State of the Herp report

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Reptiles and amphibians — herps for short — are in trouble worldwide. Around here the main threat is habitat destruction, including roadkill. Bill went out around dawn on the first warm rainy night to look for Spotted Salamanders, on a road a few miles away that’s perfect for them. A relatively quiet road with a wooded slope, steep enough to be unbuildable, and wetland on the other side. All he found was five large squished ones. We hope others managed to cross undisturbed before the morning commute passed through. We have a robust population of Red Efts and Red-backed Salamanders, and probably some Spotted as well thanks to the guys’ informal egg mass rescue & relocation project.

We have a small pond on our property. The houses on both sides used to belong to the same family, so the property line runs across in a funky diagonal. It’s easy to tell which side is ours by the tall grass, shaggy thickets of honeysuckle and autumn olive, and large fallen branches. I don’t think our neighbor cares for our style of landscaping any more than we like their manicured verge. It’s an exceptional turtle area. I counted 32 Painted Turtles and 2 Snapping Turtles basking today, and I don’t know how many more patrolling the water. We’ve seen a Spotted Turtle and Box Turtle here once each, and Bill’s pet Wood Turtle ran away in the yard never to be seen again.

Behind the pond is the swamp (or Fwomp). For a long time the kids called this The Habitat, from an episode of Magic School Bus where the students searched for the proper habitat to release a pet a frog. My boys extrapolated that to mean any place frogs live is called a habitat. Took a few years to straighten that one out. Right now the main sound is tiny Spring Peepers ringing out their absurdly loud bells, with an occasional Toad trilling. Turn the volume up if you dare. The Wood Frogs call and mate all in one giant orgy and are silent the rest of the summer. If you’re in a wet area at dusk in fairly early spring and hear what sounds like a flock of ducks quacking, that’s Wood Frogs. As the air and water warm up the Green Frogs and Bullfrogs will boom and burble, and on wet nights Gray Tree Frogs will climb up our windows and give their rattling call.

Garter Snakes live in the brushpile and the rocks by our lamppost, while little Ribbon Snakes peek out from leaf litter occasionally. Sadly, the only Milk Snakes we see are dead ones. I’d love to have a few move in to take care of our mouse problem!

So that’s the State of the Herps on Kestrel Hill.

Categories: the occasional herp | Tags: , | Leave a comment

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