On Sunday morning, I woke up to rain flooding the streets in my neighborhood. I packed my vehicle full of chest waders, and I drove south on I-5 where I was bombarded by snow. By the time 10 volunteers showed up to Hedges Creek wetlands in Tualatin, the precipitation had stopped, but the cold air was still freezing our bones. Without much hesitation, we pulled on our waders, grabbed our giant spoons and our walking sticks, and headed out to search for egg masses in the wetland.
Hedges Creek is a large natural area that stretches through Tualatin, with many different habitat types. The section we surveyed near SW 90th Ave. is home to not only amphibians, but also beaver, song birds, river otter, coyotes, dragonflies, herons and more.
There are 4 species of native amphibians that we find in our area; northwestern salamanders (Ambystoma gracile), red-legged frogs (Rana aurora), Pacific chorus frogs (Pseudacris regilla), and long-toed salamanders (Ambystoma macrodactylum). They lay their eggs in ponds and wetlands in winter, usually just after the last frosts. This year with the cold weather we have been having, it seems the laying is a little later than normal. On this cold morning we only found the native northwestern salamander. These are not officially a species of concern, but many biologists believe they are at risk of being endangered because of habitat loss, disease, and other factors. We found 27 masses during this survey, a bit less than we have in the past, but that still means that there are at least that many breeding females in the area.
We hope to return to the site a little later in the season to see if more amphibians are breeding. There are other parts of the site we would like to search, where we have seen red-legged frogs in the past. But you can only walk these cold waters for so many hours in one day! I’d like to thank all of the wonderful and brave volunteers who helped us survey on such a chilly day.
Volunteers who work with us come to an indoor training as well as an outdoor training before braving the wetlands to hunt for egg masses. It’s quite a commitment, but it seems the joy of being outside and wading through wetlands is worth it – we have a large and wonderful crew of amphibian monitors this year!
Megan Garvey, Land Steward, The Wetlands Conservancy