Last night I spotted several small salamander larvae moving about in the water.
Using a fine meshed aquarium net, I scooped one out for closer examination. The larva may look large in the photo, but it is actually only about an inch and a half total length. The mesh of that net has 16 openings per lineal inch. Beside the larva is a freshwater amphipod.
From the net, I dropped the larva into a glass jar for observation. Identifying characteristics are poorly developed in a specimen this young, but there is no doubt that this is the larva of a Red-spotted Newt. Red-spotted newts have a definite spring breeding season, but also seem to be opportunistic breeders throughout the year. Breeding behavior is common in the water garden during summer and early fall, especially following a heavy rain. This individual probably hatched from an egg deposited soon after the late October rain. Eggs typically take three to five weeks to hatch, and warm water would have allowed hatching to occur closer to the three week mark. I estimate this larva to be about a month old, so it still has four or five months to go before beginning a terrestrial life style.
As the larva develops, the head will become smaller in relation to the body and will develop more of a taper towards the snout.
The hind legs are just buds. They will grow steadily over the next couple of months.
The beginnings of the distinctive dark eye stripe is just now forming between the eye and mouth. By the time salamander larvae appear in the pond, the newt larvae will be formidable predators.