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!
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.
Photos by NB Hunter. © All Rights Reserved.