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Herping in Virginia

This is a discussion on Herping in Virginia within the Field Herping Accounts forums, part of the Fieldwork / Fieldherping category; Today I made the long trip down to Virginia to see GreatWteHunter, Justin. He took me out some of his ...

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Old 26th October 2008   #1 (permalink)
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Default Herping in Virginia

Today I made the long trip down to Virginia to see GreatWteHunter, Justin. He took me out some of his favorite herping spots, and to some spots he'd never been, like this stream.

Click the image to open in full size.

The first spot we stopped at was a boggy area. Previously here, Justin had found both spotted and marbled salamanders. While we found no adults, we did find some Ambystoma opacum eggs. They were fertile, and you could see the little larvae inside. As you may or may not know, marbled sals are fall breeders, and lay their eggs in depressions which fill up with water in the spring, and the eggs hatch, getting a head start on some other species. Unfortunately, momma sal was no where to be found. We looked for her, and then looked for her again on our way back out.

Click the image to open in full size.

The next spot we surveyed was stream-side. We were looking specifically for P. ruber. We found a few larvae, plus some Desmognathus larvae.

Then this guy showed up (P. ruber nitidus).

Click the image to open in full size.

Justin says he's seen very few adult P. ruber, even though finding a fair number of larvae.

We also found quite a few dusky sals, of various species.

Click the image to open in full size.

Neither of us are good at IDing duskies, so if anyone knows who this guy is, I'd be glad to hear! (update: Desmognathus monticola)

One dusky we CAN ID, however, is the blackbellied salamander, D. quadramaculatus.

Click the image to open in full size.

Another species we found was the Blue Ridge spring sal, Gyrinophilus porphyriticus danielsi, a striking specimen. And very docile.

Click the image to open in full size.

Then there's the 'slimy complex'. While the first is an ENORMOUS slimy salamander, P. glutinosis, the second and third pics could be something else. The little one (last picture) seems like a Wehrle's salamander to me, but I don't know. The face and the tail just don't seem like a slimy salamander.

Click the image to open in full size.

Click the image to open in full size.
(P. cylindraecus. Oh how I wish this picture was in better focus!!)

Click the image to open in full size.
(Update: definitely Plethodon wehrlei)

Of course, there are always two-lined sals, E. bislineata.

Click the image to open in full size.

But this one was different. Note how pink the head and legs appear. It's also full of eggs.

Click the image to open in full size.

We found a few specimens with this same coloration in the general area. It doesn't appear very striking in the pictures, but it was definitely noticeable in person, and definitely not 'normal' coloration. Possibly E. cirrigera?

All told, we found over a dozen species, including at least four species of duskies, red efts (Notopthalmus v. viridescens), and the slimy complex species. Notably absent were any Ambystoma spp., save the eggs, and redbacks. We were fairly shocked we found no redbacks. It makes me feel kind of... defeated. Like I have failed, for not finding any redbacks. lol.

Hope you enjoy!




Last edited by Kaysie; 27th October 2008 at 19:26. Reason: continuing to ID
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Old 26th October 2008   #2 (permalink)
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Default Re: Herping in Virginia

great finds! i actually havent found and red backs myself the past few years when i go looking in the woods of new york. ):



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Old 26th October 2008   #3 (permalink)
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Default Re: Herping in Virginia

Great Shots. They're giving me cabin fever.



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Old 26th October 2008   #4 (permalink)
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Default Re: Herping in Virginia

Was it pretty cold outside?



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Old 26th October 2008   #5 (permalink)
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Default Re: Herping in Virginia

Oh yeah, the weather.

So when we got to the site, it had been raining all morning. Pouring rain! But after surveying the first site (the bog with the opacum eggs), the rain let up. It stopped raining, and the sun came out, and it got warmer as the day went on. When we started, it was somewhere around the high 50F's, and when we ended, it was probably close to 65F and sunny. We actually found more salamanders after the rain stopped.

I also forgot to mention that we found a slimy complex species that had a really interesting eye. It appeared to be cataract-ed, but was kind of wrinkly. If anyone's ever seen a snake with a retained eye-cap, it was kind of like that, only really blue/cloudy. Unfortunately, I don't have a picture of this.



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Old 26th October 2008   #6 (permalink)
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Default Re: Herping in Virginia

Very Nice! I had been keeping my eye out for this post.

I can't believe that you didn't find any redbacks...it seems like that's all I ever find around here :P


By the way, without the mother guarding them, what are the chances of Ambystoma opacum eggs reaching hatch-out point?



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Old 26th October 2008   #7 (permalink)
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Default Re: Herping in Virginia

yeah, there aren't many red-backs in Virginia in my experience, i've only found two, i think that two-lines took their place because i always find a ton, but here it is the exact opposite of what red-backs like, it's highly acidic, saturated, and shallow topsoil, but than again that's williamsburg not where you were.



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Old 27th October 2008   #8 (permalink)
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Default Re: Herping in Virginia

Nathan, I think as long as they're not predated, they will hatch out fine. But without momma to guard, I think they're fairly susceptible to someone coming in and having a snack.



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Old 27th October 2008   #9 (permalink)
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Default Re: Herping in Virginia

Well I guess I should show my face around this post. Let me start by saying thanks to Kaysie for coming down I know it was a rather long ride but it was definitely a pleasure. Oh and by the way excellent pictures.

Now about the two-lines we found, I really wish you could see how pink the head and legs really were but at least there was enough of it to show up in the pictures to tell it. Out of the 3 or 4 individuals we found with this pink coloration it always ended abrublty after the front legs. I will definitely be heading back to see how many more I can turn up.

As for the redbacks, I have always referred to them as a "summer" species here, meaning that I always found them during the warmer months when most of the other sals where hiding. Now being in the Western part of Virginia redbacks are like the salamander equivalent of city squirrels. I am almost wondering if the activity level of the other streamside sals (mainly duskies) has anything to do with their abundance or as the case this past weekend lack of it. Oh guess I should mention the weather was just to perfect to pass up going herping again on Sunday (another post on that later as soon as my USB cable shows up) and once again redbacks were no where to be found.



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Old 27th October 2008   #10 (permalink)
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Default Re: Herping in Virginia

So after some discussion, we've re-updated the spring salamander subspecies. I'm going with G.p. danielsi. It was found a couple counties away, so I have little doubt that's what it was. Duryi just seems like too much of a stretch. This is a county record. w00t!



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Old 27th October 2008   #11 (permalink)
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Default Re: Herping in Virginia

Guess I should note that the opacum would also be a county record according to the states website.



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Last edited by Greatwtehunter; 27th October 2008 at 11:22. Reason: Clarification
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Old 27th October 2008   #12 (permalink)
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Default Re: Herping in Virginia

I am wondering, why herping for newts/salamander in October? Isn't Spring is a better time?
I am very new to field observation, I have only been observing salamander one spring in Ontario Canada. Does that means that Fall is also a good time to see amphibian? Or it is just for states that are further south of Canada (Regional)?



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Old 27th October 2008   #13 (permalink)
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Default Re: Herping in Virginia

Both spring and fall are great times to go herping, the thing about springtime is that you can catch the various Ambystoma migrations, however it has been well documented that they have fall migrations as well if that's what you would call it. The most important thing to keep in mind is the weather. It's probably to cold up there now but for instances on Saturday the weather started out raining and mid 50's but then cleared up and got up to the mid 60's. Now in my personal experience the best weather for looking for salamanders would be temps in the mid 40's to mid 50's and a drizzly rain or just had rained. This should be able to give you a good idea of when to go, but then again anyday that I can get out and herp is a good day to me.



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Old 27th October 2008   #14 (permalink)
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Default Re: Herping in Virginia

Thanks Justin, so why do they migrate in Fall? For a second breeding opportunity? Would that too cold for the eggs to develop or when the pond freeze in the winter, which the eggs will be frozen too.
This is interesting news for me, that means I can find salamanders two seasons in a year. :)



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Old 27th October 2008   #15 (permalink)
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Default Re: Herping in Virginia

They don't really 'migrate' in the fall, but they're fairly active because the weather is right. They're out searching for food to kind of fatten up for the winter. There's a lack of activity in the winter because it's too cold, and in the summer because it's too hot. But spring and fall have the right temperatures, which brings out the sallies.

I totally agree with Justin. The best time to go out is when it's 50 and drizzly. We just got lucky :)



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Old 27th October 2008   #16 (permalink)
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Default Re: Herping in Virginia

Interesting, I really learned a lot from here. I will now know when to find the salamanders in Ontario. Hopeful, I will share some of my findings later next year. :)

Btw Kaysie, very nice photos.



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Old 27th October 2008   #17 (permalink)
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Default Re: Herping in Virginia

Yeah migrating wasn't the right word for it, I just wasn't quite sure how to explain it. Jake posted a video back in September of some A. tigrinum. That should kinda give you an idea of what I was trying to explain.

Here's Jake's post: http://caudata.org/forum/showthread.php?t=57174



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Old 27th October 2008   #18 (permalink)
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Default Re: Herping in Virginia

Now wasn't I supposed to be a part of this trip?? Seriously though the pics are really nice. I recently re-discovered a local area that was crawling with Desmognathus. I also have a difficult time with this species but after consulting several books and websites I am thinking maybe D. fuscus. Justin, I once found an A. opacum in Montgomery county about 20 years ago. According to one of the older books this is way out of the native VA range. The VHS website has this species listed there however. I suspect that there is still much to be learned about the distribution of many of our local species.
Chip



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Old 27th October 2008   #19 (permalink)
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Default Re: Herping in Virginia

Chip, I figured you'd be busy with the baby and all. This was pretty last-minute. We'll have to plan something for the spring migration.

As far as your Desmog ID, you two can duke that out. I really have no idea.

Like I was telling Justin in PM, I suspect that in the more remote areas, people just haven't surveyed much, so the distribution maps may just not be accurate.



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Old 28th October 2008   #20 (permalink)
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Default Re: Herping in Virginia

Looks like a great outing!



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