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Big Night Approaching

3-29-19 big night IMG_7508Every spring there comes a day when the temperature approaches or exceeds 45 degrees, and a gentle spring rain occurs and extends into the night.* These conditions signal the impending nocturnal migration of many amphibians to their breeding pools. Spotted Salamanders, Jefferson/Blue-spotted Salamanders, Wood Frogs, Spring Peepers and an occasional American toad rise from their state of hibernation to crawl out of the dirt and make their way to wetlands (often vernal pools) where they will breed and lay their eggs. So many migrate en masse that the first night that this migration takes place has been dubbed “Big Night.”

It goes without saying that in many cases, roads have to be crossed when going from hibernaculum to breeding pool. This poses a major threat to the frogs and salamanders that are on the move, and roads often become slick with their carcasses due to unwitting automobile drivers. If you are out driving on the first warm, wet evening this spring, drive slowly while keeping an eye out for lumps in the road, and if you see them and have a flashlight or head lamp handy (to find the frogs and salamanders, as well as to announce your presence in the road to other drivers), stop and lend them a hand (usually there are concentrated areas where crossings occur). (Perhaps a group of well-marked volunteers could gather to monitor and assist migrating amphibians at major road-crossing locations in your town.) It should be obvious which direction the frogs and salamanders are all headed in, and they can be placed well off that side of the road. (Photo: left to right, Wood Frog, Spring Peeper, Spotted Salamander)

*With one to two feet of snow on the ground and vernal pools still frozen over in many parts of northern New England, this event will most likely not occur with the impending warm, rainy weather, but will happen in the next few weeks.

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13 responses

  1. Laurie Spry

    Mary, I wish you had the option to ’embed’ your posts. down in the ‘share’ area. I teach biology and would often put them on my resources page to project for class. Just a thought….

    March 29, 2019 at 7:03 am

  2. Alice Pratt

    Haven’t heard any Spring Peepers, yet….I love the sound they make…we have 3 areas with water near us, so there is quite a chorus. The thought of squished animals makes me very sad, I wish there was a good solution for them to be safe.

    March 29, 2019 at 7:48 am

  3. Debra A Kraemer

    They must crawl out, look at the snow and say “Fehgedaboudit”!

    March 29, 2019 at 8:06 am

  4. jswift@pa.gov

    The first of the mild spring rains are falling today here in NE Pennsylvania. I will be on the lookout tonight for the ‘coming out’ of salamanders, wood frogs, and spring peepers!

    March 29, 2019 at 8:21 am

  5. Kathie Fiveash

    What an amazing picture!! Is it posed in some way, or did you actually come on all three species in a conflab?!

    March 29, 2019 at 10:23 am

    • Hi Kathie,
      I should have stated in the post that all three amphibians were semi-dormant seeing as they had just emerged from hibernation, and were easily picked up and posed before going on their merry way.

      March 29, 2019 at 1:23 pm

      • Alice Pratt

        I hope their way was ‘merry’ & will be productive….I love amphibians & always am so happy to see any of them in our yard! Peepers, Wood frogs, Toads, all salamanders….Leopard frogs.

        March 29, 2019 at 3:10 pm

  6. Laurel Persico

    We have a spotted salamander in our cellar; we have a partial dirt floor.

    March 29, 2019 at 8:32 pm

  7. cbeyna@juno.com

    Hi Mary, Our land trust here in Cumberland, Maine highlights this event every spring. They know just when and where we should gather to help the little critters. Our police dept. shuts off the road to keep everyone safe. I love getting your messages! Carol Beyna

    March 29, 2019 at 10:05 pm

  8. Hello, Mary,
    Might you see a way to post when you think Big Night is coming? We look for it every year, sometimes miss it. We consider it one of the most important nights of our year, truly “Big”! We often tell people when we think it’s coming but we are often wrong. Thank you very much for all you do!

    April 1, 2019 at 12:47 pm

    • Hi Josie,
      I posted last Friday about Big Night, as in some places, it was raining and above 45 degrees. It is so dependent on the conditions where you are that there’s no way I can forecast it precisely, as my blog covers all of New England’s natural history! If you have a nature center or audubon center nearby, I am sure they could give you the local forecast for it. Good luck!

      April 1, 2019 at 1:35 pm

  9. John Liccardi

    Mary- if the rain doesn’t start until around midnight on that first night will there still be a migration?

    April 7, 2019 at 4:20 pm

    • Hi John,
      There well could be, but it might take a few hours of rain before any movement. Can’t promise!

      April 7, 2019 at 6:57 pm

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