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Big Fun for Big Night



Big Night, you might know (southburylandtrust.org/bignight) is a spring event when measurable numbers of amphibians come out of hiding (the woods) and head for their local vernal pool and wetlands to make merry and make more wood frogs and salamanders. It's the mating ritual.


Unfortunately, many of the little critters perish under the wheels of cars when they cross a road to get to their spawning ground. Males are driven. Oftentimes, they do not look both ways before crossing a busy road.


Our team, Pat, Joe and Joy headed out Tuesday night to spot potential amphibian crossing areas and place QR code signs along those roads. The QR code directs people to an information page about Big Night, amphibians, and steps you can take to help.


What we didn't expect was to find so many wood frogs! The first one we found was a true surprise-he could not have been bigger than a thimble!


We saw movement on the pavement on this dark backroad. We spilled out of the car, looking like ninjas on an expedition. It's quite possible passing cars thought we were trouble.


The three of us meandered down the road, flashlights blazing, but the one little guy was it. Back in the car we went, windows down, and flashlights grazing the sides of the road as we went. By the way, we were all geared up: a combination of headlamps, orange reflective vests, and hats, and a spatula. Yes! A spatula. They're handy to pick up the wood frogs and salamanders without hurting them. You scoop them up and carefully take them across the street, going the same way they were facing. Even if the direction seems illogical to you, trust their judgment.


The next location was exhilarating, or might that be terrifying? Lots of cars. But Pat spots a jumper in the middle of the road and we want to do something. We turn around. Cars are whizzing by. We are hoping there has been a miracle and he made it. Looks like he is halfway across and alive. But there is still danger, and he is in our lane. We pull over onto a side yard, fall out of the car with flashlights and spatula. We do look like bandits or ninjas, to be sure. The owner of the house is parting the curtains and looking out at us. "Any cars?" Joy yells. The guys answer back, "All clear!" Joy spatulas the wood frog from the middle of the lane and gently moves him far onto the homeowner's lawn. Wow. That was one lucky frog.


By this time, we've helped at least a dozen frogs. We have one sign left to place. The destination where Pat takes us is extremely loud with wood frogs. It's a distinctive sound, like quacking. There was also the rubber band sounds of green frogs, and high pitch of peepers. Okay, it is time party in the wetlands. Joe and Pat put up a sign and everyone rescues at least one frog. Unfortunately, it's been carnage on this road. There are frog remnants everywhere. Pat also finds the remains of a Spotted Salamander. It's the only one we have seen tonight. There isn't much left of him but we ID him by the line of distinctive yellow spots on his spine. It is sad. But it also brings up the point of what we are doing. We are trying to raise awareness of this annual event and how everyone can do something to help.


We want people to recognize areas where amphibian migrations take place. Additionally, people should try to be very aware in late winter / early spring, that those first rainy nights and warming temperatures might be the start to the Big Night migrations.

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