Tuesday, November 22, 2005

It’s late now on the night of November 21st that I’m writing this. I haven’t posted in a while, and it feels good to be writing. Our living room is full of boxes and disassembled furniture – my possessions from my old apartment waiting to be unpacked and put together here in our new apartment. One of those boxes contains my herping bible: Roger Conant’s A Field Guide to Reptiles & Amphibians of Eastern & Central North America. This is important because I don’t know what species of slimy salamander I found on October 28th. I did find a possibly weightier opinion on the matter in a book I did locate: James Petranka in Salamanders of the United States and Canada does not recognize all the different species of plethodon glutinosus that Conant does. “My view is that formal taxonomic recognition of genetic subgroups of P. glutinosus is premature and should be deferred until detailed studies of contact zones provide evidence that will lead to a stable nomenclature. Here I do not formally recognize these 13 groups as species, and I refer to all as P. glutinosus.” Who am I to argue with James Petranka? I’ll write it down as glutinosus.

I found the salamander under a chunk of a log in a field in Roswell, Georgia. The log was in a pile of logs about ten yards from the woods in a Roswell city park. I had decided to go for a walk while I waited for my family to show up in Georgia for the rehearsal dinner that night. The park is great for a simple walk in the woods. There’s a 2.25 mile, very hilly trail that, along with the walk from Jen’s parents’ house (past the Super Target), makes for some exercise outdoors when you’re feeling bottled up at your in-laws-to-be deep in the suburbs of northern Fulton County. I had spotted that pile of logs from the trail. Even though it had been a cold night and it was still chilly (55-60 degrees?), the sun was shining. I figured it was worth checking.

I looked under one piece of bark and saw something thin and dark snap back into a hole before I could grab it. A snake? I don’t know. I guess it could have been a worm, but I’ll call it a snake. I tried a few more logs and uncovered a groggy-looking salamander about seven inches long. It was black with white spots, and it left a very sticky secretion on my hand after I had put it back. It was a slimy salamander.

I feel ashamed that I only wrote it down in my database tonight. The sooner I write up my finds the better for remembering the details. I feel just as bad that I haven’t written up my finds in Brazil, but I’m waiting for a CD with several of our photos to be mailed up from Roswell, and I need to have negatives for other pictures scanned (The explanation for this whole mishigas would be long and involve camera failures, disposable backup cameras, and internet access problems back in Philly, but the whole affair has spurred us to finally purchase a digital camera, so this should be the last time I have to wait for photos.). Then I can start asking people what it was that I saw.

I also have a roll of film from a few trips at the beginning of the Fall getting developed, so as soon as we have everything unpacked and put away (sometime after Thanksgiving), I should have the makings of a good series of posts. Until then, enjoy the holiday, and if you don’t already own Conant’s A Field Guide to Reptiles & Amphibians of Eastern & Central North America, get it on your Christmas/Hannukah lists, and never pack it where you can't find it.