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With Spring Comes The “Big Night”

April 13, 2018

Everyone knows that spring is a magical time, filled with the rebirth and awakening of all aspects of life in the community forest.  Each year, as the snow piles recede and area rivers and streams torrentially swell, one group of animals are patiently waiting for their turn on the big stage.

When the ground has thawed and nighttime temperatures hover above 40 degrees, amphibians of all shapes and sizes emerge during a soft, warm rainfall in a mass migration to spring breeding locations.  In naturalist circles, this event is known as the “Big Night.” Wood frogs, spotted and blue-spotted salamanders, spring peepers, and more make their way from upland forested habitat to vernal pools to mate and lay eggs.  Vernal pools (seasonal “puddles” in lowland forests) provide the perfect location for young amphibians, as they lack the numerous aquatic predators of larger bodies of water.

This exodus of amphibians will be happening soon – immediate coastal areas of Maine will see movement in the next few days.  However, with several deep pockets of snow left in the Downeast Lakes Community Forest, Grand Lake Stream’s Big Night will likely not happen for another week or two.  If you have never experienced this migration, it’s truly an exciting event.  Spotted salamanders are a subterranean species that is rarely seen and can grow to be 7-10 inches long!  Keep an eye on the weather forecast for a steady rain event at night, grab your headlamp, and head out in search of these often-elusive critters.  If you happen to be out driving, be mindful of the Big Night, as amphibians are often crossing busy roads in search of vernal habitats.