Temperatures today reached the high 40s, so the Turtle Journal team explored a nearby abandoned cranberry bog to see what spring life may be emerging. The entire wetlands echoed with a chorus of spring peepers, punctuated by the croaks of wood frogs.
Juvenile Garter Snake Basking in Bog Channel
Shallow bog channels were filled with egg masses, both frogs and salamanders. In the channel closest to the woods, Don Lewis spotted an unusual twig or grass reed lying crossways, which actually proved to be a small basking garter snake.
Juvenile Garter Snake in Abandoned Marion Cranberry Bog
Turtle Journal documented this juvenile garter snake and immediately released it back into the safety of the bog. The team loves to find such exquisite signs of spring, especially after this neverending winter.
Wood frogs (Rana sylvatica) serve as troubadours of springtime in SouthCoast wetlands. Their distinctive quack-like croaks can be heard as March temperatures crack the mid-40s and even before cheery spring peepers serenade the marsh.
Wood Frogs Haunt Spooky SouthCoast Wetlands
In this video from mid-March 2012, behind the scary theme music you can hear the raucous chorus of amorous wood frogs heralding another mating season in Southeast Massachusetts.
Neverending Winter in Southeast Massachusetts
Despite this neverending winter in the Northeast, with wetland trails still covered in ice and snow, the Turtle Journal team visited several SouthCoast swamps and bogs on Sunday as temperatures “soared” (sic) into the low 40s.
Frog and Salamander Egg Masses in Shallow Bog Channel
In an abandoned Marion cranberry bog, we found a large number of assorted frog and salamander eggs affixed to reeds under a thin layer of overnight ice in shallow channels closely abutting the surrounding woodlands.
Wood Frog Egg Masses in Shallow Washburn Wetlands
With bright late March sunshine, temperatures reached the mid 40s in Marion’s Washburn Park, where the warm shallow water of bog channels enticed hundreds of wood frogs to bask and breed. Egg masses were clustered in sunny areas throughout the swamp.
Wood Frog Egg Mass Closeup
Examination of the egg masses indicated that they may have been freshly deposited as eggs seemed to be in the early stage of development.
Closeup of Dividing Wood Frog Eggs
A closeup of individual zygotes appear to catch eggs in cleavage at the 2 and 4 cell stage.
Closeup of Dividing Wood Frog Eggs
The closeup above captures individual zygotes in the process of division.
Since the yellow spotted salamander congress last Tuesday, March 12th, (see Slithering Salamanders Usher in Spring Congress), the weather has turned decidedly frigid here in Southeast Massachusetts, with nightly freezes and a major snow storm. Despite an icy morning today, we revisited the site of the March 12th congresses at an abandoned cranberry bog to search for egg masses. Within a few minutes of searching, we discovered a number of egg masses in the flooded channels of the abandoned bog.
Yellow Spotted Salamander Egg Massess
About half of those egg masses were relatively clear, while the rest were clouded and nearly opaque. The two masses photographed above were found side-by-side anchored to reeds in a shallow bog channel.
Mostly Clear Yellow Spotted Salamander Egg Mass
The clear mass shows individual eggs all encased within a protective outer gelatinous layer. This outer casing distinguishes salamander egg masses from those of frogs that use the same shallow bog channels to deposit their eggs.
Individual Yellow Spotted Salamander Egg within Mass
This extreme closeup of a single salamander egg embedded in the gelatinous outer protective mass illustrates a signature difference for identfication between salamander and frog egg masses.
Clouded Yellow Salamander Egg Mass
The photograph above shows a yellow spotted salamander egg mass with a clouded gelatinous protective layer that obscures the individual eggs within the nearly opaque covering. Individual eggs can be detected as blurred dark spots scattered within the protective layer. The Turtle Journal team will continue to monitor development of these egg masses through the spring. For more information on salamander egg development, see Spotted Salamanders: From Eggs to Larvae.
Tuesday night, March 12th, brought torrential rain, southerly winds and rising temperatures to Southeast Massachusetts. Perfect conditions to kick off the annual spring congress of yellow spotted salamanders. As we watched storm clouds roll in and the sky darken, we decided to check local hotspots after dark for our slithering friends.
Yellow Spotted Salamander Heading to Congress
As we bounced down backroads to the wetlands and carefully negotiated flooded puddles, we observed wood frogs and American toads hopping across the asphalt.
Rocky Road to Congress
Deeper into the woods, our headlights captured the first yellow spotted salamander slithering across the dirt roadway.
Congress Aftermath with Salamander Spermataphores
In this abandoned cranberry bog, male salamanders congress in shallow channels and deposit spermataphores along the reeds and leaf matter. We returned to the bog this morning to check for congress locations in the daylight, which were easy to identify from spermatphore deposits.
Closeup of Salamander Spermataphores
Females have yet to deposit egg sacs.
Salamander Spermataphore (Closeup)
We will check these locations again this evening and through the weekend to follow the rest of the process.
Yellow Spotted Salamander Spermataphore
Turtle Journal photo-documented a spermataphore. The image above shows one of the spermataphore deposits with a dime backdrop for perspective. Clicking on the image will double its size.
Once upon a time, this morning actually, in an idyllic wooded wetlands just beyond suburbia, Tom and Henny Turkey waltzed through the verdant meadow, sampling tasty spring treats and thinking about love.
Tom strolled and strutted, garbed in his best feathers and puffed to perfection … or so he thought.
Henny — The Femme Fatale
Gorgeous, irresistable Henny pecked through grasses and wild flowers, absorbed in the beauty of the day and enjoying the amorous attention of handsome Tom.
The Home Wrecker — Unattainable Perfection
Then, out of the blue, fickle Henny spots an image of absolute perfection. She leaves Tom in the dust as she checks out this unbelievably beautiful creature, who in some mystical and unexpainable way reminds Henny almost of herself.