Amphibians & Reptiles

A visit to the RRMSEA section of the Auburn Trail Extension on an April night can be a total immersion in the sounds of nature.  The variety of calling frogs is overwhelming, in amplitude and the species represented.  The wetlands bordering both sides of the trail are home for the majority of frogs found in western New York.   We have recorded 9 frog species along the trail:  American toad (photo left), gray treefrog, spring peeper (photo right), bullfrog, green
frog, Western chorus frog, wood frog, Northern leopard frog, and pickerel frog.   Western chorus frog is listed by DEC as a Species of Greatest Conservation Need.

The large and showy Ambystoma salamanders occur in nearby wetlands.  Spotted salamanders (photo center left) have been confirmed to breed in vernal pools, right next to the footpath.  The Jefferson’s/blue-spotted complex,  a NYS special concern species, may use these breeding pools as well.    Both species occur as breeding populations throughout the adjacent Irondequoit Creek Valley.    During wet nights, particularly in spring and again in fall, these salamanders can be found a distance from their wetlands.  The project could potentially impact these species - by altering the vernal pool habitat, and directly or indirectly affecting their movements through the area.  

Visitors in early June often encounter snapping turtles digging their nests in the center of the trail. It is a perfect nesting place: the black cinders absorb the sun’s heat, and the eggs incubate in the warm, high and dry setting. Many current trail users, whether avid nature lover, walker, jogger, or passing bicyclist, have commented about this unique aspect of RRMSEA.

The nest sites are close to the ponds and wetlands where the hatchlings will return.  On October 13, 2008 visitors encountered 8 baby snapping turtles (size of a quarter) warming in the center of the trail.  (Photo below right.) We are concerned about the impacts of speeding bicyclists on the baby turtles.

Painted turtles are also found along RRMSEA. Spotted turtles and wood turtles, both New York State special concern species, should be looked for as well.  Both species have been recorded in the area.

Snakes have not been surveyed, though garter snakes are often seen basking along the footpath.  Less commonly observed are milk snakes and water snakes.

Photos © Steven Daniel