Wednesday, December 18, 2019

Mudpuppy Night in Oxford Mills

....the only place in Canada where you can wade among giant salamanders every Friday night through the winter! 

...every Friday evening from the firstFriday after Thanksgiving until spring high water. The best Mudpuppy viewing in Ontario! Flat bedrock and clear shallow water provide safe footing for researchers and spectators of giant aquatic Salamanders pursuing their winter activities. The rocky clear-water Kemptville Creek from the dam at Oxford Mills to the Prescott Street Bridge in Kemptville is the best place to see Mudpuppies in eastern Ontario. 

On a cold winter night we have seen up to 180 Mud-puppies prowling the creek bottom - and afterwards, retire to the Brigadoon Restaurant to drink coffee, eat desserts, and talk about Mudpuppies and everything else!
We begin each Friday evening at 8:00, assembling on the County Rd. 18 bridge below the dam. Wear gumboots and put new batteries in your flashlights!

Mudpuppy Night in Oxford Mills has been bringing people face to face with Mudpuppies in the wild since 1998. Since 1998 Mudpuppy Night in Oxford Mills has been taking observers to the only place in Ontario where Mudpuppies have been repeatedly observed in large numbers throughout the winter. 

The longest-running winter herpetological outing in Canada. In 2005 Mudpuppy Night was awarded the CARCNET Silver Salamander Award for local herpetological conservation and education.

Mudpuppies, Necturus maculosus, are foot-long permanently aquatic Salamanders. They retain the gills and smooth skin of larvae as adults, and go undetected in many water-bodies because of their secretive habits. Mudpuppies are slow and cautious, though they can swim nearly as fast as a fish on occasion. In May females deposit 50-150 eggs on the underside of a flat rock. The female guards the eggs, and attends the larvae after they hatch. 

About 25 years ago herpetologists realized that Mudpuppies are active, and feed actively, all winter, because they can be caught in baited minnowtraps in the winter but not in the summer. Mudpuppies were long famous for having more DNA in each cell than just about any other animal, and this winter activity has shown that the abundant DNA provides Mudpuppies with the array of temperature-adjusted enzymes they require to remain active in water from 0°-32° C. Mudpuppies are fairly common in the Ottawa River and its major tributaries, north to the Arctic Watershed, and the Canadian range extends through southern Quebec, Ontario and Manitoba.

To let us know you're coming, please contact us by phone at (613)258-3107, or e-mail

There's no registration fee, but donations are welcome.

Thursday, August 15, 2019

Are Daylilies Invasive?

This summer we've been mapping Orange Day Lilies (Hemerocallis fulva) along eastern Ontario roads to see what kinds of places they're growing in. This was inspired by the good season this species has had, the thought that we had neglected them in comparison to other alien roadside plants, and comparing them to Lupines (Lupinus cf polyphyllus) in New Brunswick, which are a wildly popular invasive species which spreads along roadsides from plantings at homesites. 

With the spraying that municipalities are doing against 'poison parsnip,'  killing off all the broad-leaved Dicot herbs, there's the real possibility that Day Lilies will be favoured and become even more widespread along roadsides. We saw the first bloom on 19 June, and were are still a few coming out on 10 August.

Wikipedia says: "Triploid... Hemerocallis fulva var. fulva... native to Asia from the Caucasus east through the Himalaya to China, Japan, and Korea... has escaped from cultivation across much of the United States and parts of Canada and has become a weedy or invasive species. It... spreads more or less rapidly by vegetative increase into woods and fields and along roadsides and ditches... dense stands that exclude native vegetation, and is often so common that it is mistaken for a native species."

Triploid plants characteristically don't set seed, because the three sets of chromosomes get scrambled in the the process of meiosis. Daylilies' one-day flowers wither from precisely regulated cell death, and the unfertilized stems shrivel in their turn. But the Yellow Daylily, H. flava, which is mostly seen in cultivation, is diploid. It sets seeds readily and a myriad of varieties have been produced by interspecies crossing and selection. 

Like Cattails, Daylilies are one of those plants which is edible in every part that's not too fibrous to chew, and while the caution exists that they may loosen the bowels, the tubers, spring shoots, young flower stalks, flowers, and spent flowers are edible, perhaps providing a motive for planting colonies.

This July and August we ran four surveys, at ordinary highway speed or slightly less, waypointing as many of the stands we passed as possible. As is usual with these surveys, some stands may be missed while the observer's head is down writing his notes. The first survey was on 21 July from SSW of Forthton to Bishops Mills, along Temperance Lake, New Dublin, Branch, Kyle, Bolton, and Buker roads. The second was on foot in the SW sector of Bishops Mills on 22 July. The third was with Naomi Langlois-Anderson from Monkland to Jessups Falls along Hwy 43, County Roads 20, 9, 24, and Old Hwy 17. The fourth was along Hwy 17 from Meath to Rolphton on 2 August. The narrative of these observations is appended to this post, so the records will be available to future workers.

Along the 21 July transect, there were 32 sightings, sites averaging 1021 m apart, ranging from 67 m - 4250 m, and a standard deviation of 1117 m; clearly not a normal distribution - Poisson or exponential or something. If eight gaps of more than 1 km were excluded, the distance between sightings averaged 504 m. The habitats were 8 paired stands at driveway, 3 single stands near driveways, 2 rows of plants along roads at Conifer hedges in front of homesites, 11 elsewhere in yard or garden, 4 along a wild edge of a yard, and 7 away from homesites (5 on grassy/herbaceous roadside along woods or brushy oldfield, 2 along grassy fields or pastures, 1 along a farm lane, and 150 m of stands along a cornfield; 31% wild sites).

Along the 24 July transect, on the way out the distances between 18 stands averaged 2532 m (183 - 8570m, standard deviation 2552 m). Coming back some of the sites may have filled gaps, or may have been duplicates. The habitats in this more agricultural landscape were 10 sites in yard or garden, 1 along a wild edge of a yard, and 5 away from homesites (550m of plants along grassy roadside through young woods, 2 along grassy fields or pastures, and 2 stands along tilled fields; 38% wild sites, though this would have been lower if all the stands in Dominionville had been individually counted).

On the 2 August survey of Hwy 17 only 7 sites were seen, separated by an average of 11.4 km (166 m - 51.5 km, standard deviation 18.0 km). The habitats were one on either side of a driveway, a single stand along driveway, two elsewhere in yard or garden, two stands on either side of a motel sign, and wild stands along a marsh and along grassy fields or pastures; 29% wild sites.

Bishops Mills is as rich in Daylilies as anywhere, and we're variously familiar with the stands, though the dates of establishment of stands we've intentionally planted on our land for food either were not recorded, or have not yet made it into the database. These are a row planted, sometime in the 1980s or early 1990s, in the sandy 'Upper Garden' site in oldfield near an Aspen plantation, which is now a 3 x 12 metre patch, and a stand in a grassy patch of shallow-soil oldfield being overgrown by Grape vines and shrubs, that was planted sometime in the early 2000s, and is now a 6 x 5 metre stand. A few plants showed up in 2018 among Garlic Mustard, Nettles, & Motherwort, from somewhere into a now-unused Goat yard, and an old row along the driveway of our neighbouring cottage,'Pipers House' is spreading a few metres into an adjacent irregularly-tilled garden area.

There's a 4 metre stand around a telephone pole across the street from our houses (the illustration for this posting), which has been there 'ever since,' and is now mowed around as the oldfield roadside has been converted to a rough lawn. On the St-Lawrence Street/Buker Road corner lot there's a clump around a 21 cm DBH White Spruce, which presumably dates from the planting of the Spruce in the early 1990s, a stand in the lawn around a cluster of Siberian Elm trees at the edge of a septic mound, probably from not long after the construction of the mound around 1981; a roadside 5 x 7 metre stand between a small Common Lilac and a shading Sugar Maple, a ring of plants around a big Manitoba Maple, and a 5 metre stand perpendicular to the street along the boundary between lots back from a big Manitoba Maple stump.

On the Mill Street quarter of our 'doing the streets' survey, there is a 13 m stand of Daylilies along an overgrown hedge of White Cedar that's recently been cleared of lower branches to give the Daylilies room to thrive. Buker Road SW of the village (the route of the 21 July survey) is a festival of stands: a 13 metre roadside stand in a lawn, a narrow 10 metre stand along a lawn at a Cathartic (=Common) Buckthorn thicket, a 5 metre stand around a Buckthorn clump, 45 metres of scattered Daylilies in an unmowed verge along a lawn, with Narrow-leaved Plantain the conspicuous co-dominant herb, a 2 metre clump at a new driveway with Buckthorn and Honeysuckle sprouting where shrubs had been cut down, and a not-dense 2 metre clump under an Apple tree.

Other settlements are perhaps not as well daylilied, though Dominionville has "stands all through the village," in Kemptville four stands are visible from the daughter's house, 10 stands can be counted in driving County Road 18 through Oxford Mills, and there are plants sparsely along the 'wild' north side of County Road 20 through Oxford Station. In Garretton, Daylilies are dominant along the roadside of County Road 18 along Kemptville Creek.

So it seems that Orange Daylilies are now mostly around homesites or in villages, that the stands have spread only a few metres over the course of decades, and the wild plants seem to be either isolated dense stands, or strung out along roadsides where road maintenance grading could have spread plants or tubers. We saw only one field with Daylilies through it, and no cases where scattered roadside plants had become a solid stand.

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

You Can Tell She's a Road Ecologist...

"You can tell she's a road ecologist by the way she swerves around the snow-toads."   21 January 2018, Canada: Ontario: Grenville County: Oxford-on-Rideau Township: County Road 18, 1.5 km NNE Bishops Mills. (100 m along road), 31B/13, 44.88332° N 75.69096° W TIME: 1749. AIR TEMP: 1°C, overcast, calm. HABITAT: flat tilled-, oldfields, hayfields, between creeks. OBSERVER: Aleta Karstad Schueler, Frederick W. Schueler. 2018/005/g, weather (climate observation) (event). natural history, driveby. no snow falling, continuous snow cover in the fields.

In the course of work on the “Wildlife on Roads” book, we asked e-mail lists and facebook about their terms for things most often mistaken for on-road wildlife, their characteristics, and names used for them. We received comments from Heather Christine, Erinn Lawrie, Susan Smethurst, Christopher Hampson, Neil Balchan, Sherri Moulton, Amanda Green-Verma, Taylor Kennedy, Bev Wigney, Elizabeth Anke, Madison Wikston, Anna Best, Neil Balchan, Candace Robin, Jane Fuller, Marilyn Pallister, David Tomes, Parker Pickles Boulder, Donald Sutherland, Genèvre Arsovsky, Michelle Lauren, Rachel Young Moffatt, Tyler Hake, Gloria Allan, Mhat Briehl, Jordan Dertinger, Mike Pearsall, Holly Anderson, Sara Ashpole, Sue Hayes, Corina Brdar, Hannah Maciver, and Christina Davy (facebook or e-mail names, in the order received), and have distilled them into a list of vernacular names, which provide a vocabulary that can enhance the quick decision-making and classification needed for drive-by identification of objects that might or might not be roadkill.

Snow-toads are rarely seen in the same season as real Toads, but stand on the road in a similar upright posture. Holly Anderson's BLOBs (Bird Like Objects) are often comprised of the “plonkers of snow from behind tires on the road in a cunningly raptor-shaped slump,” and Candace Robin's Snow Turtles fall from the snow that accumulates behind the tires –  “the ones that fall off transports have the hardest shell.”

Bananacondas in their various distortions and changing colour are the classic mistaken object. These peels are found at surprising densities along some roads, twisted into diverse snake-like shapes, and darkening from yellow to black as they dry and age. Madison Wikston “once pulled over to help a bananaconda cross safely.”

Leaf-frogs are often Maple leaves, standing up on their lobes in an Anuran posture, though Poplar leaves can also twist into a frog-like shape. Leaf-mice often run straight across the road without bouncing when there's a fairly stiff breeze, and ”they have a funny way of skittering forward, stopping suddenly as the ends of the pointed leaves catch for a second, then on they go” (Bev Wigney).

Glove Birds are may be sprawled open, or rolled into a shape like that of a small Mammal. Pebble Peepers are emblematic of small mistaken creatures (on a gravel road their namesakes will often only be distinguishable when they jump or after they've been hit). Catkin Salamanders fall from Poplar trees, and a wide range of organic and mineral detritus can be mistaken for small invertebrates. 

Stick-snakes come in a wide range of sizes, and like all faux-serpents must be distinguished by the difference between the way they bend or twist from the sinuous increasing-from-the-head – decreasing-to-the-tail loops of a living Snake, and the varied crumpling of  DORs. Bungee-cord Snakes have smooth loops in garish colours, Fanbelt Snakes have broad black curves and straight segments, and rubber tarp straps are curved in upon themselves, sporting big S-hooks on both ends.

Retread Alligators: are especially common along superhighways, or they break up into Tire Turtles – they always exhibit a solidly black coloration.

Various kinds of cans or reflectors can appear to be the eyeshine of a mammal in the headlights. Stump Bears, which are distantly related to Stump Bucks, are often just off the road in northern Ontario.  And then there are Bag Owls, Hat Turtles, Dogturd Toads, Trash-bag-cat-corpses, Garbage-squirrels, the Cardboard Hawk Wing, and the Plastic Bag Pigeon. In many areas of New Brunswick most roadkills are Bark Bodies.

Christina Davy “had a good track record of stopping to yell at stupid road-crossing Pine Cone Hedgehogs while working in Europe,” Tyler Hake “stopped for discarded bras at least 3 times because the cup was facing upwards and made me think they were Box Turtles.” Many of us have had to move one particular Rock Turtle or Boot Turtle, “that we mistook for a Box Turtle every night....” (Neil Balchan) from one of our transects, and black tire Skid-mark DORs can often repeatedly appear to be the same spurious species on a  frequently traveled road. For a final bit of good news, discarded paper coffee and drink cups are almost always recognizable before one drives past or over them.

This kind of terminology is not just amusing – recognizing roadkill from a moving vehicle is a very high-speed process, and identification is facilitated by having names for the non-target objects which link with mental search images to reduce the time the eye spends on an object, and to reduce the number of stops made in error. If you've got terms of this kind that we haven't listed here, be sure to contribute and explain them in a comment.

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

UPCOMING BOOK - Wildlife on Roads, the Handbook

We're now working with CPAWS Ottawa Valley Chapter and EcoKare International on "Wildlife on Roads, the Handbook, towards a hoped-for release in the spring of 2018. The book is coauthored by Kari Gunson and Fred, with illustrations and design by Aleta.

While we've always been nominally grumpy about the way roads influence landscapes as "the largest human artifact," and about their enormous impact on wildlife populations and the spread of invasive plants, we still use internal-combustion vehicles on roads for our exploration of Canada. Our database currently contains 29,792 on-road records from Pelee Island to Fort McMurray, and from to Haida Gwaii to Nova Scotia (and there may more from Newfoundland and the NWT in 1970s field notes that haven't been entered).

In 1977, when we took the canoe Fairhaven Bay from Vancouver Island to Quadra Arm to fill a gap in herpetological knowledge of the mainland coast of British Columbia, we landed at an old lumber camp: we were able to pitch our tents where we were told the Grizzly Bears didn't visit, and to use a pickup truck to extend the known range of Tailed Frogs, Ascaphus truei, from just north of Vancouver to halfway-to-Alaska.

Our attempts to survey away from roads led us to coin the maxim that "the reason herpetology stops at the limit of roads is because anything else is idiocy." (in 1989, right along the Yellowhead Highway, Fred was able to extend the Tailed Frog's range to almost-in-Alaska).

On that trip for Canadian Nature Notebook we'd been doing our other road ecology thing - marking down locations (in those days odometer readings) for stands of invasive roadside Plants - the now-believed-to-be-alien, Narrow-leafed Cattail, Typha angustifolia, which has since continued its spread all across the western provinces, to the point where it dominates some marshes in Saskatchewan 

Roads actively kill animals, and facilitate the spread of invasive Plants, but herpetology uses roads like physicists use particle detectors, to document both geographic ranges and seasonal movements of their species. We've long used the eddies around bridges and culverts to concentrate shells for the Canadian Library of Drifted  Material and as sampling points in surveys of streams, as we're "doing bridges."

In the 1990s naturalists and ecologists hit upon the idea that (since roads were constructed by fellow Humans) it might be possible to reduce their ecological impact by campaigning to modify the way roads were built and maintained, rather than just regarding them as inevitably destructive natural phenomena. In 1990 Fred and David Tomes surveyed the herpetofauna of the Bruce Peninsula, and while about half of their data was of road-crossing animals, their final report barely mentioned ways of reducing the slaughter - but now Kari strains her back installing fencing which keeps the Snakes and Turtles off the roads there.

In the 1980s and 1990s precise locations of roadkill had to be taken from guessing ones position on a topographic map, and this was very much facilitated in Canada by the presence of the UTM military grid on the maps, which meant that, from a 1:50:000 map, one could record a position within 50 metres. Then in 1995 Global Positioning units became affordable, and suddenly one always knew, and could MARK, one's location as a downloadable waypoint, and looked at a map mostly to see the surroundings, rather than to figure out where one was. On-line mapping resources became more and more convenient and accurate, so that it was soon possible to record a location to within a couple of metres just from a visual memory.

In 2008 a series of meetings, instigated by Dave Ireland, led to the formation of the Ontario Road Ecology Group (OREG) which has been through a series of organizational formats, and is hopefully now setting out to represent the whole road ecology community of Ontario.

Fred waypointing as Adam Zieleman drives during the 2010 'Thirty Years Later' expedition 
- a year when we recorded 1617 on-road observations.
A big inspiration in our move towards road ecology as a science in itself, rather than just a way of studying animal movements, has been the Geomatics and Landscape Ecology Research Laboratory (GLEL) at Carleton University, with their Friday seminars, and their mailing around of pdfs of landscape ecology papers for discussion at these seminars.

In 2008 Fred posted 'Ten Other Questions about Road Ecology' which he felt weren't being adequately addressed in the GLEL or by OREG, and in 2009 he sang the song of road ecology as a scientific dreamtime (this is made into a poem in his darwinian poems book.)

As road ecology became more of a "thing," we got involved in a number of road-centred projects. In 2004 we started "doing the streets," frequent surveys of on-road creatures and conditions on the 267 metres of streets facing land we've occupied in the village of Bishops Mills (3279 surveys to date), and in the first season of OREG Kari calculated a GIS projection of how many forest and wetland-dwelling Animals are likely to be found on every 15 metres of road in Ontario, and we tested her model on a circuit around Leeds & Grenville counties. With Kari we waypointed turtle-crossing signs (which had been erected, without - except for those done by South Nation Conservation - recording their positions), to assess their effectiveness and longevity. In 2014-2015 we worked with A2A on a survey of roadkill and possible mitigation of Hwy 401 through the Frontenac Axis. when this orphaned ms popped up, we've settled down with Kari to use her experience with mitigation and policy, our experience as independent road ecologists and general naturalists, and lots of peer review by friends and colleagues, to put together what we hope will be a useful guide for a citizen scientists who want to get started in road ecology. We will be using this site, Doing Natural History as a repository for data and discussions too detailed to fit into the book, so this is just the first post focused on "Wildlife on Roads: The Handbook."

A spread from the Amphibians section of "Wildlife on Roads, the Handbook"

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Crayfish Assault on the Dam at Oxford Mills

Orconectes rusticus x propinquus working its way toward the spillway
On October 3, 2017, I'd just returned from two months away from home, and Fred was eager to show me the assault on the dam at Oxford Mills, so I checked that there was still charge in the GoPro that my Dad had won by entering his "Bear Tree" video in a trail camera contest, and pulled on my gumboots.

Fred put fresh batteries in the big light, and we drove the 10 minutes north to the dam on Kemptville Creek in Oxford Mills - the site of our winter "Mudpuppy Night in Oxford Mills" project.

Water levels had finally dropped to wadeable, after being "spring flood" for the whole of this wet summer. For a few days he'd been collecting crayfish claws, legs, and carapaces, left by predators, and expected a repeat of last fall's mass migration of the hybrids - Orconectes rusticus x propinquus, rushing the dam against the spillway current as if their very lives depended on it.

My attempts to pair the GoPro with my smartphone when we received it from my Dad last winter were not successful, so I was filming "blind" - just pressing the button and dipping it into the water, at the end of an extended "selfie stick", and following the beam of Fred's flashlight - hoping that the little black glass-fronted cube at the end of it would capture half decent images of whatever it was pointed at, both under and above water. We were not disappointed!

climbing the wall
I didn't realize how close the GoPro would focus, so could have gotten much better images than these, which I've cropped from screen captures of the three short videos downloaded when we got home.

First we climbed down from the retaining wall on the east side of the dam, and approached the first spillway. There was one of the rascals, scaling the corner of the dry stone and concrete wall, heading for the chink you can see directly above it.

Wading across the flat limestone bedrock at the foot of the three spillways, we caught glimpses through the rushing water of several crayfish struggling to hold their hard-won positions in the torrent.

Three crayfish jockeyed for positions at the far corner of the west spillway. We watched as one attempted to round the corner, tail-first.

attempting the corner

You can see the shapes of other crayfish on the bottom, all facing into the current. The clearest of these is in the lower right.

Fred wrote this as part of a discussion about the origins of life:

Just look at the dam in Oxford Mills over the past couple of weeks, when the ancestors of the rusty x propinquus hybrid Crayfish have had 30 years in which each generation was the offspring of those that went the farthest upstream from the mouth of the Jock River, where they also entered and went up the Rideau River and thence Kemptville Creek: "At both the east and west spillways in Oxford Mills there were piles of Crayfish trying to get upstream into the current, and being swept downstream when they got too close. Many were walking around on the ground & rocks out of the water, and on the E side several were climbing up an interior angle of the dam, and one was going into the hole of a missing rock 30cm above the ground level. This was an assault like one sees in drawings of medieval sieges of castles. My confidence that the dam will keep them out of the upper creek has completely disappeared. I'm sure that with the trickling flow that there is in a low-water summer, they could have climbed the surface of the logs and been over the dam in significant numbers in one night." - and this assault goes on at the cost of hundreds eaten by Raccoons and Herons.

Here is our video of the event on 10 October: 

Monday, May 8, 2017

In a Drought, July Showers Bring May Calling

In 1992-93, as concern was escalating about the global decline of Amphibians, we established a system of two auditory monitoring transects north and south from our home in Bishops Mills. This system of 42 stations, plus 'backyard' listening from home,  extends 51 km NNE from just north of Brockville to the north shore of the Rideau River.  As the years went by, it has acquired the moniker “More than one Person can handle,” and with the onrush of other spring-time and summer duties we haven't often been able to listen adequately along the whole transect.  Because of a road we didn't know was impassable when we planned the transects from the topo map, the system has broken down into 3 transects, one to the south, one to the north, and one, most frequently surveyed, around home. When we are home, we also listen from home every night, when it's not excessively rainy or windy, from 1 March to 1 August.

The species referenced here, and the seasons we hear them calling from home (4 & 6 St-Lawrence Street, Bishops Mills, Grenville County, 44.87156N 75.70095W; 1992-2016, a few exceptional outlying years flagged) are: Hylid Treefrogs - Pseudacris crucifer [Spring] Peeper (19 March 2012, 28 March-20 June), & Hyla versicolor [Tetraploid Grey] Treefrog (30 April-18 July [last full chorus]); Catesbianus group Ranid Frogs - Lithobates catesbeianus Bull Frog (18 May 1998, 1 June-10 August), L. clamitans, Green Frog (24 May-13 August), & L. septentrionalis, Mink Frog (24 May-1 August); and [American] Toad, Anaxyrus americanus, (19 March 2012, 2 April-19 June [last full chorus] -20 July [last calls]).

Three appropriately timed surveys on nights with appropriate weather can get good records of all Anuran species calling in eastern Ontario, but one of the lessons we've learned, in what's now 34 years of experience, is that good seasons for frogs are often bad for auditory monitoring. The best seasons for listening to spring-calling species are those in which the temperature warms gradually, with modest precipitation and moderate week-long oscillations in temperature. On the other hand, the best seasons for these frogs are those in which warming and wetness coincide, to bring the all the females to the ponds in a single wave, so mating is concluded promptly, and both sexes spend a minimum of time and energy reserves in completing the breeding, with maximum survival to breed again in a subsequent year. This scenario minimizes the duration of calling, and severely constrains the time available for auditory monitoring. 

On the other hand, persistently dry seasons can be bad for both frogs and monitors, since choruses are late in forming if small species, particularly, won't move across dry ground to reach breeding ponds, many of the frogs may desiccate on the way to the ponds, peak calling may occur on very different dates at different sites, and some ponds may dry up during the calling season. Similar but less easily understood factors seem to influence calling by Mink/Green/Bull Frogs; one that is fairly easy to grasp is that calling is prolonged, for Green & Bull frogs at least, during  dry seasons, in which it seems that males continue to call after breeding is finished to defend territories for feeding, whereas in wet summers they abandon the wetlands for terrestrial foraging (hypothesis 3 of Schueler 2000).

In 2016 maps of conditions show record low precipitation in the area of the surveys, and “In Ottawa, counting both snow and rainfall for [1April to 28 July], the area has received only a little over half the normal amount seen there from April through July. Based on Environment Canada weather records, Ottawa International Airport recording its 2nd lowest precipitation total for the growing season... since record keeping began there in 1938, second only to the same period in 1955.”[1] This season we had support from the OFNC Research Fund for driving the transect, which was an incentive to push other obligations aside and go out frequently. A problem in listening along a transect which you can't monitor every night is deciding on which nights you're going run the transect, since you're trying to hear all the species that can be heard from each station, and calling intensity, especially at stations where the calling is from distant sites, is diminished by low temperatures and changed by moisture levels. 

Methodology:  At each station we follow our 1994 auditory monitoring protocol: “Record the time you listened, air temperature, wind and precipitation, sources of distracting noise, and species that were calling (or that none were heard)... we record all anurans, birds and mammals that we hear and all amphibians and reptiles we see while we are listening. Intensity of calling is indicated by the Wisconsin calling index (Index One = Individuals can be counted; no overlapping of calls. Index Two = Calls of individuals are distinguished, but some calls overlap. Index Three = Full chorus; continuous calls) or by counts of individuals. We listen at a station until we are satisfied that we have heard all calling anuran species, usually 2-5 minutes, but sometimes as long as 10 minutes if there is a lot of noise. We record starting and finishing times of the visit; air temperature and wind, sky and distracting noise are described at each stop.” (page 153, Karstad, et al. 1995).

Because of the uncertainty of when to go out when conditions were so dry, and continually waiting for rain, we had a hard time deciding when to go out through May, because the nights were cold and the days not warm, and there were no rainy nights.  Through June there were 6 days when there was some rain, and it rained a bit on 2 July, but the plants were transpiring heartily, and on 8 July the roadside ditch just south of Bishops Mills, was crisply dry, with herbs on the floor of the ditch all wilting. The night before I'd run the nearby transect, and had heard only relatively unenthusiastic Bull, Green, and Mink Frogs. That night (22h19,22h36, 20.7°C, overcast, Beaufort gentle-light breeze) a few Bull Frog calls were audible from home, over radio noise from the neighbour's barn (the radio is run to scare Pigeons, Columba livia, away from the barn).

In the wee hours of 9 July, 02h30-02h40, we had the onset of forecast rain with thunder. This continued until about 4 cm fallen (29.2 mm total at the Environment Canada rain gauge in Kemptville, half of the rain measured there in all of July), and then on and off all day. At 15h18-15h26, as I “did the streets” in the village for on-road creatures, it was 20°C, calm, with light rain and thunder, and there were fresh skins of three Green Frogs and a Toad dead on the streets. The creek had about twice the minimal flow it had had the day before, and formerly dry garden soil was moist to a depth of 30 cm.

After dark, there was a moderate surrounding chorus of Treefrogs, heard over radio & traffic noise in a trace of rain.  Rain continued through the night with juvenile Green Frogs (8 alive on road, 5 dead on road), Treefrogs (2 AOR, 2 DOR), 1 DOR juvenile Storeria occipitomaculata (Redbelly Snake), and 3 Cepaea nemoralis snails active on the sidewalk. On the next day there were 8 DOR and 3 AOR juvenile Green Frogs, and 3 DOR and 1 AOR yearling Treefrogs on the streets.

Having heard Treefrogs and Toads from home on 10 July, I set out to repeat the listening I'd done on 7 July. The results are presented in the Table below. On this nearby circuit, 14 stations are visited, at temperature of 20-18°C (22h47-25h02) on 7 July, & 14-12°C (22h45-25h02) on 9 July, clear and calm on both nights. The time of visits overlapped or was adjacent minutes at 10 stations, and was less than 10 minutes different at the others, so comparisons between the nights don't reflect changes in intensity of calling through the nights (this precise temporal matching was purely fortuitous, and was not planned). Air temperatures varied in parallel among stations, and was 6°C cooler on 10 July at 8 stations, 5°C cooler at 4, and 7°C cooler at two.

The most widespread change after the rain was reduced calling by Green and Bull frogs (reduced scores for Bull Frogs at 9 stations, for Green Frogs at 5; Green Frogs not heard where they had been heard on 7 July at 6 stations, Bull Frogs at 1;  Green Frogs heard where they had not been heard on 7 July at 1 station).  The closely related Mink Frog was heard at two stations where it had not been heard on 7 July.

Spring-calling species which were only heard after the rain were Treefrogs (5 stations), Peepers (4 stations), and Toads (4 stations). Treefrogs hadn't been heard since 28 June, and the resumed calling went on until 24 July; Peepers hadn't been heard since 27 May, and weren't heard again until fall calling began. Toads hadn't been heard within the area of the circuit since 15 June, and weren't heard again.

Discussion: The reduced calling by Green and Bull Frogs may have been due to the lower temperature on the 10th  or it may have been due to males abandoning calling for terrestrial foraging in the newly dampened surroundings of the water bodies. This latter idea may be supported by the lack of decline in the calling of the resolutely aquatic Mink Frogs, and the number of Green Frogs found on the streets, 300 m from the nearest water, though none of the ones that reached the village were adult males that would have been calling.

In normal springs, Treefrog calling is more or less continuous between the calling at the breeding ponds, calling during dispersal from the ponds, and calling from the trees of the summer habitat. There's more calling in rainy summers, and one of their vernacular names is Rain Frog, but there's also fluctuations in abundance, and understanding the meaning of their summer calling will call for a detailed analysis. This year, after the rain, calling tapered off during 11-12 July, with some also heard on 17 and 24 July as the drought continued.

July calling by Toads isn't unknown, we've had it locally in 2003, 2004, 2008, 2009, and 2013; these seem to be isolated males from the shores of the creek or other water bodies, but we've never gone out and found any of the July-calling males.

This is the first time we've had calling by Peepers in early July -- all previous July records have been late in the month, a few days before the traditional onset of fall calling on 1 August. In this case we have to assume they were jolted into calling by the novel sensation of rain -- or perhaps they were holed up partway along the routes to summer habitat, and were calling as they they would have at those same locations in a normally wet spring while dispersing from the breeding sites towards summer habitat.

The interesting thing about this unseasonable calling is that, unless there were some very late-season female Toads, it's all unassociated with breeding. The functions of autumnal calling are hard to study, but the suggestions are either hormonal urges left over from, or preparing for breeding, or else territorial spacing during the feeding season.

Climate change is supposed to increase the irregularity and intensity of droughts, and we'll need both  regular monitoring and careful analysis of the gathered data to understand its effects on our Amphibians.

Documents Cited
Karstad, Aleta, Frederick W. Schueler, and Lee Ann Locker. 1995. A place to walk: A naturalist's journal of the Lake Ontario Waterfront Trail.  Natural Heritage/Natural History, Toronto. 159 pp.

Schueler,  Frederick W. 2000.Three patterns of seasonal movement among Eastern Ontario Rana. CARCNET 5th Annual Meeting, Penticton, British Columbia, 22-25 September 2000.

Table: Calling before and after drought-breaking rain of 9 July 2016.  

Names of Anuran species not heard on the other night bolded.
7 July 2016 (before rain)
10 July 2016 (after rain)
Bishops Mills:4 & 6 St Lawrence St. (home). 44.87156N 75.70095W rural village, shallow soil limestone plain.
22h27-22h31, 21.4°C, clear, calm. Bull Frog, index3? nearly inaudible chorus; Green Frog, index? nearly inaudible calls.

25h05-25h10.  18°C, clear, calm; truck thermometer 18°C, wall-mounted remote thermometer 18.5°C. Green Frog, index3  surrounding chorus; Bull Frog, big surrounding chorus.
21h26,21h35.  16°C, clear, calm. Treefrog, index2-3 moderate surrounding chorus; Dumatella carolinensis (Catbird) 1 singing loudly from across Co Road 18. No Robins (Turdus migratorius) calling now.

22h36-22h40.  15°C, clear, calm.  Treefrog, index2-3 moderate surrounding chorus, Toad, index1  few calls, airplane, traffic & radio noise. Blink Beetle, very few blinking.

25h08-25h11.  13.5°C, clear, calm.  Treefrog, index1 few calling, loud radio noise.

25h33.  12.5°C, overcast, Beaufort light breeze.  Treefrog) . 1-2 calling; Bull Frog, index1  few calling, loud radio noise.
Kemptville Creek/Co Road 20, 0.1 km SE Co. Rds 18 & 20. 44.90086N 75.68290W  swamps & marshes along slow brownwater creek.
22h47-22h51. 19°C, clear, calm. Bull Frog, index1 few intermittent calls; Green Frog, index1 few calls; Mink Frog, index1 very few calls; Blink Beetle, very few blinks.

22h45-22h49. 14°C, clear, calm. Bull Frog, index1 very few unenthusiastic calls; Green Frog, index1 very few unenthusiastic calls; Mink Frog, index1,  very few unenthusiastic calls; Peeper, 1(+?) calling,  1 calling at a time.
County Road 18 at Hutchins Corners/ Kemptville Creek.  44.92831N 75.69467W creekside Red Maple swamp, Typha marsh/hayfields.
22h59-23h01. 20°C, clear, calm. Bull Frog, index3 chorus; Green Frog, index2-3 moderate chorus. No Mink Frog calls distinguishable, but calling is loud and not nearby.

22h54-22h58.  14°C, clear, calm. Bull Frog, index1,  few calls; Green Frog, index1 very few calls; Mink Frog, index1 very few calls, traffic noise; Blink Beetle, very few blinks.
Jig St/County Road 18.  44.91033N 75.69129W  — brushy oldfields, hayfields, swampy creek.
23h07-23h11. 20°C, clear, calm.  Bull Frog, index2 intermittent chorus; Green Frog, index1-2  small chorus; Blink Beetle, very few blinks.
23h03-23h06.  14°C, clear, calm. Bull Frog, index1 very few faint calls; Green Frog, index1 very few faint calls.

Jig St/Concession VII.  44.90122N 75.70891W  — pasture, oldfield, Aspen thickets, roadside ditch.
23h15-23h19. 19°C, clear, Beaufort light air. Bull Frog, index? nearly inaudible calling; Green Frog, index? nearly inaudible calling, Culicid noise; Blink Beetle, few blinking. As usual for this site, this was the most seen tonight.
23h03-23h06.  14°C, clear, calm.  Bull Frog, index? calling,  nearly inaudible calling; No Blink Beetles seen.

Jig Sreet/Hare Hill Road.  44.87867N 75.71496W — agricultural hay/corn/oldfields.
23h25-23h29. 19°C, clear, calm.  Bull Frog, index1 very few calls from creek, loud airplane noise - a total of 6 planes going over.
23h17-23h21.  13°C, clear, calm.  Toad, index1 few calling from 2 or more directions; Treefrog, index1 calling,  few calls from various directions, highway noise.
South Branch Kemptville Creek at South Branch.  44.81395N 75.70025W — slow creek, creekside meadows, farms, pasture/tilled.
2342-2347. 18°C, clear, calm.  Bull Frog) . index2-3 intermittent nearby chorus, no Mink Frogs heard; Green Frog, index3 calling,  nearby chorus, water aswarm with frogs; Blink Beetle, very few blinking.
23h38-23h42.  13°C, clear, calm. Bull Frog, index1 very few calls; Green Frog, index1 very few calls; Toad, 1(+?) calling,  3 calls, loud fuzzy machinery noise.

Diamond Rd/ Kemptville Creek, S of Co 18/Branch Rds.  44.82760N 75.67638W — slow creek, creekside meadows, Ash forest, adjacent farms.
23h53-23h58. 18°C, clear, calm. Bull Frog, index1  few calls, No Mink Frogs heard; Green Frog, index1  few calling, lots of frogs by eyeshine; Ardea herodias (Great Blue Heron), 1 calling with squawks; Blink Beetle,  very few blinking.
23h49-23h54.  12°C, clear, calm. Bull Frog, index1  very few calls; Green Frog, index1  very few calls; Peeper, index1 very few calling, 1-2 at once; Toad, index1 few calls; Treefrog, index1 few calling, airplane noise; Blink Beetle, very few blinking.
Garretton, Co Road 18 at Kemptville Creek.  44.83851N 75.65753W  — marshy creek, meadows, pastures, residences.
24h03-24h08. 19°C, clear, calm.  Bull Frog, index1-2 small intermittent chorus; Green Frog, index1-2 small chorus.
23h59-24h04.  13°C, clear, calm, foggy. Bull Frog, index1 very few calls; Green Frog, index1  very few calls; Toad, index1 very few calls; Peeper, index1 very few calls, from 1 at once, with some trills; Strix varia (Barred Owl) hooting 'cooks-for-you' persistently. Moonset.
Cooper Road, 4.2 km SE Bishops Mills.  44.84930N 75.65892W  — Ash/Acer swamp, Aspen/Thuja thickets, roadside ditches.
24h13-24h17.  20°C, clear, calm. Bull Frog, index3?  distant chorus; Blink Beetle, few blinking.
24h08-24h11.  13°C, clear, calm.  Bull Frog, index1 few barely audible calls; Green Frog, index1 few barely audible calls. No nearby calling; Barred Owl, 1 calling,  hooting 'cooks-for-you' persistently. Likely the same one heard from Garretton. With the Moon set, the Milky Way is now visible.
Cooper Road, 5 km ESE Bishops Mills.  44.85840N 75.64257W  — Thuja/Salix swamp, Pine plantation, roadside ditch.
2422-2425.  20°C, clear, calm.  Bull Frog, index1-2  intermittent small chorus; Green Frog, index2 small chorus; Blink Beetle, few blinking.
24h24-24h28.  13°C, clear, calm. Bull Frog, index1 barely audible small chorus; Treefrog, index1 few calls; Blink Beetle, very few blinks, maybe just one female on the ground.
Dawson Trail at Cooper/ Limerick Rds, Limerick Forest.  44.87425N 75.65531W — track through Pine plantation/ shallow ditch/brushy roadside.
2431-2434. 19°C, clear, calm. Green Frog, index3 chorus in 'the Swamp' E of site; Blink Beetle, very few blinking.
24h33-24h35.  13°C, clear, Beaufort light air.  no observation, no calling actually audible, though one could imagine Treefrog, Peeper, and Bull Frog.

Kemptville Creek/ Limerick Road. 44.86115N 75.67945W — bridge embankment, brown-water creek, Cephalanthus swamp.
24h38-24h46. 18°C, clear, calm. Bull Frog, index3 chorus; Green Frog, index3 chorus;  Blink Beetle, very few blinking.

24h40-24h46.  12°C, clear, calm. Bull Frog, index2  small loud nearby chorus; Green Frog, index1 few calls; Mink Frog, index1 very few standard calls, but this species may have produced a few 'glumph' and 'blurt' calls; Peeper, index1 very few calling.
County 18/Limerick Rds, 1.9 km SE Bishops Mills. 44.85814N 75.68687W  — Aspen/Thuja woods,  Aspen/Salix/Larix swampy brush/ tilled fields.
24h48-24h52. 19°C, clear, calm.  Green Frog, index3  big chorus along creek; Bull Frog, index3 chorus along creek; Canis latrans (Coyote), distant howls hard to hear over Bull & Green frog chorus.
24h48-24h52.  13°C, clear, calm. Bull Frog, index1  faint chorus from creek; Treefrog, 1(-2?) calling,  2 recognizeable calls.
Bishops Mills Bridge, Middle Creek/Mill Street.  44.87423N 75.70478W —  riffles of slow creek, rural village, fields.
24h58-25h02. 18°C, clear, calm. Bull Frog, index3 chorus up- & down-stream, none nearby; Green Frog, index1  few calls, swamped by Bull Frog chorus.

24h59-25h02.  13°C, clear, calm. Bull Frog, index1 few calls from downstream; Treefrog, 1? calling,  few calls from upstream, whirring machinery noise.