It has been almost three decades since the first official Fowler’s toad survey in Long Point, Ontario. After being a part of the survey for four years, I can say that each year was a unique experience. From a season starting with a warm spring resulting with major turtle and snake activity, to a cooler season full of amphibian activity, Long Point is definitely on many field biologists bucket-list.
The following is a compilation of short journal entries from some interesting days of field work this year:
May 1 – As every year, the survey began on the first of May. Since it was still quite cold out at night, we did not hear any Fowler’s toads calling, nor did we find any toads on the beach. We did however hear many American toads calling, as well as spring peepers, and chorus frogs.
We also set up some sound recorders along some of our survey locations to help us detect when Fowler’s toads and other species begin calling throughout the breeding season.
Flavia Papini (M.Sc. Candidate) setting up sound recorders in the marsh. Originally used to record bird calls, this system turned out to work very well in detecting amphibian calls all breeding season.
May 8- Emergence: The weather warmed up! Fowler’s toads were found on the beach and some were heard calling from two of our survey sites! We even collected 3 egg masses!
Note: In most frog/toad systems, males are the singers while females do not have vocal chords. Therefore, the following photos are of male Fowler’s toads.
May 11- Volunteers arrive: It was the first survey night with the volunteers. Everyone was very excited to get started! Unfortunately the Fowler’s toad calling had stopped after two nights of calling activity. Many of the other species continued to call.
May 28- the Survey continues: Toad activity has been high for the last few nights, we also found a juvenile snapping turtle in one of our ponds!
June 3 – Tadpole enclosure set-up: The Toad Crew came out during the day to help me set up my tadpole enclosures in the ponds. Some holes needed to be mended.
June 5- Toads in the spot light: The Moriatti film crew came to Long Point for a few days to document our research with the toads. Luckily they were able to capture a lot of toad activity during their week-long stay in Long Point. They were even able to capture on film, toads in amplexus and how we collect their egg masses!
We often capture toads that are more difficult to identify (between American toad and Fowler’s toad). These toads tend to share characteristics between the two species. We call these toads “hybrids”, although a genetic analysis would need to be done to know for sure.
A possible hybrid toad captured on the beach in Long Point, Ontario. Note the large warts on its dorsal side, characteristic of an American toad. However, its belly was white and somewhat smooth, and it did NOT have a ‘skunky’ scent, which are characteristics of Fowler’s toads.
June 25- Continuing field work such as measuring and counting tadpoles (there are hundreds!) and continuing the toad survey at night.
July 6- While returning the ponds to check on tadpoles, we found a scaly friend basking on the beach! This Eastern Foxsnake was a largest I had ever seen in the wild. We saw the same snake for the next few days in the same area, always in the late afternoon.
July 22- Measuring toadlets: to continue with my tadpole growth monitoring, I also measured individuals after metamorphosis. These little guys can be as small as 8mm in body length!
September 2- A final survey of the beach late in the season allowed us to find some toadlets! We were happy to see some individuals survive their tiny toadlet phase. These toadlets were up to 30 mm in body length!
Each season is different, and since the new ponds were created in the NWA back in 2012, we think we are starting to see an increase in toad recruitment to that area of Long Point. Although we had very high lake levels this season, we are hoping this was not a large negative impact on toad survival this fall. We will have to wait and see what we find next spring!
Katharine Yagi (PhD Candidate, McGill)