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Book Review: A Field Guide to Amphibians of Opal Creek

Otterwoman

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Book Review: A Field Guide to Amphibians of Opal Creek by John Villella and Adam Mims, 47 pages. Available through the Opal Creek Forest Center website, www.opalcreek.org, for $12.

Like other members of Caudata.org, I learned about this place when the March-April 2007 copy of Audubon magazine had an article about "phibs" at the Opal Creek Forest Center (near Portland, Oregon). (See www.caudata.org/forum/showthread.php?t=34754). Since I bought the book, I've also been getting their catalog of events. They have weekend workshops on the flora and fauna of Opal creek, as well as summer camps for kids. I've changed my annual ASPCA donation to this place (especially after I learned that the ASPCA actively opposes people being allowed to have reptiles as pets). Anyway, back to the book.

After a brief introduction to amphibians in general and as they pertain to Opal Creek, we come to five pages of quick identification pictures. Then come the entries for the amphibians that occur at Opal Creek, ten newts/salamanders, and five frogs/toads. There is a two page entry for each species, the first of which is a species description, the second of which tells where to look at Opal Creek for them. This information would be helpful for herping elsewhere as well, by identifying the microhabitats in which these species are found, i.e. the type of areas in which to look for these species outside of Opal Creek.

Ambystoma gracile, Dicamptodon tenebrosus, Taricha granulosa-- how wonderful it would be to see these in the wild! Oh yeah, and they have frogs there too.

Anyone who doesn't long to visit Opal Creek after seeing this field guide and getting a few of their brochures is asleep at the (metaphorical) wheel. It's certainly been added to MY "bucket list." Who need Machu Picchu? Do they even HAVE newts there?


One final thought: they have books on 100 places to see before you die; how about a list, 100 (or even 25) places to herp before you die?

If you've read this book as well, why not add your two cents?
 

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freves

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I very much enjoyed this book Dawn. I agree that it made me want to visit Opal creek as well. I think that there is a wealth of information to be found in these "mini" field guides.
Chip
 

Abrahm

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Excellent review, Dawn. With that price tag I might just have to pick that book up. I love the West Coast rain forest so I wouldn't mind visiting for a chance to do some herping and hiking.

I would love to see a top 25 places to herp before you die compilation.
 

Otterwoman

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Well, I have almost no experience field herping, so I won't be able to make the list up.
Though I'll nominate Opal Creek anyway.
 

Otterwoman

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Otterwoman

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Wow, this dream hatched a long time ago...

Anyway, we had such a great time we had to go back! This time we went in April (2012) for their Mosses and Lichens weekend. It was taught by none other than this book's co-author, John Villella, who knows more about lichens and mosses than Superman! But since he was already into herps, he didn't take offense when we overloaded on moss and lichen information and the session devolved from lichen-hunting to salamander-hunting. He is a great and extremely knowledgeable, and articulate person, and it was a GREAT weekend. In fact, we saw more herps on this trip to Oregon than in the Sept 2010 trip. And for that, you will have to go back to this thread...

I have two new things: a way to describe a slow pace (no longer with a turtle metaphor) but "at a lichenologist's pace" ... AND...a copy of the Opal Creek Amphibian Guide autographed by one co-author!!

I never realized how fascinating and important lichens and mosses were...I really learned A LOT. For example, the older and more decrepit a tree looks and the more it looks like it needs to be tossed into a fire, the more covered with the rarest and oldest lichens it is. But joking aside, they are integral to the maintenance of the rain forest ecology, and are just amazing!!
 

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Molch

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awesome. I'm a biiig fan of mosses and lichens. We have so many species here on the tundra. Lichenologists really get to see some of the most remote and beautiful places on earth.
 

Molch

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I'm surprised you don't find them all frozen in the snow. They walk about ten feet an hour.

hmmm...we do seem to find frozen corpses here under the snow every break-up; I haven't heard of one with a pocketful of lichens, however.

I have studied lichens and mosses from an herbivore's point of view, because they are forage for caribou and muskoxen :)
 
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