Cover boards for wildlife (Six on Saturday #61–December 12, 2020)

Six on Saturday today is another garden project. This one adds wildlife habitat to your garden and provides the opportunity to see animals that are usually hidden from view.

1. Cover boards

coverboard

A cover board is exactly what it sounds like: a wooden board or piece of sheet metal that is placed on the ground to provide habitat for small animals. They’re often used by herpetologists to attract reptiles and amphibians, but they also attract insects, spiders, and small mammals.

This past spring, the kids and I placed three cover boards–two wooden boards and one piece of corrugated metal siding–in likely spots around our property. Over the summer and autumn, we have checked the boards once every two weeks, which we think is a decent compromise between checking so often that animals are frightened away, and checking so infrequently that we miss things.

If you live in a place with venomous snakes, it’s a good idea to use a rake or snake hook to lift cover boards. Pull the board towards you, so that you will have the upright board between you and any disturbed snakes. If you find a small animal, take a few pictures and then carefully lower the cover board again. Gently move the little creature to one side first, and let it crawl back underneath after you have lowered the board. You don’t want to find its squashed corpse the next time you lift the board Wait a reasonable amount of time and then repeat. That’s all there is to it

The rest of my photos today are animals that we found under the boards.

2. Eastern narrowmouth toad (Gastrophryne carolinensis)

narrow-mouth

The first time we looked under the boards, we found a pair of eastern narrowmouth toads. These guys spend most of their lives hidden, and I have only seen a handful in the past twenty years. I previously posted about this species here.

3. Wolf spider (Genus? species?)

wolf-spider
Maybe a Hogna species?

4. Eastern worm snake (Carphophis amoenus)

worm-snake1

I have written about eastern worm snakes here.

worm-snake2

5. Another worm snake ready to shed its skin

earth-snake1

6. Marbled salamander (Ambystoma opacum)

marbled-salamander

See this old post for more about marbled salamanders.

As always, the Propagator is the host of Six on Saturday.  Head over there to see his Six for this week and find links to the blogs of other participants.

22 thoughts on “Cover boards for wildlife (Six on Saturday #61–December 12, 2020)

    1. I love the cover board idea, which I admit is new to me. Do you have a pond, stream, or other body of water nearby? Impressed by the array of amphibians you have attracted with this simple shelter!

      Liked by 2 people

      1. There’s a little stream along the edge of our neighbors’ property. It dries up in the summer except for one segment that forms a muddy oxbow pool. Consequently there are no fish, and it’s a good spot for tadpoles and salamander larvae. We didn’t pick the house because of its proximity to amphibian habitat, but it has certainly worked out well.

        That said, most of the amphibians in our yard are terrestrial species who can wander quite a long way from breeding ponds.

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    1. That’s great. My kids and their neighborhood friends always enjoy looking underneath.

      You can also make a smaller-scale pitfall trap to survey crawling insects: Bury a jam jar and cover it with a small board, slightly raised to allow access. Nocturnal insects crawl underneath and fall into the jar. Just don’t forget to check daily and let them out.

      Liked by 1 person

  1. What a lovely idea. I’m afraid the wildlife I find in my garden is usually deposited (dead) by my little cat. I do have a friendly, resident robin who keeps me company when my cat is sleeping inside. Interesting Six-on-Saturday.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. There is enough junk out there that there is no need to add more for wildlife. Besides, I would prefer wildlife to keep a safer distance. I know that some gets displaced by our activity out there. Bat houses are a fad here, but really, bats have no problem finding homes.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. We have wolf spiders up here in Alberta but I’ve never seen one that big. Cool. Not sure I’d be picking one up either but they are still fascinating to observe. Excellent pic.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. This was so great to read and I loved seeing your reptiles and spiders. I Loved the salamander and the wolf spider the best. Sadly, I’m not sure we’d get anything so exciting in the UK. I once spotted a grass snake sunning itself on a bank in the. I tiptoed away to get the camera from the house but had scarpered by the time I came back. I think it was living in the compost heap nearby.

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  5. That’s a wonderful selection of animals in the garden, all very interesting. I think this cover board idea could well be used here as we have a good population of frogs. I must plan on this for the coming year – or now! Good idea!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. That was a really interesting post! The toad has an interesting shape, with its small head. The snakes were interesting too. It must be the time of year for wolf spiders! I found one a week or so ago on the garage wall, and a newspaper article mentioned that someone had found on hiding just under the door handle of their car! They must have got quite a fright! I don’t think we get salamanders here in Australia.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. You are right, and I would not use coverboards here. A hole into my garden shed is exciting enough as every time I go in there I expect to see another snake. I do not mind the pythons; its the other poisonous and aggressive ones I’m wary of. I did enjoy seeing what creatures you discovered hiding under the cover boards you placed.

        Liked by 1 person

  7. A nice and unusual SOS post (I’ve been looking though the comment’s section on Jon’s post). The toads are my favourite. I leave a few pots on their sides around the garden, some large ceramic tiles against a wall, and also a bird box on the ground. I don’t look and lift though, so who knows what creatures may be lurking there.

    Liked by 1 person

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