The Hunt for Red October

Saturday was coming and with my oldest son having a late football game, I had a reason to spend the day with my middle child Nathan.  The weather was sunny with intermittent clouds, but didn't break 50 degrees.  With this in mind, we decided to head West for salamanders.

The title of this blog may be a little misleading.  We weren't looking for Red Salamanders, although they are always welcome.  We  wanted their genus member... a Mud Salamander.  The Mud Salamander has intrigued me for years in Pennsylvania.  It is known from one locale in the entire state.  If it weren't so far away (3.5 hours), I'd like to proclaim that I would have found it by now!  But I digress... Only three specimens have ever been verified in the state.  One in 1848, and two in 1991.  Anything with such limited data makes my blood rush.

So we traveled to the spot that I had pinpointed after some museum-record research, for our annual foray into P. montanus habitat.  We knew full-well the outlook was bleak, but you miss 100% of the shots you don't take, right? 

It was dry; disappointingly dry.  Our numbers were way down over past years.  We of course, didn't find our mud.  We spent three hours trying to find suitable flip spots.  What could we expect?  In 1988-89 field crews from the Carnegie Museum spent 30 man/days in the field and didn't turn up a single specimen.  But it's fun to try anyway.  Below are a few photos from the area, including a Red Salamander that always gets the heart pumping whenever its flipped at this spot.

Picerkel Frog

Four-toed Salamander

My son, Nathan - my herp partner for the day.

Eastern Gartersnake - flipped at 44 degrees.

Northern Red Salamander

The habitat... to the left is a slope, to the right is a lowland that remains wet in spots and produces tons of salamanders.

...step into the outdoors.