EAST BRUNSWICK, N.J. - We found East Brunswick Environmental Commission Chair David Moskowitz patrolling a closed section of Beekman Road in East Brunswick in Middlesex County, New Jersey, after dark on Wednesday in search of amphibians.
"We have spotted salamanders, wood frogs, green frogs, pickerel frogs, chorus frogs, Northern gray tree frogs, bullfrogs, and eastern newts," he said. "This is probably the only place left in East Brunswick where we have spotted salamanders."
And on this misty February evening, David found one, a female capable of living up to 30 years and carrying 100 eggs and, perhaps, in debt to David for her species' survival on this piece of parkland.
"On my left is forest," David said. "On my right is forest with two vernal pools."
For a few nights every spring, all those amphibians cross this road from the forest on the left to the forest on the right to reach one of those vernal pools to mate and lay their eggs.
(A vernal pool is, "essentially, a little woodland pond," David said. The EPA describes it as a seasonal wetland ranging in size from a small puddle to a shallow lake.)
"All these frogs and salamanders have to have that pool to breed," David said.
One night 16 years ago, David lit up this same stretch of pavement with his flashlight hoping to witness this migration.
"We saw that there were salamanders and frogs that had been killed by cars," David said.
So, David brought the East Brunswick spotted salamander's plight to the mayor, who agreed to close Beekman every spring, allowing hundreds of frogs, newts and salamanders to cross and a growing number of biologists—amateur and professional, child and adult—to watch them do so in safety.
"We get them out on a rainy raw night instead of sitting in front of the TV and they're learning something about nature that they couldn't learn anywhere else," David said.
Before 2004, David believes he never saw a wood frog near Beekman's vernal pools.
"By closing this road," he said, "the population's rebounded and we now have hundreds of wood frogs."
On this moonless evening, David found one of those too, just by stalking up and down this dark road, all bundled up, staring down at his flashlight's beam on the wet pavement.
"That's all you're doing—just walking and hoping that one crosses your path," he said.
Read about amphibians at the National Wildlife Federation.