Sunday, March 02, 2008

A few weeks ago I was saving some photos of locations I’d scouted and noticed that all my photos from this year so far were scouting photos. I had no pictures of reptiles, which was not surprising, but what was odd was the lack of photos of amphibians. Redbacks (Plethodon cinereus) aren’t too hard to find in the 40s. I must not have been looking. The same goes for dusky salamanders (Desmognathus species) and other common streamside/streambed salamanders, the two-lines and long tails (Eurycea bislineata and longicaudata).

I was out scouting again today, this time around the Manayunk Canal. I hear a lot about the turtles in there from non-herpers. Also the far end of it, near the head of the canal, is at the bottom of a long slope of green space, at least as it appears on the satellite images. My hope is that the area could produce some milk snakes (Lampropeltis triangulum) in another month or so.

Although the snakes are still in or around their hibernation dens, and I wasn’t out there to find salamanders, I was having trouble passing cover without flipping it. Some sheets of bark around the base of a dead tree caught my eye, and I bent down to peel it up from the ground. Bark is great stuff; it’s kind of like nature’s own plywood – great cover that efficiently transmits the heat of the sun. I turned up two bright redback salamanders, deep red backs with sparkly gray flanks.

I lost the pictures in a weird memory card accident when I was trying to download them, but you’ll have to trust me that redback salamanders are never more beautiful than when you haven’t caught anything for two months.

This is a difficult time of year for Philadelphia herpers. Spring might be here, but it’s not sure it wants to stay. Monday the temperature is supposed to go up into the higher 50s, which could actually make it a nice day for spotted turtles (Clemmys guttata) if I didn’t have to work, and then Tuesday night, when I’m committed to work late, that rain could very well bring out the spotted salamanders (Ambystoma maculatum). Then we settle back into the 40s for some more redback (maybe longtail?) weather.