Sunday, October 2, 2016

Newt Day Rising. 10-1-2016

Man, when I say the temps dropped out last week, I mean it. It hasn't been above the low 60s since Autumn struck. At least we're getting some drizzle now. It is with 59° and said drizzle that we headed to Western MA in search of salamanders. We had almost decided against it. Andrea was feeling a bit worn down and, even with some moisture, many salamanders would probably still be absent. But a friend had made some (very) tentative plans to meet out there (should things line up just right) so we made the effort to be in the area if in fact the meet-up would occur. In other words, he made our minds up for us. Sadly, it never happened. But we were on the way already.

We didn't get out to Hampden County until about 1 PM. It was still 59° and spitting rain. We headed down towards the vernal in search of salamanders, hopefully some Ambystoma. The vernal was, of course, dry, but the falling wetness had made everything around it damp. Except the underside of logs. Still dry there. Good enough for this Eastern Newt, though.
Interesting phase of the newt here... post Eft orange, but not quite the olive green of the adult stage. At any rate, this fella was hoping for some water to complete the transformation.

Redbacks were officially up. Throughout the day, we saw many.
Usually at this spot, Leadbacks outnumber Redbacks about 3:1, but there were more Red ones this day. This Leadback is only 3/4 size... it looks like a fairly recent tail drop.

I decided to cut to the chase. The pond was dried up but still muddy. I had boots on, so I made my way in to the wet mud to flip in there. It was my best chance for Ambystoma. I was a bit surprised to see two Pickerel Frogs on a flip.
I wonder if they have given up on 2016 and have gone to bed for the season. That pool has got to fill up again eventually.

It was the golden Newts that ruled the day, however. The yellow post-Eft, pre-adult Newts were a new thing for us... maybe we'd seen one or two before, but that stage was extremely abundant.
This vernal was full of them. There they waited... surely the rain will fill it back up soon.

This was a surprise flip in the mud... under a round rock.
We didn't expect any snakes down this way but this yearling Garter defied the rules.
He musked Andrea pretty well, too.

Seriously, flip after flip was producing those yellow Newts. I couldn't photograph them all. Sometimes, however, you just needed to capture the insanity of the numbers.
Legend of the Seven Golden Newts.

Strange bedfellows.

Andrea saw an actual Eft walking along and we put it near some recently flipped Newts for the contrast.
That was the only specimen in the Eft stage that we saw that day.

We headed up the mountain, but only a very little bit. Andrea didn't want to fuck around on wet, slippery rocks and I didn't blame her. We saw a few more Redbacks and Newts but nothing that was photographed. I suggested going to a little parking inlet and hiking a bit from there but she'd decided that she had already had enough. I asked if I could flip for a bit in a nearby Dookie spot, since we were within range.  She acquiesced.

To my delight, the stream that I sought still had some water, actually still running a bit. This reinforced my thoughts that it could be a possible Spring Sal spot. My very first flip produced a decent sized Dusky but he slipped away as I fiddled with my camera. The next one, too. I finally landed my lens on a Two-lined Salamander or two.

The light was very dim... I was in a tree covered stream on a cloudy day in the late afternoon. I flipped what I thought was a Leadback but it turned out to be a Dook!

In the fading light, this light-colored Dookie gave me Spring-fever, but I'm still pleased that he's a Desmog. I'm thrilled with how this picture came out. I love these guys.
"I've never heard of someone targeting Duskies before."- Matty Cub-cub

Not the greatest photo ever but what a stunning Two-line! Look at that orange tail!

By this time, I had flipped a couple of Green Frogs that may or may not have already called it a year. They both hopped off before I could document them. This small American Toad was an odd consolation prize to see in this setting.

I flipped yet another Green Frog, who hopped away as I snapped a shot. Hey, if you can't see his legs and body clearly at the top of this picture, then I can't help you! THE EIGHTH SPECIES, dammit!
Sorry... I just had a trophy herper moment.

One more before heading out. I hate "find the animal" shots as much as anyone but this wee Dook just blended in so well.
Hint: he is dead center.

Before hitting WEBS (America's Yarn Store) and our dinner spot, I pulled over one last time and saw a healthy, hoppy Pickerel.

Not a bad day, at all. We struck out on any Ambystoma, though. We figure the Spotties have all ascended the mountain (those that actually metamorphosed before the vernal dried up) and the Marbled Sals haven't yet made their way down. Hopefully, this weather will trigger their movement. The Newt Madness more than made up for everything, though. Salamanders, yarn, veggie burgers and time together. Happy Saturday.


  1. i can't get over that group of yellows......
    so very decorative of them!

  2. I saw about 30 of those not-quite-eft newts when I was out there in early August. My gut tells me it's something to do with the drought, but damn it if I can back that up with anything other than "I've never seen so many of this stage before and this summer there was no effing rain".