The last few days I have had the opportunity to go out and document some end-of-the-year salamanders. Even though it was quite chilly outside (5 Degrees C/41 F) I managed to find four forms of salamanders; Spotted Salamander (Ambystoma maculatum); Blue-Spotted Salamander (Ambystoma laterale); and the Eastern Lead-back and Red-Backed (Plethodon cinereus). When I discovered the salamanders, they weren’t very active as they were pretty cold, as such I was able to get a few good pictures of them.
During an outing yesterday, I discovered the Blue-Spotted Salamander (Ambystoma laterale). I flipped a small log on the forest floor and my eyes were immediately drawn to this little dark figure with blue spots, it was a sub-adult Blue-Spotted Salamander. I was very ecstatic to be able to find him, as it was very cold outside so I had thought that the ”salamander season” may have already come to an end. However, I was wrong about this, and thankfully so. I placed him on the top of the log, very gently, just so I could get a few photos of him (to submit with my data submissions on the iNaturalist).
After I was finished I very carefully placed him back under the log and continued to search the area to see if I could find any more of these amphibians. After 20 minutes more of searching the area I wasn’t able to locate any more salamanders so I decided to head out to the next site about 30 minutes away.
At the next locale, I noted again how cold it was. Despite this I was still hopeful that I’d be able to locate a few more salamanders. I walked up an inclining path and after a few minutes of searching I found an Eastern Red-Backed Salamander (Plethodon cinereus). This population is comprised entirely of ”lead” phased individuals (or Lead-backs).
He was found under a flat rock on the ground. I quickly snapped a photo of him and recorded the current whether conditions and then let him be on his way. I managed to find 5 other Lead-Backed Salamanders in the vicinity and then I headed to another spot where I was hopefully going to find the Northern Two-Lined Salamander (Eurycea bislineata).
I drove to the next spot, which was approximately five minutes away. I got out of the car and immediately started searching for the Northern Two-Lined Salamander. I went up and down the stream bank in hopes of finding one. However, I was unable to locate any. In my research over the last few years I have noticed that the Northern Two-Lined Salamanders are not quite as cold-hardy as some of the other salamander species in this region (Southern, Ontario). In the spring the Northern Two-Lined Salamanders are usually the last salamanders to emerge from their over-wintering area and in the fall they are the first salamanders to relocate to their over-wintering season making their active period much shorter then the other salamanders in my area. After searching for about half an hour I decided to call it a day.
The next day, I woke up and decided I would do a little more searching since this is one of my last opportunities of the year to do so. I decided to head out to a very secluded location where I have in previous outings seen the following species; Spotted-Salamander (Ambystoma maculatum); Eastern Red-Backed Salamander (regular phased) (Plethodon cinereus); Four-Toed Salamander (Hemidactylium scutatum); Eastern Newt (Notophthalmus viridescens).
Within the first few minutes of searching I managed to find 4 Eastern Red-Backed Salamanders. I had found them under small logs and debris such as bark. After photographing them and recording their data I continued my search and under a small log I managed to find a sub-adult Spotted Salamander. He barely moved as his body temperature was so cold. Being ectothermic, these animals have body temperatures that mimics the environment they are in, which at the time was very cold. When their body temperature is cool they tend to not move around too much. I admired him for a few moments, obtained a photo and some data and then left him be. Before leaving I did manage to locate a few more Eastern Red-Backed Salamanders.
Being a resident of Canada, reptiles and amphibians have a short active period compared to other regions. As such, these ”end of the year” sightings are always rewarding!
Written by: Clint Fulsom – Save The Salamanders