After two hours of sifting through mud, rocks and logs we were ready to give up. Finally a log hidden among the leaves revealed what we were looking for a salamander. Unfortunately we had no idea what kind it was, so we took lots of pictures.
This chubby little guy had us fooled for a while because we had no idea that it could even be a red backed salamander until we counted the costal grooves (lines in its side- marking ribs.) The red backed salamander can have between 18 and 22 and this little guy had plenty of them. After a trip to the Nature Center to confirm our findings, we had our answer-it was a lead phase red backed salamander. The shocking part was that there is no red on its body at all.
Dusky salamanders are a type of salamander called lungless salamander. These salamanders don't have lungs and breathe through their skin. They are brown or reddish brown to gray or olive coloring. They are also lightly spotted sometimes, and have slightly darker marking on the top and sides than its belly. They have 14 coastal grooves in all. They have a knife like tail that is less than half its body length. Adults are 6.4 to 14.2 cm in length. The males are longer than females.
Their habitat is wooded with running or trickling sources of water. They are often found under flat rocks and logs near rock or hillside streams or seeps. They are also found by misty waterfalls. They can be active year round if their stream doesn't freeze. If it does freeze they will burrow under gravel or dirt until they are below the frostline.
Jonah and I have been to many trainings in the last week, most of them for our amphibian friends. We are the proud salamander surveyors of a park in Arlington. In the next two months we will be counting salamanders and recording data that will be used by the county to asses the overall health of the parks in Arlington. We are learning to identify the many different salamanders that live in the area and can't wait to get started on the next rainy day!
We went out looking for spotted salamanders today. Even though the snow is still out, the spotted salamanders are active looking for a mate. We were looking for them near vernal pools. These yellow polka dotted salamanders look more exotic than they are. In fact, they are found throughout Virginia.
Spotted salamanders are a type of mole salamander. Even though they have mole in their name they don't actually burrow. Instead they use other animals dens and tunnels, such as shrews and moles.
These elusive salamanders are nocturnal and only mate for one week for the entire year, and are hard to find. Despite their secretive nature, these salamanders, will gather in the hundreds at vernal pools or ponds during the breeding season. The female salamanders can lay up to 200 eggs that are usually attached to an underwater object. During dry season when the vernal pools are dried up the larvae will start to grow faster.
The most obvious feature of the spotted salamander is its yellow or orange spots that run on either side of its spine. These spots aren't just for fashion, it's also a warning. During an attack it'll release a sticky secretion that is poisonous or just distasteful do the predator.
Fun fact: The Spotted Salamander egg clusters are coated in a sticky
slime and certain types of algae grow inside the eggs with the larvae.
When the larvae poops the algae will eat it and in turn it'll make oxygen.
-by Jonah Kim
The fantastic FLYING SQUIRREL
Did you realize, that there are flying squirrels in Fairfax County? At night, what you judged was merely a bat might be a flying squirrel. These nocturnal squirrels are the tiniest species of squirrel, making it an arduous task to locate them. These omnivorous creatures weigh between 2 to 4 ounces as adults, and their light weight helps them glide from tree to tree in the dark of night. Flying squirrels survive up to six years in the wild, and in those six years they are careful to stay out of sight. For coyotes, racoons, and other predators see the flying squirrel as a delicious little morsel. Flying squirrel are very social squirrels, and if you spot one, most likely you'll notice others. So, be on the look out, for these great gliding creatures of the forest are often mistaken for bats, and you could have them in your neighborhood.
-by Gabriel Kim
The boys and I are thrilled to be a part of this year's Salamander survey in Alexandria where we will be on the look out for some migrating salamanders and frogs. This week the little critters have started coming out looking for their vernal pools where they hope to find their love for the season, lay some eggs, and then it's back into hiding for these little guys. So drive slow if you live by a vernal pool and walk with a flash light at night and maybe you'll get a glimpse of this mini migration.
We were pretty busy in February with the snow, which cancelled many of our stream monitoring opportunities. Although we did attend the council meeting in January, we have been pretty busy trying to schedule some follow up meetings. We had a great response from the community to our video , but haven't heard anything from the county. We started building awareness for our cause locally by joining the neighborhood site and promoting our video there and contacting several local list serves. We have joined FrogWatch and a Salamander Patrol in nearby Arlington in hopes that we can learn ways to support our own community by participating in these events. For now, we are just enjoying our local streams.