Spotted Salamander

Though it’s rather large and has a wide distribution, the Spotted Salamander is actually pretty hard to…spot. These stout-bodied amphibians spend most of their lives underground. They are usually found in low-lying hardwood forests.

Because of their subterranean lifestyle, they are seldom seen except in March. During an especially stormy night on March 11, many of these salamanders could be seen migrating after dark during the rainstorm.

They make their way to fish-less pools of water, but even then, they are only active at night. In their underwater courtship dance, the male swirls around, turns about and nudges the female.

Since it became so cold the days after the migration occurred, the amphibians have been in a sort of “suspended animation,” buried in the mud at the bottom of the pool. It warmed up in the last few days though and they are “back to business.”

Here’s what one of their fist-sized egg masses look like. The eggs expand after the salamander lays them. They are coated with a thick jellylike substance that holds all the eggs together, anchored to vegetation in the pool.

Visually striking, these eye-catching salamanders are grayish-black with two irregular rows of yellow or orange spots from head to tail. They range from 6 to 9 inches in length. This is an oddly patterned individual that I saw migrating last month.

Spotted Salamanders eat earthworms, snails, slugs, spiders, millipedes, centipedes, pillbugs and insects. In the wild, they typically live for about 20 years, though some have been reported to be as old as 30.

I look forward to seeing Spotted Salamanders each year; not only is it a chance to observe a large number of amphibians, but it is also a sign that a few months of nice weather is just around the corner.

Third Eye Herp

Alison Holds Amphibians

I never thought I’d see the day, but today it happened. Don’t believe me? Then read on.

Alison and I took a boy named Evan out to see some signs of spring (which officially is only a week away). We heard frogs calling from woodland pools, so we stopped to check it out.

All those ripples and swirls are from Wood Frogs swimming around, looking for mates.

There were a few Wood Frogs on land too, heading for the water. This one was pretty colorful.

So we caught it, to check it out more closely. These amphibians can be easily identified by their “robber’s mask.”

Evan decided that further investigations were in order.

A bit of log turning revealed a Spotted Salamander.

They spend most of their life underground, but head to the pools in March to lay eggs. Then they return back to the woods.

Of course Evan would hold it, but the big question was would Alison hold it?

She did!

Third Eye Herp

Herping with Lance, Lauren, Luke and Logan

The “4 Ls” caught word of spring and the annual amphibian migration. “We want to go on a salamander hunt,” they said.

“OK,” I replied. So off we went.

We soon found out that finding wild herps isn’t as easy as looking at pictures of them on the internet. We could hear the “clucking” of Wood Frogs and the chirps of Spring Peepers, but where were they? Logan thought that lifting logs was a good strategy.

Then we found that if we were quiet, still and patient, our quarry would soon reveal itself.

Hey, what’s inside this log?

Not everyone is stoked about finding their first Spotted Salamander.

But Lance is.

And so is Lauren – we found four in total.

A non-migrating Redback Salamander.

Salamanders are sweet, but we won’t be happy until we catch a frog.

Lauren taking the “Wood Frog Challenge,” those frogs simply did not want to get caught.

 It was a great way to spend the afternoon.

Third Eye Herp


Tonight’s Amphibian Migration

How do you know that spring has arrived? Some would say it’s when they see their first Red-winged Blackbird. Some would say that it’s when a particular flower starts to bloom. But that’s all nonsense. Spring is officially here when Spring Peepers start calling. But before they do that, they must wake up from hibernation and migrate to woodland pools, where they lay their eggs. In these parts, Wood Frogs, Spotted Salamanders and Jefferson’s Salamanders often join them.
It rained pretty heavily until early afternoon, but then it stopped. But it still turned out to be a very good night for seeing amphibians. Wood Frogs were everywhere. I’ve never seen so many in one night (we only stayed for an hour).

Here’s a female heavy with eggs. Unfortunately they didn’t close the road like they usually do, so there were quite a few casualties. We called a ranger and he stopped by shortly thereafter to close it.

Although the Wood Frogs were calling in full force, there weren’t many Spring Peepers calling yet. Only two were seen on the road.

Salamanders tend to start crossing a bit later at night, but eventually they made their presence known. Here’s the first of many Spotted Salamanders.
One with relatively few spots.

But the Wood Frogs kept coming too. Sometimes I’d be photographing one and two or three would hop right on by.
A few were orange and a few were pink.

A hybrid/intergrade salamander that no one can quite figure out.

This spotted was just chillin’ in a roadside puddle after making it across the street.

And this one successfully crossed the “finish line” too.

Hey, that’s a spotted salamander, but it’s not a Spotted Salamander. This newt was probably looking to cash in on some tasty amphibian eggs.

Gray is my favorite color, and this Jefferson’s Salamander certainly was a fine sight to see.

It was quite a night!

Third Eye Herp