Including two of the rarest species to occur in Canada!
From September 22-25 I headed out to collect observational records & data on salamanders in several areas. This includes the Thousand Islands Region along the edge of Southern, Ontario and upstate New York, the Addington Highlands in South-Eastern Ontario, and the Appalachian Eco-region of Quebec.
At my first stop I encountered several Two-lined Salamanders (Eurycea bislineata) in a small stream system. This search area is managed by one of the Conservation Authorities, and I have been granted Authorization to monitor the salamanders on their lands and identify potential threats.
The next site was nearly three-hours North-West. This search area is on private lands, which I have been graciously granted permission to survey. Eastern Red and lead-backed Salamanders (Plethodon cinereus) and Red Efts (Notophthalmus viridescens) were both common.
However, the most plentiful encounter were juvenile Yellow-Spotted Salamanders (Ambystoma maculatum). They were under rocks, logs, boards; and on the edge of a camp ground they were seen under flower pots, garbage cans, and recycling bins. A few larger Yellow-Spotteds were seen too!
A. maculatum was not the only Ambystomatid present. Several Blue-Spotted Salamanders (Ambystoma laterale) turned up as well. One very large Unisexual Mole Salamander (also known as a polyploid) was also happened upon.
After a day and a half searching this area, I headed back down to one of the Thousand Islands. Due to limited time (with all the traveling), only a short survey was employed. Several more Red-backs and a large Yellow-Spotted were seen.
The next morning it was off to Quebec. At the first stop five Allegheny Mountain Dusky Salamanders (Desmognathus ochrophaeus) were observed. This species is rare in Canada, occurring in only two isolated locations. One in southwestern Quebec, and the other in southern Ontario. Both populations are federally listed as Threatened and Endangered, and NatureServe considers them critically imperiled. It was indeed a great privilege to observe them in the wild here. The salamanders were observed on private lands that I I had been given permission to access.
Later in the day, another species of Dusky Salamander would be encountered. This was the Northern Dusky (Desmognathus fuscus). Unlike D. ochrophaeus, the Quebec population of D. fuscus is thankfully not at risk. However, another rare stream species was to be seen – two large Spring Salamanders (Gyrinophilus porphyriticus). They are listed Federally as a Species At Risk by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada.
One of the last salamander encounters of the trip was an aberrant Red-backed Salamander, with stunning color and pattern. As someone who is actively involved with the conservation of salamanders, I am continually reminded of the threats and hazards that these amphibians face. Such threats are a stark indication of how very lucky I am to be able to observe so many salamanders in a variety of habitats (forests, seeps, mountains, wetlands, etc). It never ceases to evoke elation, being able to observe these fascinating and beautiful creatures out in the wild!