It’s spring and love is in the air! If you are a frog or salamander, that means you’ll be heading for the nearest water to find your special someone. Every frog and salamander has the same idea once the temperatures begin to warm. On warm nights in spring, especially rainy ones, the terrain leading down to water can be covered with amphibians heading toward their favorite gathering places. Beaver ponds and wetlands fringing lakeshores are perfect places to watch for freshwater courtships.
Each species has their own preference for the type of pond they need to lay eggs and successfully hatching youngsters. It’s important that there be plenty of water to last through the time it takes for eggs to hatch and grow to the point they can leave for higher ground. Sometimes frogs will be tempted to lay their eggs in deep ruts and puddles along our dirt roads, but these are not likely to make it unless a kind human moves them to a real pond. Vernal pools, those temporary ponds that can be found in Vermont woodlands, are especially important habitat for Wood Frogs and Spotted Salamanders (see the Vermont Vernal Pool Atlas for more information).
The first amphibians on the move in mid-April at my place in central Vermont are Spotted Salamanders and Wood Frogs. Wood Frogs especially love a small spring-fed pond in my yard, an overgrown puddle really but perfect for them. For 2-3 sunny days in April, they fill the air with their quacking croaks and chase each other around that small space. Masses of eggs are added each day. The water there stays icy cold all year long and apparently is just what Wood Frogs like. We suspect Spotted Salamanders also use the pond. Sadly, about the only time we see them is when they have been run over while crossing the road on the way to water.
Amphibians need all the loving care and friendship they can get from their human neighbors. Habitat protection is key, including access routes to water that don’t require crossing roads. The Vermont Reptile and Amphibian Atlas can help you learn which species might be living near you. They have some great quick photo reference sheets for frogs and salamanders. Each species also has a full description including frog calls for identification at a distance. The Atlas hosts a map of known locations for each species and you can help fill in the gaps by submitting photos you have taken.
Hearing the first Wood Frogs each spring is special for me. It is right up there with seeing the first robin or finding the first snowdrop. Hope you have a chorus of frogs near you, helping to welcome in each new spring!