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Thursday, February 17, 2011

Volunteers needed to help migrating Amphibians

Help Needed to Protect Hollow Road Frogs

    Because there is a world-wide decrease in the number of amphibians, and because diversity of species is a general indicator of environmental health, and because a lot of people feel that it is unfair to pit a frog trying to reproduce against hurrying people in their vehicles, the West Vincent Township Environmental Advisory Council (EAC) would like to protect the amphibians which cross Hollow Road near Horseshoe Trail during their annual migration from the woods where they live to the wetlands where they breed.  This photo is of a wood frog; the next picture is a spotted salamander.

    The migrating animals are likely to be wood frogs, spotted salamanders, American toads, and spring peepers.  (The nearby North Coventry crossing site has some rare amphibians—Jefferson and four-toed salamanders—but we may not have them.)  They tend to move on only three or four evenings a year—rainy, the first thaw, miserable weather, usually from the end of February to early March.  Sometimes it is easy to predict the evenings of the crossings; sometimes it is not.  We have help predicting this.

    The EAC consulted with both Kim White (who has organized such a volunteer program in North Coventry for the last four years) and Police Chief Mike Swininger (to find out how to be both safe and effective).  This is an American toad.

    The Township Supervisors have approved the following plan.  We will  close Hollow Road from Horseshoe Trail to the first bridge over the Birch Run below the mill (except for the residents of that stretch) from dark (roughly 6 pm) to 10 or 11 pm.  We would be glad to meet personally with the residents of this area to answer any questions—and to get volunteer help.  In addition, we will distribute flyers to all Hollow Road residents from Horseshoe Trail to the intersection with Birchrun Road.  We will have an article in the late-winter township newsletter, an explanation on the township website, and yard signs well ahead of the events to give warning of likely road closure.  This photo is a spring peeper.

    Because we will close the road, we will be able to protect the amphibians without moving them in the wrong direction or disrupting the protective covering on their skin.

    We will use the township road barricades, lights, and protective vests.

    Please call Harriet Stone (610 469 9050) with questions or to volunteer.


Dear Amphibian Friends,
    On Sunday, February 6th a group of migrating robins was seen nearby.  This usually heralds other creatures that are soon to begin their migrating, such as our amphibian friends.  Last year in North Coventry they began migrating on the 12th of February.  The weather is supposed to be warm this week so I thought I had better get some information to you.  Whenever the conditions are right we may see movement.  Here are the conditions that must be met:

1.  Raining or very damp
2.  Temperatures above freezing
3.  Dark

Our North Coventry neighbors have protected four successful migrations with the support of their volunteers and help of North Coventry officials.  We are a newly formed group helped by the Supervisors and Police of West Vincent Township.  The safety of our volunteers is of utmost importance.  Any children must have very close parental supervision.  Drivers will not find us easy to see.  We expect very few cars, but some residents will need to get to their homes.

If a driver needs to come on the closed part of Hollow Road, we will use a bucket brigade system.  It is described in the guidelines.

Guidelines for Volunteering                   

- Please come dressed for the weather.  Bring a flashlight, safety vest, and a non-metallic bucket.  We will have some vests.

- Please enter Hollow Road from the Birchrun Road end.  There will be parking just before the bridge on Hollow Road.  People working at the Horseshoe Trail end will walk there from where we will be parking.  There is to be no parking on Horseshoe Trail.

       If you see migration and I have not contacted you, please call me and I will call out the volunteers.  You may get last-minute notice.
- Check in at the orange Honda Element at Hollow Road bridge before going out so I can assign you a section of road to patrol and make sure you have a safety vest.

- Volunteers will position themselves on a segment of Hollow Rd. and watch this section of road.  If a vehicle approaches you will pick up any amphibians that are in danger and cross them to the side of the road that they were heading to.  Use bare hands as they interfere least with the protective coating on the amphibian skins.  The non-metallic bucket can help you carry them.

- Try to keep a rough tally of what kind of amphibians you are crossing and which way they are crossing.  Check out with me when you leave and let me know what your tally was.  We expect to start shortly after dusk and stay until 10:00 or when it gets too dry for migrating.  I will have photocopies of some of the animals we are likely to see.

I will be sending an email alert to let you know if I think the weather conditions are optimal for a migration.  If you are still in doubt whether to come out, call my home number.  If it's after about 6 pm, I expect to be at the Hollow Road bridge.

Last year the North Coventry volunteers watched or aided the crossing over of 1,730 salamanders and wood frogs.  We don't know what species will be migrating on Hollow Road, but it should be fun to learn which amphibians share our West Vincent lives.   Please come out when you can and help.

Thank you,
Harriet Stone
Coordinator of Volunteers

My contact information is: email:; h:  610 469 9050;  cell:  484 941 4108; alternate phone 610 469 8964.  I will have my phone on when I am at the migration site, but I don't know how well it will work.
  *If you would like to be taken off the volunteer email alert list, please let me know.   If you know of someone that would like to be added to the list, please send me their email address.

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