Wednesday, October 25, 2006

The heat came on in our apartment a week and a half ago. Leaves are changing colors and in the suburbs they’ve had frost in the morning, but for us the radiators clanking and heating up are the clearest sign of the slide into winter.

Herpers get sad at the signs of winter. In the spring we run around crazy as cold-blooded life wakes up and spreads out around us. By summer we’ve settled into routines: we cruise reliable stretches of dirt roads and we budget time to follow rumors of rattlers and pine snakes. As the days shorten we get a little frantic and try to fit in one more trip after one more trip before all our scaly and slippery friends make it back to their winter dens.

I’ve given up on the Barrens for the year, I’ve given up on finding timber rattlers (Crotalus horridus) in the hills, and the water’s probably too cold by now for swimming after turtles.

Now that it’s cooling down, Jen and I have planned some hiking trips with friends. By that I mean trips just for hiking, that’s it. The summer’s okay for hiking too, but I make a terrible hiking partner when there are critters to be found. In colder weather, though, I can walk for more than ten minutes without stopping to check this log or that rock or hopping into a stream to scrounge for salamanders.

But all this cooling down doesn’t mean I’m giving up completely.

My cousin Tim was up visiting from Delaware on Sunday (October 15th), and when we decided to go for a walk, I guided us towards the Mount Moriah Cemetery.

We were there for walking and talking, so I tried to exercise some self control, but Tim did put up with me checking some choice pieces of cover as we went.

It was a beautiful sunny afternoon in the high 50s, and there was a party going on for the redback salamanders (Plethodon cinereus) under the trash and debris. Really, I didn’t look under very much stuff, but I still found twelve salamanders, and I found them in a lot more of the cemetery than where I had found them in the spring – pretty much spread throughout rather than just around the wooded fringes.

I also found three brown snakes (Storeria d. dekayi), all of them small (under eight inches). Two looked like they were about a year old, and one looked like it could have been born this year. Here are two I found cuddled together under a board. How cute is that?

Snakes are usually thought of as loners with no social inclinations besides to seek each other out for sex in the mating seasons. More than once, though, I’ve found little snakes together like this (for example the redbelly snakes, Storeria occipitomaculata I found in July). Maybe that one nook under that one board was the optimal spot for hanging out that afternoon, leading them to end up curled together without any regard for each other, but I like to think they get some comfort from the company.


12 redback salamanders
3 brown snakes

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

hi, I live in philadelphia and I'm really interested in what you are doing.I'm actually a salamander collector. i have been collecting salamanders since i was a kid.I was wondering if you can tell me where to find the red Salamander (Pseudotriton ruber).
I have been looking for it in many areas, but nothing.It's the only salamander that i do not have in my collection.

I look forward to hear from you.

my email address is: