BNL is home to thirteen species of amphibians. Eight species of amphibians were observed during transect surveys and four were added by incidental observations and timed constrained searches during the site wide biological surveys conducted in 1994 and 1995. The four-toed salamander has been added to the list of known amphibians through the efforts of biologists from the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (Upton Reserve).

Along the terrestrial transects, the red-backed salamander Plethodon cinereus) was the most frequently observed amphibian in all habitat types except the field habitat. Red-backed salamanders were more common in the pine plantations (34 observations) than in the pitch pine/oak forests (eight observations) and wetland habitats (six observations). They were the only salamander species found under artificial hiding places.

The Fowler's toad (Bufo fowleri), eastern spadefoot toad Scaphiopus holbrookii holbrookii), and tiger salamander (Ambystoma tigrinum tigrinum) were the only amphibians found in uplands and only in pitch pine/oak habitats. Fowler's toads and tiger salamanders are common onsite, as evidenced by the numbers of aquatic larvae of each species observed.

Eleven species of amphibians were found associated with aquatic/wetland habitats; most during the spring breeding season. Red-spotted newt, eastern tiger salamander, marbled salamander (Ambystoma opacum), eastern spadefoot toad, Fowler's toad, spring peeper (Pseudacris crucifer), gray treefrog (Hyla versicolor), green frog (Rana clamitans melanota), bullfrog (Rana catesbeiana) pickerel frog (Rana palustris), and wood frog (Rana sylvatica) were all found to use aquatic habitats. These included streams, flowed wetlands, retention coastal plain ponds, vernal pools, and basins. Most observations were made during searches of breeding sites.

Species Accounts

For additional information on BNL and Upton Reserve please visit

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Marbled Salamander (Ambystoma opacum)

The marbled salamander is a member of the mole salamander genus. Unlike the spotted and tiger salamanders, which breed early in spring, it nests on land, in late fall, in sheltered depressions or temporary pools that fill with runoff and rainwater. The eggs hatch in winter or following pond filling and juveniles emerge to begin a terrestrial existence in late spring.

See additional photos of the Marbled Salamander

Spotted Salamander (Ambystoma maculatum)

The spotted salamander is listed as a species of special concern by the State of New York. Populations in portions of the state have declined, reportedly due to the effects of acid precipitation on the eggs and larvae. Spotted salamanders typically breed in March to April, sharing vernal ponds with tiger salamanders where their ranges overlap. Egg masses are laid in the water attached to submerged branches.

Larval spotted salamanders were tentatively identified in spring 1994. It is probable that in upland portions of the BNL site, the adults share habitat with the tiger and marbled salamanders.

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Tiger Salamander (Ambystoma tigrinum) (New York State-listed endangered species)

The tiger salamander has been confirmed at 26 sites on the BNL property. This species is discussed on the Tiger salamander page.

Red-backed salamander (Plethodon cinerus)

The red-backed salamander is completely terrestrial with no aquatic stage. The eggs are laid in June or July in a small cluster beneath a stone or within a rotted log. The larvae are miniatures of the adults and mature in two years.

Two color phases are present in New York. The typical red-backed phase has a dark bordered red stripe extending along the back from the head to the base of the tail. The lead-backed phase is uniformly light gray to almost black on the back with no red stripe. The lead-backed phase is cited by NYSDEC as "unique" within the Peconic River drainage, though the lead-backs are found in other portions of New York. All of the individuals observed on the BNL site in 1994 were of the lead-backed color phase.

Red-spotted newt (Notophthalmus viridescens)

Adult red-spotted newts were observed in several locations, including the east ecology field pond and Zeek's Pond. This newt lays 200-400 eggs on submerged aquatic vegetation. The larvae remain aquatic until the fall, then transforming into terrestrial subadults called red efts. The efts are brightly colored, remaining on land for one to three years before returning to the water as adults. The adults feed on worms, insects, small crustaceans and mollusks, amphibian eggs, and larvae.

        See additional photos of the Red-spotted newt.

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Frogs & Toads

Fowler's toad (Bufo woodhousei fowleri)

Fowler's toads were commonly observed in aquatic habitats as tadpoles and as adults in the pine/oak forests. The long strings of eggs characteristic of toads were observed in coastal plain ponds, vernal ponds, and retention basins primarily in the month of May. The larvae were observed in very large numbers in Half Moon Pond in June and August. Adult Fowler's toads were found beneath debris such as logs, shingles, and plywood. Common observation areas included the tree dump, shotgun range, the gamma field and ecology fields.

        Hear and see additional photos of Fowler’s toads.

Eastern spadefoot toad (Scaphiophus holbrooki)

Spadefoot toads are not commonly observed. Their reproductive strategy is to utilize explosive mating events with rapid development. In 2003 after heavy spring rains what was thought to be an uncommon species onsite proved to be very common. The rains triggered a typical spadefoot reproductive event. Virtually thousands of spadefoot toads emerged, migrated to any wetland area to begin their courtship and mating. Egg masses were laid and within three weeks young toads were emerging from the ponds to move into the forests to await another wet year.

Hear and see additional photos of the spadefoot toad.

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Gray treefrog (Hyla versicolor)

The gray treefrog is common in forests around wetland areas. They inhabit trees feeding on insects. Their night time calls or trills are heard from mid-spring through the summer months. Eggs are laid in wetland areas and larvae develop in the ponds where eggs are laid. The gray treefrog is separated into two species one living primarily in the northern tier of states and one living in the southern tier of states. While they can not be told apart based on appearance they can be identified based on their voice.

        Hear and see additional photos of the gray treefrog.

Spring Peeper (Pseudacris crucifer)

The spring peeper is one of the first frogs to emerge after the winter cold. It can be heard in chorus around ponds with the chorus sometimes being deafening. It has even been known to emerge during warm periods in the middle of winter.

        Hear the spring peeper.

Reference: December 1994; Sitewide Biological Inventory, Phase II.

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Last Modified: October 27, 2010
Please forward all questions about this site to: Karen Ratel