Ramblings of a "New American" Gardener

First salamander

April 12, 2015

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One of the guys here to do some tree work last Thursday told me he had seen the largest salamander he’d ever set eyes on in my small reflecting pool. This is a spotted salamander, apparently common, but rarely seen, throughout the eastern US. When I found it the next day, it dove under water, then surfaced in the middle of the pool and just floated motionless. It’s about seven inches long.

This small reflecting pool (as seen last autumn), only about 7 by 7 feet and 8 inches deep, is its home, for how long, I don’t know. It seems very vulnerable to our many raptors and carnivorous mammals.

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I saw a baby salamander last year, about 1.5 inches long and a quarter inch wide. I’d like to think this is the one from last year, but that’s wild speculation.

I watched it again yesterday in the late afternoon, which is the time it seems most comfortable floating on the surface. It seemed to be playing, swimming upside down, bending its body this way and that, for longer than I wanted to stay and watch.

My wild style garden is proving itself to be still wild.

Here is the salamander “dancing.”

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{ 12 comments… read them below or add one }

Joseph Valentine April 13, 2015 at 4:06 pm

Some wonderful photos, James!

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James Golden April 13, 2015 at 9:44 pm

Thanks, Joe. Good to hear from you.

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John Schucker April 13, 2015 at 7:57 pm

I would have been thrilled to witness a salamander cavorting like this in person! The photos give a very good sense of what you saw. And some of the moments you captured seem so unlikely. It seems to have been having a joyous time. This ranks as exciting as my neighbor seeing the large black bear investigating his patio the other evening. Lucky you!

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James Golden April 13, 2015 at 9:47 pm

He seems to play in the late afternoon. I purposefully left leaf litter in the pool to help protect him/her from predators. If he’s extant when I return, perhaps you’ll stop by for a salamander viewing.

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Judy Mann April 14, 2015 at 6:53 am

I think he/she is celebrating a glorious spring day – and thinking “it’s about time……”

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James Golden April 15, 2015 at 9:19 pm

S/he certainly appears to be celebrating.

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Nell April 15, 2015 at 9:10 am

Gosh, if someone had built me an Olympic-sized pool surrounded by a garden full of food and shelter, I’d be cavorting in mid-afternoon, too! Long life to your spotted friend.

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James Golden April 15, 2015 at 9:22 pm

I hope it has enough shelter. I didn’t see it at all today, though there appears to be a mass of eggs in the pool. I’ll be keeping watch.

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Kathryn Conroy April 15, 2015 at 5:29 pm

That salamander made my day!

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James Golden April 15, 2015 at 9:24 pm

I’m happy you’re pleased, Kathryn. S/he did look rather joyous.

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ryan May 22, 2015 at 10:08 pm

There’s something fascinating about them, an aquatic creature that is associated with fire in mythologies. I think they are considered a sign of a healthy eco-system, that they don’t do well in contaminated environments, so it seems like a good sign that there is one in your garden. Sitting and watching them always reminds me of the Cortazar story Axolotl.

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James Golden May 27, 2015 at 6:02 am

BEfore I left for England, I wanted to clean the small reflecting pool, but among the debris were hundreds of salamander eggs with minute salamanders inside them. So I left in in a mess. I’m hoping they decide to stay around.

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