Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Creek Salamanders

A light shower on a warm evening prompted me to take a stroll along the creek to see if any salamanders might come out of hiding.  Within seconds of reaching the creek, I noticed a Dusky Salamander moving across the gravel.  This species usually keeps beneath the flat rocks, but I thought the recent flood disturbance to the creek channel might have left a few displaced salamanders in its wake.  A light rain provides ideal conditions for traveling about in search of a new home.

Salamanders that have moved into the open on their own, as opposed to those that are suddenly exposed by the lifting of their sheltering rock, are normally approachable and easy to observe.  I stopped the wholesale flipping of rocks as a youngster when I noticed that each subsequent flip revealed fewer organisms.  Now I try to take advantage of those occasions that salamanders naturally withdraw from cover.

Dusky Salamanders are not large, but mature specimens will develop a stout body and thick tail that gives them a chunky appearance.  I believe the swellings on the side of the neck identify this as a male in breeding condition.

Not far down the channel, I found a Two-lined Salamander.  These little guys are shorter and much thinner than the Dusky.  Both species are very common, so if you look for salamanders in the creek you really expect to find these two.

This individual appeared to be hunting.  It moved methodically through the rocks by pulling itself slowing forward and then stopping for several seconds.

I thought that the salamander had found some prey, but it lifted its head and proceeded forward.  It’s a treat to watch animals behave as they would without human interference.  Despite the brightness of these shots, the sun had already set and because of the cloud cover, it was quickly getting dark.  I finally had to leave the salamanders to go about their business while I headed back to the house.

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