudacris crucifer

It was clear that the frogs were out, but we were hoping we could luck into a salamander on the move as well. We were in an area which has Tiger Salamanders as well as Blue-spotted Unisexual blobs. At just after 11 PM, Chris spied this little fella on the crawl.

Unisexual Hybrid Salamander - Ambystoma sp.

It was awesome to see amphibians active this late in the year and I can't think of anytime I've seen or heard of amphibians being active in Michigan in mid-December. This is only further evidence of global climate change, causing an increase in irregular weather patterns at varying times of the year. So in this case, I owe a pat on the back to climate change.

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