I should qualify the title of this post: First amphibians of the year (FOR ME)! This has been a brutal and prolonged winter, and even now, in mid-March, the frosty old man is reluctant to take back the snow and ice. Here in central Ohio, we've scarcely had any of the decently warm (50 F or above) rainy nights that amphibian-seekers pine for. It seems that the majority of frogs and salamanders have yet to make the vernal pilgrimage to the breeding pools, and individuals are just trickling in bit by bit - no massive migrations of yet.
Last night was one of the few warm evenings we've had, but it wasn't wet. Dryness inhibits major movements of amphibians; they much prefer to move towards breeding haunts when everything is nice and soaked. Nonetheless, I knew that at least some Spring Peepers and Western Chorus Frogs would be in the wetlands, and I really wanted crisp images of the latter for an upcoming column. So, I headed to one of my favorite amphibian routes near Bellefontaine last night, stopping first to pick up Bellefontainite and amphibian enthusiast Cheryl Erwin.
Getting images of singing chorus frogs can often be a challenge. They seem to prefer staying towards the interior of their wetlands, and that means out in the deeper water. To capture this animal on pixels, I waded into water that soon threatened to overtop my knee boots. After spotting the animal from about fifteen feet, I slowly crept up while he sang. Then came the cold, wet part. I dropped to my knees to get down closer to my subject's level, and leaned in close. Getting, of course, soaked in the process and filling the boots. Someday I'll resort to hip or chest waders, but somehow getting as wet as my subjects makes me feel more a part of the whole scene.
Fortunately, my favorite Tiger Salamander breeding site is along a road that floods out completely in a few spots, and has few houses along it. Thus, the vehicular traffic is almost nonexistent. Getting pancaked by cars is a real threat to these animals as they attempt to move overland to the wetlands. When development brings too many roads and too much traffic, the salamander populations are likely to eventually disappear.