At long last, the forecast for this evening finally looks perfect for amphibian migration! This means that spotted salamanders will likely be migrating after sunset across certain roads to mate, and they welcome our help. :)
Spotted salamanders live mostly underground and then migrate during the first warm rains of spring that carry through the day and into the night with the temperature staying above 40 degrees. Yes, it's been warm several times this month and it's rained several times too, but we haven't had a warm persistent rain continuing past sunset as is predicted for today.
The mascot that graces our brand is indeed a spotted salamander. I spotted my first spotted several years ago while helping friends install a fence in Brooktondale. We had just been brainstorming on the CommonSpot logo and suddenly there it was unearthed before us.
Because this romantic weather is occurring so late in the season, breeding is likely well underway in some places. So, you might see a belated mass migration, you might see salamanders returning from breeding, or you might see a combination of both. Given this mix, please heed the very first tip below...
Salamanders know where they're going. Some may be crossing to mate. Some may be crossing back. Your goal is to ensure safe passage. Please wait to be sure which direction they're going before helping them cross. If you instead, you carry them from whence they came, you will totally harsh their buzz.
When to go... Between 8pm and 10pm is the most critical time to protect them from cars. If the rain persist through the night the salamanders will persist too, but people won't be driving as much and you should be sleeping.
Where to go... Various roads where you have a hill on one side and a lowland marsh area on the other. My go-to spot is on Thomas Road for the mile or so North of Thomas Farm B&B. If you would like to go with me or coordinate timing, feel free to txt or call me (607-592-2222). See this map. The salamanders migrate from the hillside on the west to the marsh around Cascadilla Creek on the east to mate and then cross back again.
What to bring... Bring a flashlight; you don't want to be holding your phone out in the rain. Dress warmly and dress for rain — fleece plus rain layer, hood, appropriate footware, etc. Reflective gear is helpful too. Note, on Thomas Road you'll see the headlights of cars from a mile away; the cars don't sneak up on you.
What to do... Walk along the road. When you see a salamander, you can watch it cross safely, but that can be impractical if there are many salamanders or cars. So, you can instead pick them up and carry them across. It's completely safe to touch them. Ideally have wet hands. You don’t want to dry them off. Also, since we touch so many nasty things in our lives, you can wash your hands before heading out just to be safe. When you see a car approaching in the distance, give a quick flash with your light so the drive knows that something's up.
How many salamanders will I see? It depends. If you catch a big migration, you might see one every few minutes.
How big are these salamanders? They are quite big, actually... perhaps 6" to 9" long and often thicker than your thumbs—depending on your thumbs.
Will I see them mate? Most likely not unless you know an easy path to the side of a pond where they mate. This is what it might look like. Yeah.... they kinda go crazy.
Learn more about spotted salamanders from this wikipedia page.