Water Closet for May 5, 2017

[pullquote]”Many salamanders, both Spotted and Bluespotted, were located and admired, along with quite a few Wood frogs and Spring peepers. “[/pullquote]Every couple weeks the Middleton Stream Team receives a Quoddy Nature Note from way Down East in Pembroke, Maine, where each day the sun first shines on the United States. Naturalist Fred Gralenski, a keen observer who intently studies the nature of his yard and surrounds, writes with humor and intimate knowledge of his finds. He shares his learning with area folks and an old Stream Teamer here who has asked again to pass one of his biweekly notes on. “Use as you see fit,” Fred’s reply. His report fits fine after our vernal pool hikes here. Although Fred’s hikers go out in the dark, their discoveries shed light on our daytime spring hikes in Middleton. Maybe next spring we’ll require miners’ lights and go forth in the dark.
Quoddy Nature Notes
EARTH DAY, ARPIL 22    by Fred Gralenski
I started celebrating Earth Day a little early this year with an Amphibian Walk in Pembroke at 8:00PM on the day before. It has been a strange year weather-wise, as March and April had been pretty raw and cold, and generally not to the liking of our amphibians, but I had scheduled these walks a while ago. On the evening of the Pembroke walk a pretty good crowd of people showed up, with about eight adults and a dozen excited children, and most armed with the latest LED headlight. Now this is sort of what I expected, however, the new technology requires a little lesson in manners, that is, don’t ask someone a question with your super bright headlamp shining in their eyes. I found myself guilty of doing this several times over the course of the evening.

Maine Spring Peeper in tiny hands is lit by LED head light. Note the species identifying cross on back. – Fred Gralenski photo

The Pembroke walk first consists of checking the ditches along Leighton Point road for a quarter of a mile and finally terminating at a shallow, quarter acre pond that was excavated over 50 years ago. This pond now has pretty natural surroundings, and most of the local critters are aware of it. The road portion of the walk produced no amphibians, only a couple of small aquatic beetles in one of the ditches. In a good year for amphibian watching the road has entertained us with migrating Wood frogs, Spring peepers, and Spotted and Blue spotted salamanders, along with slugs, earthworms, and night crawlers. Critters that are often seen harvesting the latter, especially if they have been softened up by a Ford F150, are millipedes and Darkling beetles. The pond, however, in spite of the daunting shoreline with lots of mud and branches, was pretty productive, especially with the sensitive eyes and ears of the youngsters. Many salamanders, both Spotted and Bluespotted, were located and admired, along with quite a few Wood frogs and Spring peepers. Green frog tadpoles were noted. Green frogs need a permanent pond because their tadpoles require more than a year to change into frogs. Spring peepers and Wood frogs can breed in vernal pools as they generally change to terrestrial frogs before the pool dries up, but they have to spawn as quickly as possible. We did find a few dozen Wood frog egg masses, and they seemed to be a week or so old. Even though the eggs are attached to grasses and twigs, they float, and I suspect some of these were damaged, as they cannot be frozen. I took one egg mass and I will see if they hatch, and get an estimate of the success, before using to stock my own pond.
With a pretty successful preliminary Earth day we had high hopes for Earth day, but that was not to be. The evening of April 22nd was pretty grim. We reached the parking area of the old headquarters of Moosehorn at 7:45PM, with a temperature of 35 degrees and a gentle mixture of rain and snow falling. Some families from the Augusta area with young children showed, and by 8:00PM we had a posse of 12 ready to track down any and all amphibians. We headed down the trail to Dudley swamp, passed the vernal pool (still largely iced in) and finally heard some distant peepers as we got to the swamp. We found no Wood frog eggs, but we did find some spotted salamanders and dragonfly larva. The rain and snow were an obvious nuisance, and after about three quarters of an hour I heard some grumbling from one of the youngsters, and I went over to offer some words of encouragement. However, it wasn’t from the conditions. His parents had decided that the walk was over, but he had gotten the addiction of amphibians and wanted to stay a little longer. When I retire, I hope he, or someone like him, is around.


Precipitation Data* for Month of: Jan Feb Mar April
30 Year Normal (1981 – 2010) Inches 3.40 3.25 4.65 4.53
   2017 Central Watershed Actual 4.02 3.46 2.89 8.2**as of April 28

Ipswich R. Flow Rate (S. Middleton USGS Gage) in Cubic Feet/ Second (CFS):
For April 28, 2017  Normal . . . 95 CFS     Current Rate . . . 191 CFS
*Danvers Water Filtration Plant, Lake Street, Middleton is the source for actual precipitation data thru March.
** Middleton Stream Team is the source of actual precipitation data for April..
Normals data is from the National Climatic Data Center.
THE WATER CLOSET is provided by the Middleton Stream Team: www.middletonstreamteam.org or         <MSTMiddletonMA@gmail.com> or (978) 777-4584