Winter So Far

Dedicated exclusively to field herping.

Moderator: Scott Waters

Post Reply
User avatar
mtratcliffe
Posts: 533
Joined: January 19th, 2014, 4:34 pm
Location: Springfield, VA

Winter So Far

Post by mtratcliffe » February 20th, 2017, 6:04 pm

This has been my first winter not spent in Florida since 2013, the year I picked up herping as a hobby. Being in Northern Virginia, my location has more in common with portions of the Northeast and mid-Atlantic than it does with the South. Winter up here usually spells the end of the herping season, but with mild temperatures and few bitterly cold days, it's actually been more productive than I could have imagined. I've been able to produce salamanders behind my house on a regular basis, and as of February 19th, I've seen or heard eleven species in Fairfax County. Twelve if you count the Box Turtle shell I randomly found in January. Several amphibians have already started to breed in the area, so I thought I'd get a post in before the madness of spring begins.

Just a few days into January, I took my sister down to the creek to see if we couldn't turn anything up. We ended up finding all three salamander species we have back there, plus Green Frog tadpoles. These tadpoles are overwintering from a late-season breeding session, and they reside at the bottom of a deep pool of water where an underground concrete ditch dumps out.

Green Frog tadpole with Northern Two-lined Salamander larvae

Imageiphone dipnetting 1 by Matthew Ratcliffe, on Flickr

Imageiphone Green Frog 2 by Matthew Ratcliffe, on Flickr

Here are some other random finds from the creek and nearby woods over the last two months:

Northern Two-lined Salamander larvae

ImageDSCN0116 by Matthew Ratcliffe, on Flickr

ImageDSCN0132 by Matthew Ratcliffe, on Flickr

ImageDSCN0135 by Matthew Ratcliffe, on Flickr

Northern Dusky Salamander. We have a couple of whoppers in the creek, but they are hard to find and equally hard to catch without a net.

ImageDSCN0127 by Matthew Ratcliffe, on Flickr

A decomposing Wood Frog

ImageDSCN0133 by Matthew Ratcliffe, on Flickr

Eastern Red-backed Salamander

ImageDSCN0138 by Matthew Ratcliffe, on Flickr

Here's one in the process of regrowing its tail. That's a funky looking stub!

ImageDSCN0144 by Matthew Ratcliffe, on Flickr

ImageDSCN0147 by Matthew Ratcliffe, on Flickr

This one hatched last fall, based on its size

ImageDSCN0157 by Matthew Ratcliffe, on Flickr

Northern Two-lined Salamander

ImageDSCN0154 by Matthew Ratcliffe, on Flickr

I found this Box Turtle shell as pictured. No idea who or what put it there, but the turtle was long dead. However, the shell was in great condition and I have since cleaned and preserved it for my collection. Did you know that the patterning on a Box Turtle's shell is nothing more than a thin layer of organic material much like that of a fingernail? You can break and peel it right off, and the shell underneath is almost bleach white.

Imageiphone Eastern Box Turtle by Matthew Ratcliffe, on Flickr

On the 18th and 19th, we had unbelievably warm weather, with temps reaching about 70F each day. I set out to a local wetlands that has Spotted Turtles in hopes of finding one, but I struck out. From talking to a local birder, it sounds like I missed seeing one by about an hour. At this site, there were several choruses of Leopard Frogs going on mid-afternoon, with a stray Spring Peeper calling here and there.

Eastern Painted Turtles and a Red-Eared Slider

ImageDSCN3010 by Matthew Ratcliffe, on Flickr

My kiddo had fun but did not make picture taking easy since my wife wasn't there to help wrangle him

ImageDSCN3035 by Matthew Ratcliffe, on Flickr

Finally saw a Northern Shoveler (male)

ImageDSCN3036 by Matthew Ratcliffe, on Flickr

Here's a female

ImageDSCN3042 by Matthew Ratcliffe, on Flickr

There was also a Muskrat swimming about

ImageDSCN3047 by Matthew Ratcliffe, on Flickr

Sliders

ImageDSCN3057 by Matthew Ratcliffe, on Flickr

This tree stump always have a few Bullfrogs in it

ImageDSCN3062 by Matthew Ratcliffe, on Flickr

On Sunday, all three of us went to a park in Arlington, which is a heavily urbanized city. Despite that, this place was quite scenic and had a decent selection of herps, including a few surprises. There is a beautiful rock-lined creek that flows right through it, and the water was very clear. I ended up finding four species, all of which had yet to be documented in H.E.R.P. for Arlington.

Wood Frogs were breeding in a vernal pool on the drive in and were actively moving around a man-made pond further in. Mostly males were seen, but a few females were by the pond. The males are usually a drab green, and the females are orange. Here are a few from the pond area:

ImageDSCN0164 by Matthew Ratcliffe, on Flickr

ImageDSCN0167 by Matthew Ratcliffe, on Flickr

ImageDSCN3066 by Matthew Ratcliffe, on Flickr

ImageDSCN3069 by Matthew Ratcliffe, on Flickr

ImageDSCN3077 by Matthew Ratcliffe, on Flickr

ImageDSCN3092 by Matthew Ratcliffe, on Flickr

There were a few dozen males in the vernal pool located elsewhere in the park. They were calling earlier but ceased when I arrived for pictures. No females in the pond yet.

ImageDSCN3094 by Matthew Ratcliffe, on Flickr

ImageDSCN3096 by Matthew Ratcliffe, on Flickr

ImageDSCN3100 by Matthew Ratcliffe, on Flickr

I also observed this little guy acting like a a frog!

ImageDSCN3107 by Matthew Ratcliffe, on Flickr

I believe I saw a larvae of one of these, but I flipped this Two-lined Salamander under a log above the creek.

ImageDSCN0177 by Matthew Ratcliffe, on Flickr

And one log over was this beauty, which caught me by surprise. I knew that this place had Spotted Salamanders, but I did not expect to find one at this specific spot. I thought that they would be closer to the vernal pool, but I suppose they also breed in the pond as well.

ImageDSCN0181 by Matthew Ratcliffe, on Flickr

ImageDSCN0183 by Matthew Ratcliffe, on Flickr

Nothing exciting here, but I found this Eastern Red-backed Salamander in Falls Church, which had zero H.E.R.P. entries prior to this. That city is very poor for herping, but I managed to turn this guy up in a small patch of woods adjacent to a creek. I had flipped close to ten logs prior to finding this salamander, and I was honestly surprised when I did see it as the habitat was not all that great.

ImageDSCN0184 by Matthew Ratcliffe, on Flickr

I hope you enjoyed my post! Here's a tally of what I've seen or heard so far this year. It's been a great winter and I can't wait for spring to officially arrive!

Northern Two-lined Salamander
Eastern Red-backed Salamander
Northern Dusky Salamander
Spotted Salamander
Green Frog
Bullfrog
Wood Frog
Spring Peeper (heard)
Southern Leopard Frog (heard)
Eastern Box Turtle (deceased)
Red-Eared Slider
Eastern Painted Turtle

User avatar
Josh Holbrook
Posts: 2195
Joined: June 7th, 2010, 7:11 am
Location: Western North Carolina
Contact:

Re: Winter So Far

Post by Josh Holbrook » February 20th, 2017, 6:33 pm

I love beginning the year with Wood Frogs. I remember in CT seeing them breeding in broad daylight on an icy vernal pool, and still love seeing them up in the mountains up here. Good stuff all around.

NACairns
Posts: 372
Joined: December 30th, 2013, 7:27 am

Re: Winter So Far

Post by NACairns » February 20th, 2017, 7:18 pm

Great year so far. Looking forward to seeing more tadpoles as the year progresses.
Thanks,
Nick

User avatar
BillMcGighan
Posts: 2306
Joined: June 7th, 2010, 8:23 am
Location: Unicoi, TN

Re: Winter So Far

Post by BillMcGighan » February 21st, 2017, 8:31 pm

Excellent, Matt.
Great post. :thumb: :thumb:

This warm winter is turning out as a real amphib boom.



Boy looks like a real keeper!!!
I always show the kids's pic to my wife, 'cause it enhances up our motivation to visit ours' and our grandkids.

User avatar
mtratcliffe
Posts: 533
Joined: January 19th, 2014, 4:34 pm
Location: Springfield, VA

Re: Winter So Far

Post by mtratcliffe » February 22nd, 2017, 11:37 am

Thanks everyone. Apparently Wood Frogs are breeding elsewhere, which is puzzling as it has been rather dry lately. I was surprised that vernal pool even had that much water in it. I'm afraid I'm going to miss out on their peak breeding due to schedule conflicts!

Bill - I can't wait for him to become more interested in the hobby and for him to listen a little bit better! He enjoys flipping logs and saying "No salamander" just like his daddy. He had fun that day at the park but he was more interested in throwing rocks into the creek than looking at the frogs. But he did get interested when I flipped the salamanders.

User avatar
Noah M
Posts: 2289
Joined: November 3rd, 2012, 6:00 pm
Location: Gainesville, FL
Contact:

Re: Winter So Far

Post by Noah M » February 23rd, 2017, 1:21 pm

That is a nice selection of things. I'm jealous of all of the salamanders. I may do some dipnetting to scratch that sally itch. It has been pretty dry down here. We did get some rain yesterday and I took a short drive but didn't turn up much of anything (toads and a pig frog). We need a serious weather system or even a weak tropical storm to get some of the ponds and ditches up.

User avatar
mtratcliffe
Posts: 533
Joined: January 19th, 2014, 4:34 pm
Location: Springfield, VA

Re: Winter So Far

Post by mtratcliffe » February 24th, 2017, 7:43 pm

Noah M wrote:That is a nice selection of things. I'm jealous of all of the salamanders. I may do some dipnetting to scratch that sally itch. It has been pretty dry down here. We did get some rain yesterday and I took a short drive but didn't turn up much of anything (toads and a pig frog). We need a serious weather system or even a weak tropical storm to get some of the ponds and ditches up.
I hope it rains for you all soon. Wasn't it extremely wet last winter?

Post Reply