Bullfrog Tadpole

Wood Frog pulled from the pond

Spotted Salamander

Wood Frog egg mass

Greg and Todd

Woodies, Newts and Jeffs

Spring Peeper

Death Pond

I had some unfinished business in Indiana with a certain salamander, and early in March I headed east for another crack at Ambystoma barbouri, the Streamside Salamander. Unfortunately (for them), most of the original Snow Dawgs crew couldn't make the trip, leaving Greg, Todd and I to carry on without them.

Our first task of the day was to dip-net a series of ponds around Greg's neck of the woods, before moving on into Streamside Salamander country. It was cloudy and overcast when we set out in the morning, and the temperature was in the low forties. On this dull day, the layer of leaves on the ground provided the only colors of note, but at least there was no snow to deal with, and no ice on the ponds any more.  Greg had given me a light but strong crappie net with a telescoping handle, which proved to be a perfect tool for the job of dip-netting.  Keeping the net somewhat parallel to the bottom, and avoiding any obvious egg masses, you slide it into the layer of leaves and muck, and lift it up and out for inspection.  Sorting through the net, the cold water and the rich smell of decaying leaves and pond muck snapped me right into the moment, intensifying the experience of visiting some other creature's world.

It didn't take long for us to haul in some interesting amphibians to examine and photograph.  We pulled up some Bullfrog tadpoles, and each of us netted some adult Wood Frogs and Eastern Newts.  I was happy for the opportunity to photograph newts in their aquatic stage, which I hadn't been able to do thus far. Todd also pulled up a Spotted Salamander and a Jefferson's Salamander, which was a new species for me.  The pond also held some Wood Frog egg masses, along with a few unidentified ambystomid egg masses.

Central Newt

The night before our visit, Greg had set a few minnow traps in one pond, and when we pulled them up they were full of newts, Woodies and Jeffs. No bait is used; frogs, salamanders, crayfish and other organisms wander into them over time. I was pleased at the opportunity to photograph all three caudate species, and to get to know Ambystoma jeffersonianum, one of the lunged salamanders that I had managed to miss for one reason or another.

Jefferson's Salamander

One pond seemed to hold only a few adult Spotted Salamanders, and though Greg indicated that Marbled Salamander larvae could be found there, we didn't come up with any.  Ambystoma opacum breed in autumn and rely on the late fall rains to provide watery nurseries for their offspring.  In some places, the rains come early or late or not at all, and few Marbles may be produced that season.

Wood Frog

One of the last ponds we visited held nothing but dead salamanders.  Their demise is a matter of speculation, but chances are they arrived at the pond before a late-winter hard freeze set in.  That salamanders in surrounding ponds did not suffer the same fate implicates the pond in the die-off.  The pond was very shallow, and was situated on a raised elevation on a slope, probably an old man-made cattle pond.  It is possible the salamanders could not escape from the cold snap freezing both the water and the layers of mud and muck below it.


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