In late winter, early spring, when weather conditions are ideal, spotted salamanders, wood frogs, and Jefferson salamanders emerge from hibernation to set out on their annual migration to breed in temporary, woodland pools, which are devoid of aquatic predators.
Traveling up to a quarter of a mile through fragmented habitats these species face many challenges throughout their journey—from timing the migration accurately, to oncoming traffic, new building developments, or finding their breeding grounds filled in.
Each year programs across the country organize volunteers to help amphibians cross busy roads, document mortalities, and spread awareness within their communities. I recently joined up with the Hudson River Estuary's Amphibian Program, which is now in its thirteenth year, to document what biologists call A Big Night.
Below are the resulting images...
Amphibians play an important role in the food web.
Salamanders, for example, consume insects that eat leaf litter. When insects shred leaves, they release carbon into the atmosphere. Salamanders keep insect populations in check and carbon in the leaves and soil.
While habitat fragmentation plays a large role in mortality rates, woodland pools lack proper protection in New York State due to their small size.
Oftentimes, these small pools are filled in by landowners and developers who are unaware of their ecological significance.
Other species such as eastern american toads, northern spring peepers, eastern newts, northern redback salamanders, four-toed salamanders, gray tree frogs, green frogs, and bullfrogs can be seen on migration nights