April 10th – Ephemeral Ponds

Yellow-spotted Salamander from the vicinity of the pond below Net #2. Picture by Caleb Scholtens

The Chorus Frogs were in….well….they were in full chorus this morning. In fact, in my notes I have them as “deafening” – especially the ones in the pond which sits in the stream valley behind net #2, which is sheltered from the wind and heats up in the early morning sun. Much of Ruthven’s 1500 acre property is classified as “slough forest” – a slough being a small to medium-sized pond. This makes sense as Ruthven sits on a bed of Haldimand clay which is noted for its poor drainage. So in the Spring, when the snow melts and the rains come, the ensuing water sits in the depressions – sloughs. Many of these sloughs are interconnected and there is a slow drainage process from one to the other and onward, eventually, to the the Grand River; but it’s very slow. These ponds, which form in the Spring, and eventually dry up (not all of them) are sometimes referred to as “ephemeral ponds”, ephemeral meaning short-lived or transitory. However, transitory as they may be, they are incubators for a wide range of frogs and salamanders. And it doesn’t take much. Not long after the sun gets warm enough to take the ice off the ponds and heat the air up to just above freezing, the frogs start their serenade, growing louder and more frantic as the temperature (and their libidos) rise. Sandy Turner, our Species at Risk Co-ordinator has been checking them out carefully looking for salamanders generally but especially those in the Jefferson “complex” as these are rare and endangered….and have been found on the Ruthven property.

I wasn’t expecting to band this morning at all as rain was expected. Despite the covering of dark clouds we didn’t get any, even when the skies to the north darkened and it began to thunder. We didn’t catch a lot of birds (see below) but there were some nice things around: singing White-throated Sparrows and Yellow-rumped Warblers; a couple of early Common Loons; a Sandhill Crane; and at least 2 pairs of Eastern Bluebirds.

Banded 18:
1 Golden-crowned Kinglet
1 Eastern Bluebird (a brilliant ASY male)
3 American Tree Sparrows
5 Song Sparrows
1 White-throated Sparrow
6 Dark-eyed Juncos
1 American Goldfinch

Retrapped 22:
1 Downy Woodpecker (5 years old!)
1 Black-capped Chickadee
8 American Tree Sparrows
7 Song Sparrows
1 Dark-eyed Junco
2 Brown-headed Cowbirds
2 American Goldfinches

ET’s: 46 spp.


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