December Nature Walk #2: Salamander Search

Greetings from the Piedmont — a few photos from our morning at Mason Farms Biological Station at the University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill:

We originally went out to look for salamanders — but only came across marbled salamander eggs… you could see tiny salamanders inside — moving.

eggs04Clumps of marbled salamander eggs under a log. Unlike most salamanders, marbled salamanders lay their eggs before the ephemeral pools fill. Doing this lowers the risk of predation by fish. Hatching sooner also allows them prey on spotted salamander eggs and larvae — competitors.

According to Vernal Pools by Elizabeth Coburn, mother marbled salamanders usually remain with their eggs until the pools fill. We did not see any adults with any egg clumps. Not sure what that implies about their fate, if anything.

Just in case you are curious about what marbled salamanders look like, here is one that Brian found last month in same same area:

“Female marbled salamander guarding her eggs, waiting for the rains to fill up the ephemeral pool.”

His finding excited me so much that I tried to draw a marbled salamander in my notebook the next day. Okay, so it’s not very marbled salamander-like now that I look at it… maybe I’ll have to try drawing another one again one day.


Okay… no luck with adult salamanders today, but we did find something else:


Bycatch — what might be an Upland Chorus Frog but not sure. Beautiful golden color. Found under a piece of bark in a dry creekbed.

Red-shouldered hawk — about to be mobbed by two American crows overhead.

Red-shouldered hawk


The whole area was teeming with life — and of course, the most noticeable and charismatic were the birds. Considering that it is almost Christmas, it was surprising to see so many kinds… everywhere. Lots of activity today.

mockingbirdMoving along the trail — seeing a Northern Mockingbird move in for lunch.

… Reach …


Yellow RumpedYellow-rumped warbler — caught moving between branches, gleaning insects off the trees.

YellowbelliedYellow-bellied sapsucker — a woodpecker who laps sap from the holes they peck into trees. If you ever find a pine tree with “sewing machine” stitches across its bark, you have probably found evidence of a yellow-bellied sapsucker’s presence.

cuteHermit Thrush — hanging out with a flock of sparrows and bluebirds moving along the edge between prairie and forest.

thrushyHermit thrush — pretty brave little bird.

chipping sparrowChipping sparrow — checking us out.

bluebirdEastern Bluebird — the tiny red-breasted bird on the horizontal log in the background. Lots of them around the meadow…

barn owl… Where we also found a Barn Owl nesting box!

We plan to go back early tomorrow morning around sunrise to see what we can see before our long drive up to Connecticut for Christmas.


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