Five inches of rain fell at Blue Jay Barrens between December 22 and December 28. The result was a pond full of water and the start of the 2016 salamander breeding season. The water remained high and murky for a few days following the end of the rain, but by January 1 had regained its clarity and returned to its typical winter full level.
Egg clusters were evidence that salamanders had moved into the pond sometime during that December rain. Even when I’m out at the right time, I rarely encounter salamanders entering the pond. I believe most emerge from a series of subterranean passages associated with a seasonal spring that flows into the upper end of the pond. During times of low pond water level, I have observed salamanders moving into and out of these passages. When water level is high, the distance from the passage openings to the pond is less than a foot, so there’s not much opportunity to view a salamander heading for the pond. Add to this the fact that runoff water travels both through these passages and over the passage openings, and it becomes nearly impossible to find salamanders while it is actually raining.
A few new egg clusters appear every day.
Several egg clusters were attached to twigs that were inundated while the pond was in flood stage. As soon as the water returned to its normal level, these eggs were left hanging in the air. They have suffered from both drying and freezing, so they are lost. Fortunately, the eggs suffering this fate were but a small percentage of the total in the pond.
The only species I am currently seeing in the pond is Jefferson Salamanders. This is typical. Jeffersons usually appear in early January, Streamside Salamanders enter the pond in early February and Spotted Salamanders show up in March. The Jefferson Salamanders will remain in the pond for another month or two and will probably be joined by more of their species later in the month. Near the end of the breeding season there will be Jefferson Salamander egg clusters in all stages of development from newly laid to ready to hatch. Even though winter still has about two and a half months to go, the presence of salamander eggs makes me feel that spring has arrived.