Our first field trip for Rachel Gauza’s herps class took us to Jug Bay Wetlands Sanctuary in Anne Arundel County. Our host guides were Mel Fegler and Mike Quinlan. This is a popular natural place on the Coastal Plain, and rightly so. I heard my first Wood Thrushes of the year in the parking lot.
But the focus today is amphibians and reptiles! In the morning, we worked several spots near the McCann Wetlands Center. Mike found an Eastern Wormsnake (Carphopis amoenus) under a coverboard in the meadow adjacent to the center.
Moving into the deciduous woods along the Middle and Forest Trails, we saw a nice selection of herp diversity: Eastern Box Turtle (Terrapene carolina), Wood Frog (Lithobates sylvaticus), American Toad (Anaxyrus americanus), Fowler’s Toad (A. fowleri), Marbled Salamander (Ambystoma opacum)—and one toad of doubtful status that I want to follow up with Rachel on.
We dropped down from the right of way of the railroad that once ran from Seat Pleasant to Chesapeake Beach into the floodplain of Two Run Branch to visit several seasonal (now dried) and persistent pools. Opportunities to see Marbled Salamander larvae, Eastern Cricket Frog (Acris crepitans), and a choice-sized American Bullfrog (Lithobates catesbeianus). Marbleds breed in the fall and the eggs overwinter, giving them a head start in develop come spring, so (as you can see), they’re already well along the way to becoming adults.
At lunch break, back at the center, I heard a Summer Tanager (Piranga rubra), and I think this is the first time that I’ve heard the call that Dick Walton’s tapes taught me so long ago as “piki-tucki-tuck.”
In the afternoon, Mel took us to a seasonal pool on the the Glendening Nature Preserve section of the sanctuary, the pool known locally as Barn Pool. We did some sweep netting through this pool, in a very rough approximation of the sampling protocol that Mel follows when she’s monitoring. The water levels were quite reduced, but there were many Marbled Salamander larvae to be netted.