Now is the time when frogs and salamanders are on the move to their wintering grounds in the forest, but it’s not an easy trek from the ponds where they spent the summer.
Frogs and salamanders are on the move in their seasonal migration, leaving the ponds where they spent the summer for the forests where they will wait out the winter.
It’s no easy trip — especially if the way is choked with thorns. To help ease the journey, students at the University of Washington were clearing blackberries Friday and planting a migratory corridor, created just for frogs and salamanders, with native shrubs and trees. In time, the plants installed in the corridor at the Union Bay Natural Area next to Lake Washington should grow up to provide a cool, shady path for the animals’ crossing.
Frogs hop and salamanders walk from Shoveler Pond, an ephemeral pond and wetland at the natural area, across a walking path to a stand of alders and cottonwoods where the animals overwinter.
The wetland is perfect for them: It holds its water long enough for amphibian larvae to hatch out from eggs and grow into juveniles. But the pond dries up soon enough that it can’t support fish or American bullfrogs that eat the eggs and larvae.
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The trick, though, for frogs and salamanders is still to get from their pond to the forest and back again. The corridor, created last year, is hoped to help. That’s also where the planting and maintenance done by the student volunteers Friday comes in.
“We are trying to establish cover,” said Anna Carragee, a second-year master’s student in the University of Washington’s environmental-horticulture program. The snowberry, alder, cottonwood, willow, thimbleberry and other plants were grown by students in the UW Native Plant Nursery or harvested at plant-salvage digs on lands slated for development.
As some students planted, others attacked blackberry, that quintessential Northwest nemesis, where it was choking the corridor.
“I bleed for restoration,” said Joel Bidnick, dressed in a T-shirt and shorts, and liberally scratched for the cause.
Nicolette Neumann hacked at a blackberry root ball, trying to lift it with her shovel from the ground. “People forget about the little insects, the salamanders, the frogs,” she said. “It’s important to do restoration with the whole ecosystem in mind, and it’s nice to know you are helping these amphibians out, to get them on their way, make it a little easier.”
The corridor is about 20 yards long and as wide as a driveway, including plants, trees and shrubs that will eventually shade it on both sides.
After three hours’ work, about a dozen volunteers also had mounded two large carts full of blackberries, pulled from the pathway. Perhaps in the days to come, with abundant rain in the forecast, tiny amphibian toe pads will come give it a try.