Land Trust celebrates Earth Day with annual Amphibian Walk

By Kevin Hotary - Staff Writer
Salem - posted Mon., Apr. 25, 2011
Shannon (left), Tali and Kat look over a spotted turtle during the Salem Land Trust hike. Photos by Kevin Hotary.
Shannon (left), Tali and Kat look over a spotted turtle during the Salem Land Trust hike. Photos by Kevin Hotary.

The Salem Land Trust welcomed spring last Friday – Earth Day –  with its annual Amphibian Walk, looking for snakes, salamanders and the loud but elusive spring peeper.  Led by Diba Kahn-Bureau, a group of about 40 hikers traveled through Walden Preserve, looking for these creatures that reappear with the warmer weather.

This year’s hike was the third led by Kahn-Bureau, a professor of environmental engineering at Three Rivers Community College.  Earlier in the day, she and her students had finished their yearly rapid bioassesment of the Eight Mile River in Salem and surrounding towns.  Not only did most of her students stay for the hike, but some previous year’s students - like Jordan Rabon, who finished classes at UConn in the morning and drove down to Salem - came back just for the hike. 

But it is really the younger hikers - many of whom have never even seen, much less held a salamander or a snake - to which the hike is geared, and who benefit the most from the expertise of Khan-Bureau and her students.

“We are going to look under rocks and stones and in the mud to try and find amphibians,” said Khan-Bureau, as she led the group into the brush.  And it didn’t take long before one of the students, Josh Orzel, found a small salamander.

“Childhood memories,” he said, as he showed the rest of the group his find, one of several salamanders found during the hike. 

But the biggest find of the hike was a spotted turtle found by Kat, who was there with her mother, Linda Hincks, and their small group of homeschoolers.

“He has such large eyes,” said Kat of the turtle, which she handled carefully and confidently.  She and the others in her group often go out hiking together, explained Hincks.

“We like exploring places and seeing what we can see.  We are fond of slimy things,” she said.

After more than an hour on the Walden trails, the group turned back, having never found a spring peeper.  Since they are unable to regulate their body temperature like humans, the cold weather likely kept the frogs silent and inactive.

“Usually we hear a lot of spring peepers, but I don’t know that we’ll hear any today,” said Kahn-Bureau, giving the hikers another reason to come back next year.

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