Sunday, May 6, 2012

LIHS Bio-Blitz

The Long Island Herpetological Society (LIHS) held its first annual bio-blitz today at SUNY Farmingdale. I guess that we had about 25 members show up and that at least 8 in the group were children. It was pretty cloudy out and somewhat cooler than I would have hoped for when looking for snakes but that did not deter the youngsters from turning logs and boards (previously laid out by society members) while looking for salamanders, snakes, toads and whatever.

Red Backed Salamander
In all, there were about 21 salamanders found - all Red backed Salamanders. These neat little salamanders were quite common at one time on Long Island and it seems that if the habitat is available to them (wooded areas supplying enough moisture under rotting logs and such) then it seems they are fairly tenacious as far as survival goes. To find them in as isolated a pocket as a wooded area on the campus at SUNY Farmingdale was pretty wonderful.

Another denizen of the woods was also captured. This time an American or Fowler's toad. I am not certain which species. In fact two of them were caught. The toads came as somewhat of a surprise because there does not appear to be any breeding pools on the campus for the toads. Toads can be fairly wide ranging though, and the golf course on the adjoining property has a pond or two.

In addition to the amphibians, a couple of reptiles were also found. Both of them from the same species, the Eastern Garter Snake. One was found in the woods, it was apparently on the prowl looking for its next meal. I am not certain where the other was caught but think it may have been found under one of the boards we laid out over the past 2 months. Snakes love to crawl under flat objects that absorb heat so they can warm themselves up.

Look Closely To See Mon Just Taking Off
That was it for reptiles and amphibians but there were other critters to be found. Many of the boards we put out had ants' nests under them. Another one also had a nest under it but very different than an ants' nest. This one hid what I am pretty sure was a white footed field mouse and a liter of babies. There were 4 or 5 babies suckling the mother. We all got a good look and the mother mouse took us in as well but after a couple of minutes she had enough and she scampered away with two babies still attached to her teats. No doubt, once we put the plywood back down as it had been, she returned to her babies that were still in the nest. A short tailed vole was also found under one of the pieces of plywood that we had put out. There were also butterflies galore along the path out in the sunny areas (not in the woods) where we had laid out the plywood. Finally, we also got to see a good number of barn swallows and a couple of their nests under an overhang of one of the buildings.

As for the catching, it was 'catch and release' only. The herps were caught, bagged or put into other appropriate containers, brought to the meeting room and measured and photographed, then released back where they had been caught. By bringing them into the meeting room, everyone got a good opportunity to take a look at them close up. By releasing them, we all, especially the kids, got a good lesson in wildlife conservation.

Personally, I had been hoping to stumble across an Eastern Box turtle. That would have been a find nowadays although 30 or 40 years ago they were still fairly abundant in the area. No luck finding any of them but I think we did pretty good for our first LIHS Bio-Blitz and both old and young alike had a lot of fun.

All the best,
Glenn B