Sunday, November 08, 2009

It occurs to me that I had forgotten the pleasures of hunting stream bed and stream side salamanders. This week I remembered. I stepped frankly right into the shallow water with my sneakers and welcomed the cool water flooding my socks. I looked at all those rocks at the edge of the water and didn't need to think much. I just hooked my hand over the first that looked too big for a raccoon to flip (my standard for rocks that might hide decent sized salamanders), felt the rough stone, the weight, and leaned back, the gravel and sand beneath giving up their grip on the rock. I didn't find anything under the first one, but that's not much of a problem. Another pleasure of flipping rocks in streams is the meditative quality of the repetition, rock after rock, working up or down the stream by inches.

The fall is a fine time to focus on salamanders. I worry that I insult the true salamander fans, the implication of that sentence being that I look for salamanders when I can't find snakes or turtles, and that's probably true. Still, the point of this post is that I have more fun than I thought I did, and I've been missing out each time I've walked past or through a rocky creek without climbing down into it.

If missing all that fun isn't bad enough, I didn't have to drive very far. I had met Ryan (who goes by EyesOfTheworld on Field Herp Forum) at his place not too far into Delaware County, and he was kind enough to show me some of his salamander spots in the near suburbs. I could also go flip salamanders in the Wissahickon, Pennypack Park, or any of a number of nearby places.

I saw the usual stream suspects - dusky salamanders (Desmognathus fuscus - no photo) and two-lined salamanders (Eurycea bislineata):

I also flipped a green frog (Rana melanota) that seemed awfully sluggish until we tried to take its picture: The big target of the afternoon lived a little bit up from the stream sides. Red salamanders (Pseudotriton ruber) tend to live up in seeps, which are those wet, muddy stretches where water seeps (no better word for it) out of the hillside and works its way down to the creek.

Redback salamanders (Plethodon cinereus) were everywhere the other salamanders weren't - in other words under almost every rock, log, and piece of trash up from the water. Here are a handful from Mt. Moriah Cemetery, where I stopped on my way to see Ryan:

Here is an itty-bitty redback from one of our stops in Delaware County:

I'll wind up, incongruously, with a snake. Ryan is lucky enough to have brown snakes living and apparently hibernating in his back yard. Here's one of them: