Friday, March 1, 2013

Spring Ahead

The endangered Jefferson salamander is about to make its move.
Some see the recent flocking of robins as the first sign of spring's inevitable arrival. 

Others say its the crocuses.

Me? I go in for defrosting wood frogs.

Seeing as there is no greater love if irony than nature, one of the first signs of spring is the quickening of the coldest blood -- that of amphibians.

And our region's resident lover of amphibians is North Coventry resident Kim White.

Yes, wood frogs literally freeze over the winter,

and then revive with warmer temperatures. 
How cool is that? Very.
She not only keeps track of the migratory salamanders, wood frogs and endangered Jefferson salamanders that literally live in her back yard, she also organizes her neighbors to ensure they don't become a punch line when its time for them to cross the road.

(I mention wood frogs because they literally freeze over the winter, sort of a hibernation-plus, and then defrost good as new and head off to spawn in the vrnal pools that dot the area of North Coventry this particular batch calls home.)

And so, earlier than has ever happened in recent memory (it gets earlier every year it seems) it's that time.

Below is a letter White sends out to frog friends (and salamanders too) when the first batch was spotted:
2009 Photo by John Strickler

Kim White, right, instructs volunteers during a migration
Looks like a very early start for the 2013 amphibian migration. On January 31st during a we heavy rain, our neighbors and fellow amphibian friends reported seeing 5 wood frogs, 1 spotted salamander, and 1 jefferson salamander. This is a super early start. I had heard the earliest in our area was February 12th. The usual time is the end of February through the month of March. Nothing has moved since, but just in case we get some more warm rainy spells, I thought we should prepare.

Whenever the conditions are right we may see movement. Here are the conditions that must be met:
1. Raining or very damp

2. Temperatures above freezing

3. Dark
2009 Photo by John Strickler

A salamander in the bucket is worth two on the road.
The Amphibian Friends have had six successful migrations with the support of North Coventry Township and their officials. The safety of our volunteers is of utmost importance. Any children must have very close parental supervision and stay on Wells Road, which the township allows us to shut down so the children can watch and add buckets loaded with amphibians to the vernal pool.

Guidelines for Volunteers

- Please come dressed for the weather. Bring a flashlight (head lamps seem to be a favorite so that hands are free), rain gear, and a non-metallic bucket. Safety vests will be given at check-in.

- (Blogger's Note: I have removed references to the location of the migration as White likes to keep its location known primarily to the people who volunteer and mean to help the critters, not hurt them. If you would like to volunteer, White's phone number and e-mail address are below.)

- Check in with the blue Highlander at the top of XX Rd. and XX Rd. before heading out onto XX Rd. You will be given instructions and a vest.
2009 Photo by John Strickler
 - Volunteers will position themselves on a segment of XX Rd. and watch that section. If a vehicle approaches, you will pick up any amphibians that are in danger and help them cross the road in the direction that they were heading. Bare hands are best so it doesn’t interfere with the protective coating on the amphibian skins.
- Try to keep a rough tally of what kind of amphibians you see, how many you see, and which way they are crossing. When you are finished volunteering for the night, please let us know what your tally was. To help plan out your volunteer time, the migration usually begins at dusk and the traffic slows by 9 or 10 depending on whether it is a weekend or weekday.
If you received this email, you are on the email alert list. This means I will send out an email to let you know if I think the weather conditions are optimal for a migration. If you are still in doubt whether to come out, call my home number or cell. I can give you up to the minute updates.

Thank you,

Kim White

Coordinator of Volunteers

My contact information is:

Phones: h: 610-469-1712; cell: 610-247-0686; alt. (Jim’s cell) 610-256-9439. (Her e-mail is
Cell service is sketchy in our area. If you can’t get a hold of us and conditions seem to all be met, just come on out.

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