to the Herpers: Spring Amphibian Update

a note from Jim

Herpers, the warm weather of last weekend generated scores of reptile and amphibian reports. At our monitoring site in Lincoln (1,400 ft. in elevation in central Vermont), Wood Frog egg masses are mostly old and many have hatched, while Spotted Salamander egg-mass numbers seem to be near peak. However, I am getting reports of many Spotted Salamanders still in ponds at colder locations.

Here in the valley, yesterday’s high temperatures at or above 70°F motivated some American Toads to start calling. When the warm temperatures return we will hear them again. If you live anywhere near East Haven, Halifax, Pownal, Sandgate, or Vershire, please do try to get a photo of an American Toad in any of those towns. They are the only towns left in Vermont where we don’t have photo-documentation for that species. If you have friends or colleagues in any of those towns, please put them to work.

shows both Pickeral and Leopard frogs to show the differences between them. Photo courtesy Sue Morse.

A Pickerel Frog (left) compared to the two common color variations of Northern Leopard Frogs (center and right). Notice the light halos around each black spot on both of the Northern Leopard Frogs compared to the dark margin around each spot on the Pickerel Frog. Photo courtesy Sue Morse.

Yesterday, we saw our first Pickerel Frog in one of the Lincoln breeding ponds, but I have not seen any of their egg masses yet. Their masses are very dense and their embryos are noticeably brown and yellow versus black and white. There are almost 100 towns from which we need photo-documentation of a Pickerel Frog. So many, that if you think you might have found one, it’s best to take a photo. Since no matter where you are in Vermont, a photo of a Pickerel Frog it is very likely to help us fill in a data gap. Remember they look quite a bit like a Northern Leopard Frog, but they have a brown background (N. Leopards have a green or golden background), they have rectangular spots (N. Leopards have oval spots), their spots are organized into neat rows or joined into stripes (N. Leopards spots are randomly spaced), and their waist and legs are yellow on the underside (N. Leopards are white). Pickerel Frogs are generally upland species and Northern Leopard Frogs frequent lowland floodplains. If you are not sure what species you are seeing, take a photo and let us figure it out.

I hope you are all getting outside on these nice spring days.


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