Field Reports from the 2012 Amphibian Migration

At a Glance: Salamander Season 2012

Wood frogs didn’t wait for rain this spring, and salamanders moved mostly after midnight, so it was a quieter year for the Crossing Brigades. Even so, we moved 853 amphibians to safety in 2012.

April 26, 2012

A Quiet Spring for the Salamander Brigades

A wood frog sits on a pile of ice during an early spring migration. (photo © Brett Amy Thelen)

A wood frog contemplates the meaning of life during an early spring migration. (photo © Brett Amy Thelen)

Wood frogs didn’t wait for rain this spring, and salamanders moved mostly in the wee hours of the morning, so our counts our low for this year — collectively, we crossed a total of only 853 amphibians, including 331 spotted salamanders, 81 wood frogs, and 378 spring peepers.

The good news: those late-night migrations likely led to less roadkill and, even without the aid of the Salamander Brigades, amphibian egg masses appeared in local vernal pools right on time.

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April 22, 2012

A Medium-Sized Night

A wood frog rests in someone's hand. (photo © Fred Shirley)

A Crossing Brigadier gives a wood frog a lift.
(photo © Fred Shirley)

On April 22, our Salamander Crossing Brigade volunteers collectively helped 286 spotted salamanders, 257 spring peepers, 33 wood frogs, 26 redbacked salamanders, and a handful of Jefferson salamanders, Eastern newts, pickerel frogs, green frogs, and American toads cross busy roads.

At the end of the night, Pam and Skyler from Rindge summed it up best:

“We are frozen, wet, and happy.”

See below for a breakdown by site (live animals only), though keep in mind that some sites had far more volunteers for much longer periods of time than others, so direct site-to-site comparison should be done with many grains of salt.


Nelson Road. 39 spotties, 2 wood frogs, 7 spring peepers, 1 American toad


Jordan Road: 3 spotties, 2 Jefferson salamanders, 18 redbacked, 4 wood frogs
North Lincoln Street: 8 spotties, 11 wood frogs, 96 spring peepers     


Nelson Road: 10 spotties, 1 redbacked salamander, 2 wood frogs, 15 spring peepers


Summer Street: 45 spotties, 1 redbacked salamander, 11 wood frogs, 81 peepers


Old New Ipswich Road: 11 spotties, 2 newts,1 wood frog, 1 spring peeper


Swanzey Lake Road: 58 spotties, 1 redbacked salamander, 10 spring peepers 


Glebe Road: 35 spotties, 15 spring peepers
River Road: 23 spotties, 1 redbacked salamander (+ one skunk sighting!)

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April 16, 2012
Spermatophores on an oak leaf. (photo © Brett Amy Thelen)

Spermatophores on an oak leaf. (photo © Brett Amy Thelen)

After Midnight…

There were rains in the wee hours of the morning, and they seem to have finally spurred some spotted salamanders to the dance — newly-deposited spermatophores were found in vernal pools in both Hancock and Peterborough this morning, along with a number of freshly-laid spotted salamander eggs.

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April 11, 2012

A Trickle of Movement

Wood frog eggs, very close to hatching. (photo © Brett Amy Thelen)

Wood frog eggs near hatch. (photo © Brett Amy Thelen)

Reports of a small salamander migration in the Hancock-Harrisville-Nelson area are trickling in — much of the region didn’t get any early evening rain at all, so this comes as a bit of a surprise! The story from the vernal pools in Keene is, well, spotty — some pools are ripe with eggs of spotted salamanders, Jefferson salamanders and wood frogs (the wood frog eggs are even starting to hatch!), while other pools have little evidence of salamander activity.

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April 4, 2012

Questions Abound; Answers are Few

A spotted salamander smiles from a vernal pool. (photo © Dave Huth)

A spotted salamander smiles serenely from the edge of a vernal pool. (photo © Dave Huth)

Last night’s rain were entirely unexpected! The majority of the warm rain came while many of us were inside, enjoying Bryan Windmiller’s excellent talk on hands-on conservation of rare species, so field reports are limited.

We did receive one report of 3 spotted salamanders on Route 119 between Fitzwilliam and Rindge.

Several other people also checked out crossings in Keene (at various points from 8:20 to 10:30, though temperatures dipped a good bit after 9) and Nelson, and didn’t see any amphibians, live or dead. The vernal pool complex in Robinhood Park was also very quiet last night — no salamanders congressing and no wood frogs chorusing — just a few still, silent wood frogs. Spotted salamander eggs have started to appear alongside wood frog egg masses and Jefferson complex eggs in some vernal pools, but not in any great number.

What to make of all this? Is the migration over? Did the spotted salamanders move in itty-bitty trickles? Are some of them still waiting for a good, warm drenching? Are spotties choosing not to expend energy on egg laying because the pools are so dry this year? It seems this strange spring has brought more questions than answers.

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March 16, 2012
A wood frog pauses on a pile of snow. (photo © Brett Amy Thelen)

BRRRRRRR. (photo © Brett Amy Thelen)

A Small Start

A small migration on wet roads in Keene after sundown, tapering off as the roads dried and the temperature dipped.

An hour at North Lincoln Street yielded 16 wood frogs, 52 peepers, and a handful of dead frogs.

Folks at Jordan Road crossed three Jefferson salamanders and a few wood frogs.

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Contact Us

To volunteer or for more information, please contact Brett Amy Thelen at (603) 525-3394 or by email.