Thursday, March 20, 2008

Salamander Dance

It’s been two weeks now, since I watched them walk.
And the night was much like this one.
Warm and wet, but, mostly…wet.

Each day, their eggs in the pools remind me there will be more to see, soon—but I eagerly wait and watch, hoping for another glimpse of the beautiful spotted salamanders in the dark water.
They hide themselves by day, so well, they might not be there at all.

My flashlight catches a glistening body moving across the grass. Hardly the numbers of weeks ago, but it confirms my feeling that tonight’s weather suits them well. His direction suggests he is leaving—returning to the woods, his social gathering disbanded for another year.

Little Pond pool:
Peepers, chorus frogs and wood frogs call loudly. The shape of the basin and my position within it contains the sound—a large dish, magnifying their shrill voices to the threshold of pain. The activity here can be felt—a frenzy of frogs.

The shallow water at my feet is clear, a grassy woven mat obscuring the bottom. But beyond a ring of dead stalks, in the deeper water, I cannot see.

Wood pool:
Smaller and stiller—this pool is the wood frogs' chosen.
They float effortlessly on the surface—legs splayed behind, eyes shining in the beam of my light. In the risen water, they seem drawn to me, scooting right to my toes to hover and wait. A large coppery female is laying eggs just beneath the surface.

Her smaller, darker mate fiercely hanging onto her back as she deposits the compacted black wad of eggs on a stalk of grass. By morning, it will have quadrupled in size as the protective gel covering swells in the pool to become the familiar shining silver masses.

At the leafy edge is a toad—quiet, but drawn here, too. Perhaps she waits for her mate’s call to find him in this extraordinarily dark night.

The water is pelted with raindrops, the oak branches guarding it, shedding also onto the surface. Rings upon rings dance on the wood pool.

The salamanders dance, too.

Slowly moving in the shallower water and hiding quickly beneath the dark leafy bottom as the light approaches, I count 15. Each popping to the surface to steal a breath, then burying themselves, again, in the depths.

Born of these waters, some perhaps 15 years ago, these solitary beings have found their way back.
To this place where, tonight, they revel in being a spotted salamander.

My thanks to Pat Rossmann for photos 1 and 4
--and for bringing a camera out walking with us on such a wet night!

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MojoMan said...

What a wonderful story and collection of photos! This is the sort of miracle that is available to so many but witnessed by so few.

Do you think, like salmon, amphibians return to the waters of their birth?

nina said...

I don't know how particular the frogs are, whether they'll use the closest pool or seek a certain one. But, I've read that the spotteds walk the same trail year after year, returning to the pool of their birth.
(which is why habitat destruction is so devastating to their survival)

Mel said...

You keep finding treasures!

Old Wom Tigley said...

This really is great to see and read. Your enthusiasm shines in each word and picture.. I really do enjoy my visit here.. thank you

Cathy said...


Your delight.

I just can't imagine.

Dancing salamanders!

Those pictures!

So they only make the one trip for an overnight and that's it?

Tom said...


Great shots, I haven't been able to do any salamandering this spring, thanks for the amphibian fix.


nina said...

You know, I wish I could really tell who came and left when--but it seems to be males' arrival, females' arrival, some shared pool time, then they leave, alone.
I think the weather determines the pace--and with a lapse back to winter temps and snow, my guess is that many from the original migration remained waiting for the return of warmth--and other salamanders.
Their spot patterns are unique--it would be neat to track them better!

RuthieJ said...

Hi Nina,
It's so neat to see those frog and salamander pictures. When I visit the pond the frogs all jump in the water as soon as I approach..... does it make a difference if you go after dark and they can't see you approach?
I sure would like to be able to find some creatures like this.

Lisa at Greenbow said...

Nina I know that the word awesome is over used but this post is AWESOME. Wow. The presentation of such things that are rarely seen let alone photographed in such a splendid manner. Well, I just can't thank you enough for sharing your work. And I want to thank Pat too. Good work.

Mary said...

Oh, how I wish I were there... I can hear the night sounds and feel your excitement.

Great, Nina!

SLW said...

What a nocturnal wonderland you are exploring! Thanks so much for sharing it with us. I can't remember the last time I saw phib eggs... you make me feel like I'm along for the journey.

mon@rch said...

Wonderful series of photos here and only a matter of time until ours start coming out!

Marvin said...

A wonderful post, Nina. Thanks for sharing your experience and knowledge. I need to do some salamander research before late winter/early spring next year. Up here on a ridge, we don't have anything that would qualify as a wetland or typical vernal pool, but we have salamanders. They've got to be breeding someplace.

Eco Enthusiast said...

These are wonderful photos. I love the ones of the wood pool with the mating of the frogs. You bring us there with your prose. Joan