Rainy Day Treat

Unusual weather often leads to unusual observations. Warm, rainy weather at a time when a good killing frost is more the norm resulted in a surprise encounter this morning with a species that the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation categorizes as “pool-breeding wildlife”. Walking in the rain, I discovered a Spotted Salamander (Ambystoma maculatum) in a Goldenrod meadow. These are large salamanders and this one, a modest 6 inches or so in total length, was stretched out in full view on a clump of matted grass. By the time I returned with my camera, it had moved a few inches but, fortunately, was still cooperative!

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Spotted Salamander

Considered a sign of spring due to their mass migrations to woodland pools and ponds to breed, Spotted Salamanders are rather common but rarely seen at other times of the year. They spend most of their time beneath the forest floor (sometimes logs, rocks, etc.) feeding on worms, insects, and other invertebrates. The current weather pattern, with 70-degree days and warm rains, is very spring-like and undoubtedly was a stimulus for the behavior I observed today.

I’m mindful of reptiles and amphibians when managing my property, leaving portions of fallen trees on the ground and maintaining intermittent streams and associated riparian habitats. This intermittent drainage, fed by the recent rains, lies about 200 feet from where the salamander was discovered and could well be the reason for its presence.

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Intermittent stream

Photos by NB Hunter. © All Rights Reserved.

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7 thoughts on “Rainy Day Treat

    • Thanks. And then there’s the untold story: immediately after the last of 3 photos, it ducked down and slithered into the dense grass and weeds. Have you ever tried to find/catch a snake in the grass? Same experience here. I carefully prodded and parted grass for 10 minutes and could not find the little cutie, yellow spots and all, to save my life.

    • Thanks Liz. It’s rainy hard again now, with a tornado watch for the next 3 hours, so I’m trying to think of the glass as half full and hoping for another sighting, perhaps a larger one!

    • Thanks Calee. The responses to that post far exceeded expectations. If I’d known in advance that the slimy little creature had rock star potential, I might have cheated and moved it to a colorful pile of leaves for a better portrait.

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