The temperature has been around 40 degrees all day with a soft and steady rain. Tonight on the cusp of the Vernal Equinox, I thought conditions might just be right for the great mole salamander migration. After dinner, we stuffed children's pajamas into boots, took down our flashlights and headed out for Salamander country.
These first spring amphibians precede the chorus of peepers that will be a feature of late April evenings in our swamps and woodlands. In western New England we have three species of mole salamanders - yellow spotted, blue spotted and Jefferson's - that start to stir on nights like these and move from their winter slumber to the cold dark water of vernal pools to breed. The blue spots hybridize with the Jefferson's in the southern Berkshires, so I'm never quite sure which one I have found when I come across one, though that itself is a rare enough event. These two are also state listed rare species of special concern.
I drove all the muddy back roads in Sheffield where I knew there were salamander crossings. It must have been just to cold, or too early, for we didn't see a one, but we did have the thrill of a rufus phase screech owl that flew across the road near Dry Brook and landed on a post just to the side of the road where we had a fine view of it in our headlights.
This year our backyard maple has experienced ideal conditions, and we've enjoyed a fine run of sap. I have already sugared off enough to make my 1/2 gallon of syrup and it looks like we'll have at least another week of the run before it slows. I should end up with 3/4 gallon from my two buckets and spiles. The sap did not run in January this year, which may have helped. It seems that the emerging bulbs in our yard are less advanced at this stage than in the previous couple of years. There is not a sign of daffodil tips at the base of the tree, even where the afternoon sunshine warms the mulch.
We'll head out again the next night it rains, and one of these times we'll see them, crawling out from the dark woods and into the beams of our flashlights. It is one of the season's great spectacles, but you have to put in some effort - and have a bit of luck on your side - to experience it.