Saturday, May 15, 2021 was a great Spring day in many ways. The sun was shining and a cool morning gave way to a warm 70 degree afternoon, a perfect day to look for critters. The best part was that the NJ School of Conservation opened its gate for the first time in over a year to a public program, a “Salamander Search” that attracted novice and veteran salamander hunters alike.
The two-hour exploration began with a brief explanation of what herpetology is (the study of reptiles and amphibians) and the best way to find these critters. We started our scientific efforts at “Frog Hollow,” a man-made pool, surrounded by native plants. This area did not disappoint as we dug through muck to find toad tadpoles and dragonfly larvae. Further into the woods, we passed our “hugging tree,” an old white pine that has withstood the test of time. Participants gave the tree a quick hug before we arrived at our wetland area where we discovered some red-spotted newts. Further along the trail we came across an American toad, wood frog and red-backed salamanders under some logs. Some highlights on our walk back include a large red salamander and a garter snake that was clearly about to shed by its cloudy eyes. We finished our adventures by dipping our nets in our Lake Wapalanne where we found some fish and snail eggs. A wonderful start to what we hope to be many new adventures at the NJ School of Conservation. Stay curious everyone!