Before moving to Vermont I’d had encounters with breeding amphibians. But I’d never really had any sense of the shifting patterns of frogs and salamanders over the course of a year. My first year in Vermont my grad school adviser told me about “Big Night,” which conjured up some mystical and rowdy barn dance under a dark starry sky. That phrase has wholly captured my awareness and each spring I eagerly await the just right conditions to briefly encounter amphibians on their nuptial quest. And the phrase has definitely lived up to its reputation.
Big Night refers to the first big movement of amphibians from their overwintering sites in upland areas down to their breeding grounds in wetlands. It doesn’t always happen all at once, but when the conditions are right, you can get hundreds and hundreds of sleepy frogs and salamanders rousing to the call of nature and stumbling over hummocks to the water’s edge.