On the last day of July 2016, I headed up to an area north-East of Bon Echo Provincial Park to collect observational records of salamanders. The areas I were exploring were privately owned lands that I have been given permission to access. I arrived late afternoon and immediately started encountering salamanders. I saw several Four-toed Salamanders (Hemidactylium scutatum), Red Efts (Notophthalmus viridescens), and Eastern Red-back Salamanders (Plethodon cinereus) all in a small parcel of forest. Some were found among each other, sharing the same cover.

Red Eft (Notophthalmus viridescens)
Four-toed Salamander (Hemidactylium scutatum)
Red-backed Salamander (Plethodon cinereus)

After these salamanders were all tallied, I headed back to where I had collected observations of larval (or salamander tadpole) Yellow-Spotted Salamanders (Ambystoma maculatum), earlier in the year. It was time to see how many had metamorphosed into their terrestrial forms. It didn’t take long to see that hundreds had. Virtually every piece of cover next to the former breeding pond contained several Yellow-Spotted Salamanders. Some were placed into a sterile container to get a photograph, and then they were promptly returned to their habitat. These were not the only salamanders around. Several large Eastern Newts and Red Efts were also seen. The newts were using the pond earlier in the year, but once the water had dried up returned to a more terrestrial state. When this occurs, the newts have thicker skin to help prevent desiccation. One of the Efts I encountered was extremely spotty and boldly marked.

Yellow-Spotted Salamanders (Ambystoma maculatum)
Eastern Newts (Notophthalmus viridescens)
Red Eft displaying overly spotted pattern

The next area to be checked was a marshy inlet off of a long winding lake. Here several Eastern Newt tadpoles were found! This was the first time I had seen any in the wild! Unlike frog tadpoles, the salamanders have big external gills that look like frills on the sides of their heads.

Eastern Newt tadpole habitat
Eastern Newt tadpole with external gills

The following day, I went to look down a different section of forest. Many more Red-backed Salamanders were found, including several leadback phased animals (often simply referred to as Leadback Salamanders to emphasize the difference in appearance). A rare and extremely beautiful erythristic phased Red-back was then encountered! I was ecstatic to say the least to have gotten to see this animal!

Erythristic Red-backed Salamander (Plethodon cinereus)
Erythristic Red-backed Salamander (Plethodon cinereus)

Later in the day I headed up a ridged area I had never explored before and was rewarded with more Red and Lead-back Salamanders and another Four-toed Salamander.

Leadback Salamander (Plethodon cinereus)
Ventral view of the Four-toed Salamander, exhibiting peppered patterning

With literally hundreds of salamanders observed, and several interesting morphs and forms encountered, it was a great trip!

Bon Echo Area Salamandering
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