I got the text at 9:07 last night. I had just finished practicing piano and heard the rain splattering on the roof. I was thinking about making some tea and settling down with a good book before slipping off to bed.
The message read: A few moving tonight – we need your help!
So, instead of curling up by the wood stove, I put on multiple layers of warm clothes, my wool socks and heavy rubber boots, my rain pants and rain coat, my wool hat and gloves, and — most importantly — my headlamp, and headed out into the dark, rainy night. I walked down the road about a ¼ mile until I found two others similarly clad, with flashlights and headlamps pointed down at the road.
Even before we met, I saw the carnage on the road — numerous large Spotted Salamanders had been run over by unsuspecting drivers while they were making their way from the still-frozen woods on one side of the road to the still-mostly-frozen pond on the other. Immediately, I went into rescue mode. I waved my light across the pavement, starting on the woodland side of the road first.
Soon I saw my first Wood Frog — a large, salmon-colored female. Then, a tiny Spring Peeper, then two Wood Frogs already coupled, and a small Spotted Salamander, all headed towards the pond. It was cold (about 42 degrees), so they weren’t moving fast, and more cars were coming down the hill. I quickly picked up each one with wet hands and gently transferred them to the edge of the pond, then started searching for more.
Two other people showed up with headlamps, and one left after a long cold day, so now there were four of us taking turns giving safe passage to the first batch of peepers, Wood Frogs, and salamanders to emerge from the woods. They were all headed to the same place (their special breeding pond). Before the night was over, the peepers were peeping and the Wood Frogs were quacking — a sure sign that spring in Maine finally has arrived!
By the time we went home nearly two hours later (it was after 11:00 pm), we had moved over a hundred cold wet frogs and salamanders safely across the road. But there will be more! Last night was just the start. The next rainy night I expect many hundreds more to move, and this time we will send out the text — They’re moving tonight. We need your help! — to over 400 people who have expressed interest in donning their raincoats and rainboots on behalf of this annual event.
In the coming nights, please remind your friends and family to be aware this migration is underway. A little careful driving (and the occasional stop in a safe, visible location to help shepherd these fascinating critters across the road) can make a big difference to our local amphibian populations!