Monthly Archives: September 2015

September 2015 – Lone Star Tick Bites or Chiggers?

Larry Dapsis – Cape Cod Cooperative Extension 508-375-6642

Lone Star tick was found to be established on the Cape two years ago in Sandy Neck Beach Park.  Lone Star tick eggs are laid in a mass by the female tick and hatch in August and remain active into late September.

Recently, people visiting the park have reported to have received many bites by “something” that left red welt all over their feet and ankles…lone star tick larvae down at ground level swarm onto anyone unfortunate to have walked into a group of them.

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People have questioned whether these are chigger bites.  Well no…chiggers are not found this far north and are active during the summer.  This misdiagnosis continues to be a problem on Long Island where lone star ticks have been established for some time.  By the time people see the red welts the ticks have already dropped off so there is no hard evidence.  http://riverheadnewsreview.timesreview.com/2012/09/39687/forget-chiggers-folks-those-are-lone-star-tick-larvae-making-you-itch/

These bites can be prevented…wearing shoes and socks treated with the repellent containing permethrin is probably the most effective thing we can do right now.  One significant note is that the tick larvae do not transmit disease, however it is known that the bite of lone star ticks can trigger an allergy to red meat consumption.

For more information please contact Larry Dapsis.  I will also be on WXTK Sunday, October 4th at 10 AM with Pat Desmarais to talk all things ticks.

The secret of the Spadefoot Toad

 

By Sean Kortis

 

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It’s a rainy night in June. Walking along the road at Sandy Neck Beach, you spot a small amphibian hopping across the street. As you approach, you notice it is different than most toads. Its eyes are large and bulgy, with vertical slit pupils. Its skin is a yellowish brown, and the colors seem to blend together in an hourglass shape along its back. In fact, it doesn’t look much like a “true toad” at all.

 

That’s because this “toad” is actually related to a very old group of desert amphibians which have adapted to live in dry, arid conditions for most of their life.  As you follow the road up to the parking lot and look out across the dunes, you notice that these toads are everywhere: in the road, under the pine trees, atop the dune ridges, even inside the bathhouse! Documenting your discoveries, you identify this to be none other than the Eastern Spadefoot Toad, a rare sighting and a threatened species here in Massachusetts. You later learn that Sandy Neck is one of the last remaining strongholds for the Spadefoot in Massachusetts, cut off and isolated from the few remaining groups.

 

You return to Sandy Neck the following night to find another Spadefoot on your travels, but after hours of searching you discover no such luck. Night after night, you notice the Spadefoots who once dotted the roads and the dunes just a few days before are nowhere to be seen. Where have they all gone?

 

Spadefoot toads, like many amphibians, are fossorial inhabitants. This means they spend the majority of their life underground. The Spadefoot is extremely successful at Sandy Neck due to the dry, sandy conditions. Underneath the toad’s hind foot is a small, black flap of cartilage that protrudes out and acts as a shovel. This is their “spade” and it makes them great diggers. If conditions are too dry, Spadefoots have been known to burrow underground up to six feet and remain there for weeks at a time. In truly dry conditions, they can even excrete mucus which hardens the surrounding soil and encapsulates them to prevent any further moisture loss. Rarely emerging from their burrows, Spadefoots only come out to breed and forage on occasion. If conditions are not right, Spadefoots have been known to skip the breeding season entirely and wait until the next year to try again.

 

Weeks have now passed with no signs of a Spadefoot toad. As the cold weather kicks in, you give up your search. As the seasons pass and the snows melt, you return to hike along the trails at Sandy Neck. It is late Spring, and the water table is extremely high. Heavy Spring rains have filled many of the cranberry bogs and dune swales along the path. This is a particularly rainy night; the end of a heavy spring storm has just arrived. As the skies clear and the moon drops slowly beneath the trees, you hear a most peculiar sound. A deafening chorus of low-pitched belches rings out from all directions. A jubilee of Spadefoots emerge from the sands to breed along the shallow swales of Sandy Neck.

 

Thousands of eggs will be laid, and in just a short period of time, a lucky few may metamorph and emerge as toadlets, leaving the wetlands to burrow beneath the shifting sands of an ever changing sand bar. But how many will survive, how many remain, and what will become of this mysterious species? The answer lies beneath the ground, in the secret burrows below the dunes. So if by some chance, you are walking along the trails of Sandy Neck and you spot the bulging eyes of a Spadefoot Toad, hopping along the sandy slopes, he may guide you to the answers you seek. Or her perhaps just the sight of such an elusive creature is enough to keep you inspired; working to protect one of its last remaining strongholds, on a beautiful barrier beach in the heart of Cape Cod. A wild place where all can find respite: from the Spadefoot toad, to the Piping Plover, to the people who recreate along its shores, Sandy Neck is home to all who love the beauty and peace she provides.

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A whale of a time at Sandy Neck

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A whale of an encounter off Sandy Neck Beach!

By: Town of Barnstable Natural Resource Officer, Amy Croteau

 

Seasonal shellfish enforcement officer Devon Harrington and myself were on the 13′ Whaler on Sunday August 30th, off tide patrolling Barnstable Harbor and Sandy Neck Beach Point.  I had contacted officer Nappi about the bomb shelter near the point and mentioned we were in the area when he stated there was a minke whale sighting between Trails 1 and 2. As the tide was dropping, there were concerns that the whale would get stuck somewhere, and he asked if we had time if we could keep an eye on it.

 

Devon and I motored out in that direction, where we found the whale and quickly made an enthusiastic paddle boarder increase his/her distance from the animal (they were paddling almost on top of it). As the paddle boarder made his/her way back to shore, we were met by a Harbormaster patrol boat that had Tom Lincoln and Brian on board.  We all kept eyes on the animal and began to realize that it did not look like a minke.

 

Devon, a whale enthusiast, was able to eventually determine that it was a right whale. This confirmation was also made by the Harbormaster boat, as the whale had come too close to comfort to the side of their vessel and they had taken a closer look at it.  The basic giveaway, the V spray from the blowhole, and the white belly.

 

A call to IFAW had been made by officer Nappi, and he stated that they could not give any further protection to the animal until they had photo confirmation of it actually being a right whale.

 

While maintaining a safe border around the animal from other boats, we were able to get enough pictures to IFAW for them to agree that it was a right whale, and start the calls to the Coast Guard and EPOs for additional protective orders to be relayed to boats in the area.  There are less than 400 of these whales on Earth, and boaters need to remain at least 500 feet away from these animals to be in compliance with federal regulations.

 

It was after that point that this whale, thought to be a juvenile that had been seen outside Boston Harbor the day before, really started putting on a show, breaching out of the water at least ten times through a heavily lobster potted area (extremely rare and cool to see, but nerve wracking at the same time).

 

Eventually the animal had moved at least 1.5 miles off shore, and because we were in such a small boat (and also because the EPO boat had arrived), Devon and I cleared the area and left the whale to continue on its way out to sea.

 

A once in a lifetime experience for sure and definitely a check off the bucket list!