Salamander Blog & Updates

Salamander migration 2016, update #7

After two false starts, last night the migration finally started! We had quite a few families and kids come out and hopefully everyone got to see a Spotted salamander and some frogs safely crossing Beekman. This was a small migration night comprised only of early male Spotted salamanders, Wood frogs and Spring peepers (they head to the vernal pools first) which is typical of the first rains with temps above 45 or so. More males and females and other species will break hibernation and head to the vernal pools on subsequent warm(ish) rainfall nights. It looks like a dry stretch for a while which is good because we really need to get some sleep. We will keep everyone apprised as the weather forecast develops. We'd also like to give a huge shout out to our amazing Administration and Police Department for their incredible support of our efforts!

For anyone interested, here is a little information about the migration and our efforts: We've been closing Beekman Road for 13 years to protect migrating Spotted salamanders and frogs as they head to the vernal pools to breed. Before we began this program it was wholesale slaughter as they tried to cross the road. This is the last population of Spotted's in town and they've become local celebrities. Our efforts have significantly increased the population of Spotted salamanders and we see more and more each year. With the incredibly warm temps and the heavy rain, last night was the first night of the migration. It often comes in waves with small movements on the first warmish rain and bigger ones on the next few rainy nights. We invite the public out to watch the migration. Our work has also allowed Wood frogs to recolonize our pools after being extirpated by cars. For the first 10 years we didn't see any but we started seeing a few 3 years ago and now we have a nice breeding population again! We have also had amazing media coverage from the NY Times, CBS 880 radio and so many more. Hopefully this coverage has raised awareness about the plight of migrating amphibians and the importance of protecting vernal pools.


Spotted salamander crossing Beekman Road on the his way to the vernal pool, 24 February, 2016


A wood frog enjoying a swim in the vernal pool, 24 February, 2016

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Salamander migration 2016, update #6

Beekman Road will be closed tonight. Rain is expected to continue all day and throughout the night. Temperatures at noon are in the mid-40's and are continuing to rise. A forecasted shift in the wind to the southwest is predicted to lift them into the mid to upper 50's by dark. In past years these conditions have corresponded with salamander and frogs leaving hibernation and moving to the vernal pools. The rollercoaster weather this year has made predicting the migration more uncertain than in some previous years but we think conditions look pretty good for tonight. Of course, someone should definitely tell the spotted salamanders and frogs so we aren't alone out on Beekman tonight. Please be sure to read our safety warnings and the requirements for observing the migration. We are deeply concerned about human and amphibian safety. 

If you are planning on coming to Beekman Road tonight we are urging everyone to keep an eye on the weather. We just checked the weather maps and there is a chance of strong storms with damaging winds and lightning associated with a front. If these conditions are imminent, please leave the road. Don't venture out onto the road either if there is severe weather. We don't want anyone hurt by falling tree limbs or other weather-related conditions.



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Salamander Migration 2016, Update #5

The forecast today is complicated by a number of factors. Rain is going to overspread our area by the afternoon and continue all night. Temperatures today will be right around the minimum threshold for amphibian migration (around 40-41 degrees) but they are also forecast to rise throughout the night. Given this combination of rain and temps, it is likely a good idea to close the road tonight. If the temps are a bit lower than forecast, there might not be any movement but if they are a degree or few higher, early males might move. We've seen it both ways over the past decade. We will continue monitoring the weather forecast and will post another update to let you know if the road will be closed today.

As for tomorrow - that will be a no-brainer. Temps are going to be around 50 and there will be rain all day and all night. In years past, we've seen big movements under these conditions right around this date.

The migration is typically a series of movements or waves to the pools with Spotted salamander males making the trek first and females and juveniles moving on subsequent rainfall events. Predicting what will happen is very stressful but also quite rewarding when we get it right and know that we are protecting the last remaining population of Spotted salamanders and Wood frogs in all of East Brunswick (and that the Spotteds can live upwards of 30 years!).



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Salamander Migration 2016, Update #3

The warmer temperatures have been steadily melting the ice on the vernal pools. The Friends are constantly monitoring field conditions and the weather forecast in our attempt to predict the annual Spotted Salamander and frog migration to our vernal pools. The forecast for early this week features temperatures in the 40's and an even warmer day on Wednesday with steady (and possibly heavy) rain all day and into the night. If that pans out, we will definitely close the road. Similar conditions around this date in previous years have had big salamander and frog movements. So stay tuned and be sure to join the Friends (it's free) so you'll have the most timely information about the migration and all of our other cool programs and events.


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Salamander Migration 2016, Update #4

After surveying the vernal pools and surrounding woods yesterday, the Friends made a very difficult decision last night not to close Beekman Road. It was based on a combination of factors including the field conditions and the weather forecast. When we were at the pools yesterday, the ground seemed quite cold beneath logs and there was still a fair amount of ice on the pools. We knew the forecast had some rain for a short period in the evening so we kept checking various weather outlets all day to better understand the timing. Although the day was quite warm the rain was forecast to be very light and wasn't expected to begin until after dark. So we began to panic when the first sprinkles began when it was still light and picked up in intensity with each passing hour. By 8:30 there was a steady drizzle and temperatures were still in the mid-40's so we checked the road to see if anything had decided to move. Fortunately, since the road wasn't closed, we didn't find anything expect one Spring Peeper. We carefully moved it off the road and after driving the road a few more times decided that the salamanders were still safely underground waiting on a more intense rainfall to migrate. We are very carefully monitoring conditions for tomorrow and Wednesday when warm temperatures and heavy rain may coincide. Stay tuned, things can happen very fast at this time of year.


Here is a photo of the lone Spring Peeper that was apparently testing the migration waters last night.


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