In the background I can hear the moaning sirens of Conowingo, warning down-streamers of the arrival of a significant spring freshet.
Seldom in my recall of vernal pool options, have the diverse breeding playgrounds been so varied in choices.
The spotted salamanders left their subterranean tunnels to once again swirl in a mass of yellow and black designs and attach the distinctive three-inch cloudy mass on sunken twigs. American toads, wood frogs and the popular peepers will signal the equinox with distinctive marsh sounds beckoning reproduction. They will choose temporary wetlands with adequate leaf detritus, no fish and plentiful algae for the juveniles to feed and camouflage. The spotted turtles will smell the easy meals and respond from their mudnaps as well as snappers and northern water snakes.
With the water table on the surface throughout Mid-Atlantic piedmont, it should be a high yield of tadpoles, toadlets, and hatchling painted turtles. During many Mays, I have witnessed the shriveled up bodies and gelatin-like egg masses of parched larvae that didn’t metamorphose fast enough to avoid the conclusion of spring rains. Each egg mass is distinctive from the chainlike string of American toads to the black specks of peepers.
I’m confident that 2010 will achieve a high rate of successful amphibious juveniles to prey on insects and provide brunch for dragonflies, queen snakes and stinkpots.
Brian Goodman and I are compiling the herpetological census from Harford County for the Dept. of Natural Resources and encourage Dagger readers to inform us of the location of every garter eaten of mowers, black rat roadkill, and box turtle road crossing. With this data ammunition, we may be able to quantify wetland habitat and prevent future bulldozer annihilation.