January 23, 2021 (Saturday) - North Side

Conducted survey of North side 840am - 1pm (Thanks @karangattu for switching with me). Weather was 48-50F, cloudy in the morning to sunny as time passed. Rain MTD 0.82 in, YTD 0.82 in, Season Total 3.97 in, per http://www.weathercat.net/wxraindetail.php

After quite a dry spell it finally rained yesterday and last night for a total of 0.34 in.

Documented 73 dead newts, 1 of which was juvenile. No live newts observed.

Other roadkill:
12 earthworms
3 millipedes
1 frog
1 Strigama
1 Jerusalem cricket
3 unknown

Documented human activity:
202 moving vehicles and one moving motorcycle
132 parked vehicles
87 bicyclists
95 pedestrians (3 with horses)

Of note:
A couple of researchers joined me today to collect tissue samples for genetic, disease, and microbiome studies - they sampled 10 newts. Depending on how their work goes with those 10 newts, they may be interested in collecting more samples at a later date.

Most of the dead newts were fresh, which makes sense since it rained the day before after not raining for a while. It was pretty heart-breaking to see, but because they were so fresh, it was very clear that several of the newts were displaying their defensive posture called an unken reflex, in which they arch their backs to show their bright orange undersides to warn predators that they're toxic.

A slight distinction between CA newts and rough-skinned newts is that in the unken reflex, the CA newt's tail goes straight out and does not curve towards its head whereas in rough-skinned newts the tail tip curves toward the head and sometimes curls. Examples can be seen here for CA newt: http://www.californiaherps.com/salamanders/pages/t.t.torosa.html and here for rough-skinned newt: http://www.californiaherps.com/salamanders/pages/t.granulosa.html.

Here's a good example of a roadkill CA newt in unken reflex:

I don't have a good one in which I'm confident it's a rough-skinned newt, but I'm wondering if this might be one: https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/68574641

I'm not saying we use tail position as a main way to ID these, but I thought it was interesting (while also sad) and wanted to share. Seeing them this fresh made me realize that the newt roadkill we're seeing that are curved might be that these poor critters were in their defensive posture before they died, and knowing that makes it that much more depressing for me.

One group of 3 people and one other person asked me about the newt studies going on, so I talked about the community science project and the need for newt crossings like elevated road segments or newt tunnels. Brought up the idea of seasonal road closures and folks did not seem supportive of that even though they were shocked to hear 5,000 newts are killed every year. But there was support for newt crossings. One person had never heard of iNaturalist and said he'll sign up and check out the Lexington newt projects.

And last, to end on a more upbeat note, I saw a beautiful alive and healthy-looking red-shouldered hawk while conducting the survey.

Lähettänyt tyap tyap, 25. tammikuuta 2021 00:36



unken reflex... I learnt something new today. Thanks Tiffany.

Lähettänyt karangattu 3 kuukautta sitten (Lippu)

Me too, @tyap! Thanks for all this good info.

@merav, should we create a special tag for these that would help us find them in the thousands of observations that have accumulated?

Lähettänyt truthseqr 3 kuukautta sitten (Lippu)

Update to roadkill species count - got tricked by some snails! Hopefully everything else was okay!

72 newts (1 juv)
12 earthworms
3 millipedes
2 snails
1 Strigama
1 Jerusalem cricket
3 unknown

Lähettänyt tyap 3 kuukautta sitten (Lippu)

Unken reflex is my Word of the Day too, thanks @tyap!

And a random note about mid-week surveying. Looks like an actual big storm is coming late Tues-Thurs, so my inclination is to survey (hopefully) before it gets here Tues, otherwise it will be miserable, kill my phone, and be even more dangerous on the road. I know that Wed is generally better, but since Tiffany did the north side on Sat, it seems like the timing is ok.

Except for the parallel desire to go out there without any electronica just to move newts off of the road during the deluge, wondering if they will go en masse. If they do, I hope for their sake that the local humans do the opposite and stay home and dry.

Lähettänyt newtpatrol 3 kuukautta sitten (Lippu)

@tyap - thanks for all the info. I wonder about what you said. I think it makes sense that many newts were in their Unken reflex posture - thanks for the term - before they died. Otherwise, they should have died with their body stretched in a straight line, as they were walking to the other side. The two injured newts I found yesterday did that when I gently picked them up. That's such a sad thought.
@truthseqr - I think that's a good idea. We can add a tag for those newts.
@newtpatrol - Tuesday would be fine. I'm supposed to be there on Wednesday with 3 potentially new volunteers. I tried warning them, but they are determined... We're meeting today on zoom, we'll see how that goes.

Lähettänyt merav 3 kuukautta sitten (Lippu)

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