My latest idea is a floating branch that can be moved to deeper water if drought causes a dramatic decline in pond water depth. The jug acts as a float to keep the stump end of the branch from catching on the pond bottom.
The smaller stems are heavily garnished with jelly-like bags of salamander eggs. Some people question my manipulation of this aquatic habitat, but some type of management becomes necessary when the pond and the associated amphibian population are not natural to this site. Prior to construction of the pond approximately 60 years ago the site was dry and provided no aquatic environment in which amphibians could live or breed. So, all of the frogs and salamanders currently breeding in the pond had to have come from somewhere else.
It was not until the fish could no longer survive that the pond became a suitable amphibian breeding site. The few egg clusters I saw during my first years at Blue Jay Barrens may have been the first successful breeding attempt in the pond. This single long branch contains more salamander egg clusters than could be found in the entire pond a mere 20 years ago.
The adults are apparently finding a suitable subterranean environment in which to spend their time away from the pond. A place that once had nothing to offer to salamanders is on its way to becoming a salamander oasis.
These were attached to short grass left in the center of the breeding pool. They should be at a depth that protects them from fluctuating water levels.
There had obviously been some minor breeding activity several weeks earlier than the latest explosive event. Although I kept watch on the pond in an attempt witness the arrival of the salamanders, the 90 percent ice cover during the last two months has made observations difficult. My manager self will have to explain to my staff self the need for vigilance in these types of pursuits.
It was evident by the activity that breeding was still ongoing. Two individuals are shown here; one just below center and one top center.
I don’t know of anywhere nearby that could have been the original source for this Jefferson Salamander. I know that a few individuals in each population are inclined to wander, but it would have been quite a journey for the
Prior to the publication of the new Amphibians of Ohio book, I would have called it a Smallmouth Salamander. The book puts the Smallmouth’s range at least 60 miles from Blue Jay Barrens. Now I’m led to believe that this is a Streamside Salamander, a species that does breed in the local streams. The Streamside is not a pond breeder. Instead, it lays its eggs beneath flat rocks in the creek. Apparently, in a pond situation, it can lay its eggs beneath logs, leaves or other vegetation and that may be what it’s up to here. I think that next year I’ll put some boards and flat rocks in the pond and see if any Streamside eggs show up beneath them. That should provide some answers.