I loaded up the car with snacks, camera gear, rain gear and my dogs as company. It was going to be a long night, so they each had some comfortable beds, water and plenty of toys. We were off.
I drove about 1.5 hours and just as dusk hit, the rain started to come. I had planned well. Immediately frogs were noticed to be moving across the road. Within about 15 minutes, I had my first salamander of the night, an eastern tiger salamander. Unfortunately, he wasn't the most cooperative for pictures, but I saw many more.
Wood Frogs Rana sylvatica were abundant.
Unfortunately, DORs (dead on road, as opposed to AORs, active on road) were also abundant. I usually photograph these as well, no matter how gruesome. They can still serve a purpose and get recorded in online databases.
Blue Spotted Salamanders Ambystoma laterale (or their polyploid brethren) were also extremely abundant, and would be the most common salamander observed. They were mostly found on the forested back roads, or remote paved roads, and usually only during the rain. I would end up seeing 25+ of these throughout the night.
The tiger salamanders, Ambystoma tigrinum, were typically found crossing the busier paved roads running through farm land and other slightly developed areas. I found none of these crossing the dirt roads or roads running through the woods.
Oddly enough, the nice vernal pool I checked out with Nick Scobel et al. that was in the forest, was full of tigers. We saw none of them on the roads leading in or away, despite multiple passes, but the pool had to many to count tiger salamanders swimming around.
Tiger Salamander Ambystoma tigrinum
No blue spots were observed in the pool, but we spotted one lonely individual crossing the road while we were shooting the tiger.
A couple other nice vernal pools were checked without finding any salamanders. I split away from the others again and hit the roads. The rain had mostly stopped, as it had passed us by now, but I new the salamanders would still be moving a little.
In the end, I saw 25+ blue spots, and 5 or 6 AOR tigers. There were countless tigers in the vernal pool. Many more of each species were observed DOR. I crossed through 3-4 counties, and was in the car for 11 hours. I pulled into my driveway at 530 am feeling pleased with my efforts. One continued frustration was my lack of Spotted Salamanders, Ambystoma maculatum. I have yet to see one of these common salamanders in Michigan, and despite all the miles covered and all the hours cruising, none were viewed crossing the road. They were typically the most numerous salamander viewed when I when cruising in Ohio. Another mystery for another day...
Spring has sprung!