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Friday, May 9, 2014

Spring Night Hiking

Boardwalk on Roberts Side Trail
About a month ago, I joined up with the local Naturalist Club and we went out on a night hike to see the salamanders.    I have seen salamanders before, but never in the wild.

We met at about 8:30pm on a Saturday night and hiked in 300 meters off the road along Roberts Side Trail, which is part of the Bruce Trail in the Silver Creek Conservation area.

A wide boardwalk was built on this section of the trail to protect the habitat of the endangered Jefferson salamander.    There was still snow on the ground in and around parts of the trail.

There is a brief time period each spring where you can see the salamanders.  They live underground for 11 months of the year.  Each Spring they surface and head to the pond to mate and lay their eggs.    At first we didn't see any Salamanders, but as the night grew darker we found them crawling towards the pond.   We we fortunate that night and not only did we see the endangered Jefferson, but also a yellow spotted, red back and rare albino Jefferson salamander.  The later the evening became, the more salamanders we saw and we had to be careful with each step we took, so as not to step on any as they were making their way to the pond.

The salamanders allowed themselves to be picked up.  They don't bite, however, was told they do secrete a liquid from their skin, that can make you sick if it is ingested. 

The next weekend I went out again and it was difficult finding any Salamanders as they were already in the pond and we found egg masses laid underwater. 

It was quite an amazing site to see these small creatures.  This was also the first night hike I had been out on and is quite different from daytime hikes.  At night you need to rely on different senses, ie hearing and the motion around you as it's difficult to see very far even with a flashlight.   You need to be very aware of your surroundings as it is very easy to get lost if you're not sure of where you are going.  You hear different noises in the woods at night too.   The screech owls are out and even some racoons decided to have a fight in a tree near by. 

Jefferson Salamander
Jefferson Salamander
Jefferson Salamander

Yellow Spotted Salamander
Red Back Salamander
Part Albino Jefferson Salamander

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