February 2, 2006

Washington Rainy Streak Good for Frogs

SEATTLE -- To like the weather over the past month and a half, some might say, you'd have to be a toad. Not true. You could also be a frog, salamander or other amphibian, judging by the way the critters have been breeding, wildlife experts say.

Northern red-legged frogs and long-toed salamanders especially have been have been laying more eggs than usual since the middle of January, apparently after chowing down on an abundance of snails, slugs and other delicacies washing into their lakes and ponds, said Marc P. Hayes, a Washington state fish and wildlife research scientist.

"This is the kind of weather that's absolutely terrific for amphibians," Hayes said.

Seattle had only two dry days in January, the third-wettest on record for the city with 11.65 inches of rain. The wettest was 12.92 inches in January 1953, when the city set a record with 33 consecutive days of measurable precipitation.

Seattle fell six days short of that mark, but Olympia, the state capitol, beat its old 33-day mark, also from 1953, with 35 days of drip, drizzle and downpour.

"Every time we get close to beating the record, it has been pulled away from us," University of Washington meteorologist Cliff Mass said, "but any way you look at it, this was an extraordinarily wet month."

February has gotten off to a soggy start as well with .25 inches of rain at Boeing Field in Seattle and .38 inches at the Olympia airport through 6 a.m. PST Thursday.

Frogs are not the only beneficiaries. Dragonflies across the state should benefit, as well as ducks and other waterfowl, said Dennis Paulson, director emeritus of the Slater Museum of Natural History at the University of Puget Sound in Tacoma.

Dragonflies lay their eggs in shallow ponds and lakes, many of which have shriveled or dried up entirely before the larvae could mature in recent years, especially east of the Cascade Range, Paulson said. Ducks, likewise, have suffered from the loss of marshy breeding habitat.

"I'm hoping a lot of these basins will be filled in by all this rain," he said.

Wild mushroom enthusiasts face a more mixed outlook.

Too much rain can inhibits the growth of forest fungi, but abundant rain in January and a heavy snowpack generally means a bumper crop of boletes, matsutakes and morels, said Ron Post, president of the Puget Sound Mycological Society.

So far the Cascade snowpack is about 150 percent of normal, according to the Northwest Weather and Avalanche Center.


Information from: The Seattle Times, http://www.seattletimes.com