It was a dark and stormy night,

nearly 60°, warm for early March, with light rain and distant lightning providing a portent of things to come.  When I stepped outside about 8:00 pm the Spring Peepers were going insane and I thought that was a good sign that the warm, rainy night might have the local salamander population heading towards fishless waters looking for a little love.

I grabbed a flashlight and walked around the pond at the edge of my yard.  I found three Spotted Salamanders (Ambystoma maculatum) along with plenty of newts and leeches.  And peepers!  The peepers were deafening; seriously, they were so loud it was physically painful. 

I figured that if I could find three salamanders in my little pond, then the string of sloughs at Big Spring should be covered up with them since the surrounding habitat is much more suitable.  Plus, crayfish never being far from my mind these days, I was hoping to find a Cambarus diogenes (Devil Crayfish) or two, knowing that they’re prone to leaving their burrows and wandering about on nights like this.

I called my sister (Lori – a junior high science teacher) to see if she wanted to go with me.  Somehow, I ended up not only getting her to tag along, but Dayna came as well.  This was a real surprise because Dayna does NOT go outside in the dark.  🙂

After stopping in town to get Lori, we arrived at Big Spring about 9:30.  The rain had mostly stopped for the time being, but frequent flashes of lightning continued in the distance.  There are a series of sloughs along an old river channel, the first one being very near Big Spring and the others strung out upstream for several hundred yards. 

We reached the slough and started searching.  The first thing I found was a smallish crayfish and I dropped it in the bucket without really looking at it.  Soon, we were finding salamanders, all single individuals.  But I worked my way cross the slough and upstream and hit the jackpot at the very upper end.  There were 30-40 spotted salamanders in a mass, crawling and twining about each other.  Individuals would constantly pop to the surface, stick their head out for a second then drift back to the others.

I yelled for Lori to come look (Dayna didn’t really care) and she yelled back that she had found a HUGE crayfish.  That sounded like what I was looking for so I told her to be sure and catch it.  Crayfish now in the bucket, she slipped and slid her way to where I was waiting and we watched the writhing mass of salamanders for a few minutes.  By then, Dayna was letting us know that she had had enough and we went to collect her. 

I shined the light in the bucket to look at Lori’s “huge crayfish” and suddenly the salamanders were no longer the night’s highlights.  And we’ll pick the story up at this point in the next post….

2 comments to It was a dark and stormy night,

  • Laura

    You mentioned the peepers being so loud it was physically painful. I lived in Ozark county for several years and remember how loud the bugs/frogs were at night–is the peeper frog the one making most of that noise, or what other bugs are contributing to the racket?

  • admin

    Hi Laura,

    This early in the spring, it’s definitely the peepers that are responsible for most of the noise. They taper off later in the year and the other frog species and insects, especially crickets and cicadas, take over. And the 13-year cicadas are due to emerge this year, so expect even more noise than usual.


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