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Pickerel frog sighting! August 27, 2013

Posted by ourfriendben in critters.
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Silence Dogood here. This past weekend, I went to a retreat in the Catskills. Supposedly, the place where the retreat is held, with a huge lake set among beautiful forests, is crawling with porcupines. I was hoping to see them, having had a great experience petting a porcupine at the wonderful wildlife park in San Diego years ago. I’ve had a soft spot for porcupines ever since.

Sadly, I didn’t see a porcupine. But I did get to see two amphibians I hadn’t met before: a pickerel frog and a bunch of tiny salamanders.

The pickerel frog wasn’t down by the lake, as you might have expected, but up a fairly steep hill beside a small tree. But I recognized it at once, because I’d just looked up pickerel frogs, leopard frogs, and green frogs so our friend Ben and I could identify the two species that have occupied our deck’s half-barrel water garden all summer. It turned out that we had a green frog and two leopard frogs; pickerel frogs were too small (just 1-2 inches) and covered with bold, distinct spots.

The one I saw at the retreat looked just like the one in the picture. For some reason, I’d thought that pickerel frogs were a Southern species, but obviously, I was wrong. I was very happy to see this little guy! But I still wonder what he was doing way up the hill rather than in the lake.

What was in the lake were the salamanders—dozens and dozens of tiny (2-3-inch-long) black salamanders, swimming next to the shore. The salamanders that I’m familiar with are much bigger; I’ve seen orange-and-black tiger salamanders that were over a foot long at my family home outside Nashville, and many more modest salamanders that were still a good 6 to 8 inches from the tip of their nose to the tip of their tail.

I assumed these salamanders were infants, but my friend Stephanie, who was walking along the lake with me, assured me that they were adults who’d returned to the water to mate and lay eggs. Why would salamanders lay eggs now, with winter coming, I wondered. But then, if they were infants, why wouldn’t they have hatched out in spring and enjoyed a full season of growth before winter’s arrival?

I’m not familiar with small black salamanders, so if any of you can shed light on the issue, please feel free to chime in and relieve my ignorance! Whatever the case, it was fun to watch them, and to see the pickerel frog. It really enriched my retreat!

‘Til next time,




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