It may have been Paul Revere that first uttered these familiar words alerting naturalists around the Boston area that the annual spotted salamander migration to their breeding pools was happening, but then again maybe not...regardless, there is no doubt that the cry of "The Salamanders are Coming, The Salamanders are Coming!" is accurate. Although we are still in the midst of winter and more cold, lousy and probably even snowy weather is certain to come, the signs of spring are all around. I've already seen the first snowdrop in full bloom, daffodils and hyacinths are pushing their green tips up everywhere, huge flocks of blackbirds are all around and there was a red-winged blackbird on territory the other day. But none of that signals the end of winter and the chaotic nature-filled fun of spring to me more then the migration of spotted salamanders to the breeding pools along Beekman Road.
Last night with the rain, on a whim I took a drive over to Beekman Road. I was certain it was too early in the season and has been too cold to find anything. But I was wrong! After about 10 minutes I saw a large intrepid male Spotted salamander crossing the road. It's funny how fast a year can pass since the last time I saw one out there. I stayed for a while and saw two more and moved them safely off the road too. So, it is safe to say, that at least for me, Mother Nature can throw everything she wants at East Brunswick, but winter is officially over and spring has sprung. I don't need a date on a calendar to know when spring starts, I use the Spotted salamanders as my date.
Visit the Friends website for lots of information on this incredible natural phenomenon and the history of our road closures. Each year in late winter or early spring depending on the weather, the last remaining population of Spotted salamanders in East Brunswick cross Beekman Road as they have done for millenia to get to their breeding pools in the woods along the road. Unfortunately crossing the road in large numbers puts them at great risk. It is guaranteed that car-salamander interactions always go to the car. Ten years ago, we noticed that this was happening and along with the township and Police Department decided that closing the road on migration nights in February and March (and occasionally in April) was the right thing to do, especially since this is the last place in town that Spotted salamanders survive.
So, for the past 10 years we have been trying to predict the migration and close the road to protect and save our Spotted salamanders. We continue to be the only town in New Jersey and one of the few in the country to do this. East Brunswick has been a leader on this focusing attention on the Spotted salamander migration and how perilous it can be. The Town, the Environmental Commission and the Friends have received numerous awards and accolades for our efforts. When we close the road we invite everyone out to see what is happening and hopefully to spot a Spotted salamander. When you see that first one, no matter how many years you do this, we are certain it will be the highlight of spring.
We post regular updates on the Friends website and on the Patch about when we think the migration might occur and why. Consider joining the Friends for the most up to date information, it's free.
And a HUGE WORD OF CAUTION! NEVER, and we mean NEVER, venture out onto Beekman Road when it is not closed. It is simply not safe. The road is very dark and drivers often go very fast and are not expecting anyone out there. Visit the road when we close it and with some luck you will get to see a big fat Spotted salamander crossing the road. We guarantee when you do, you will never forget it!