What an amazing day for observations!!

My dad and I decided to go for a stroll at Huntley Meadows Park in Alexandria, VA and hoo boy it was a good day!!! Frogs, turtles, salamanders, lizards…I saw it all, y’all. Before I get into that, I want to talk about this amazing place right in the heart of urban Northern Virginia.

Spotted salamander eggs (Ambystoma maculatum). I found these almost as soon as I left the parking lot and I just KNEW it was going to be a good day

About the park

Huntley Meadows Park has an ongoing wetland restoration project. According to their website, the Huntley Meadows wetland used to be one of the biggest and most productive inland wetlands in this region. However, over time with industrial activity and development in surrounding areas, the marsh started to fill in with silt. To further exacerbate the issue, invasive species of plants moved in and colonized the wetland, inhibiting diversity and habitat quality. Construction to save the wetland started in 2013 and ended in 2014 and park staff are still collecting data and working on conservation today. For me, it was a rich ecosystem with the kind of herpetofauna I’ve been searching for all spring.

Seriously, check this place out!! May 5th is wetlands awareness day in the park and it’s FREE!!!

Observations galore

I used iNaturalist to log all of the observations from today. In all, I had 15 observations and NINE of those observations were amphibians!!

Green frog (Rana clamitans)
Southern leopard frog (Lithobates sphenocephalus)
Green frog (Rana clamitans)
Green frog (Rana clamitans)
American bullfrog (Lithobates catesbeianus )
Redback salamander (Plethodon cinereus)
American bullfrog (Lithobates catesbeianus)
Southern leopard frog (Lithobates sphenocephalus)
Bullfrog tadpoles (Lithobates catesbeianus)

Look at all those frogs!!! Additionally, the turtles were out in droves!

Me petting a snapping turtle (Chelydra serpentina)

I found painted turtles, snapping turtles, river cooters, and possibly a red-eared slider (it was too far away to tell). I saw some lizards as well.

Five-lined skink (Plestiodon fasciatus)
Painted turtle (Chrysemys picta)
Another big snapper (Chelydra serpentina)

It makes my heart happy to see so many different species happily thriving in the middle of a metropolitan area. These green spaces in cities are so important for the community and the wildlife. As I left, I spoke to one of the volunteers there. She said, “I’ve been volunteering here for 25 years and I still love it; every day is a little different.” I’m so glad to see such passion and stewardship and it really gave me hope for the future of our wetland areas.

So what’s next?

This is the last blog entry for my citizen science project for my Conservation Ecology course for Virginia Tech. However, I’ve really enjoyed doing this and I like that my favorite hobby can be applied to research. I’m going to keep using my app to log observations and I’m going to keep up with this blog as well. It helps me learn more about what I’m passionate about and maybe with time this blog will get enough followers to reach people who are curious about the creepy crawlies of the world. So, until next time, enjoy this last photo of pure spring bliss

Not a reptile or amphibian but adorable nonetheless. A patent leather beetle (Odontotaenius disjunctus). Because I’m not just into herps; I appreciate all of the wild things 🙂

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