Saturday, June 18, 2011

Little Jeff

Late spring is the time of year when you are most likely to run across a young salamander that has recently metamorphosed from a gilled aquatic organism to a lunged terrestrial creature. This baby faced individual is a Jefferson Salamander from this year’s hatch.

Jefferson Salamanders are the first to show up in the pond each winter. Egg clusters are usually present by the end of February and I’ve seen them as early as late December. Jeffersons usually take two to four months to complete their metamorphosis. The faster they develop, the less chance they have of being lost when the pond dries up.

Salamanders are normally thought of as sluggish creatures, but this little guy zipped into a hole so fast I could hardly get a picture.

Being underground is normal for these salamanders. They will spend most of their lives in burrows created in the soils of deciduous forests. Unfortunately, there is no forest anywhere near the pond. This hole disappears into what I consider to be a salamander unfriendly environment. The area does not benefit by any shade and the ground becomes hard as a brick in the summer.

The salamander and its hole are beneath this 4X4 cedar post located at the edge of my driveway. The intent of the post is to discourage people from driving across the buried copper line that brings propane to the house. The post is considered a temporary measure, even though I first put it there 22 years ago. Eventually, I’ll do some hard landscaping that will make it impossible for people to drive through. It seems to serve as an oasis for young reptiles and amphibians traveling the desert of my lawn. I find at least one young salamander under there each year along with assorted baby snakes and young toads.

The time of excessive rainfall is over and now the rain is avoiding Blue Jay Barrens. The pond continues to shrink in size and will probably be little more than a puddle by the July 4 holiday. I’m always encouraged when I find a young salamander. If I find one, that means there must have been many others that also survived to leave the pond.

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