Friday

Three Virginia Salamanders

Two-lined salamander hunting on a leaf.

You can see salamanders at almost any time of year here in Virginia. 

But the best time to look for them is in the cooler months when it has been raining for a couple of days.  
The species I see most frequently in the Shenandoah National Park here in Virginia are the red-backed (Plethodon cinereus), the Northern two-lined (Eurycea bislineata) and the Northern slimy (Plethodon glutinosus.)  
“Red-backed” is a poor naming choice since their colors are highly variable and there are three main color schemes: A reddish-brown one, a golden brown one, and a slate-colored one. 
Slate morph of redback salamander. 
The red-backs I find range in size from about 1.5” (unusual) to about 5” (typical). I assume the smaller ones are uncommon simply because they stay hidden.  Red-backed sallies seem to like to hunt in open spaces. I’ve occasionally seen dozens of them on just twenty or thirty feet of trail — walk carefully on forest trails at night!
They also climb a couple of feet up the bottom of trees or onto logs and perch there waiting for a meal.  
Two-lined sallies are a little smaller in size than red-backs and have a slightly different hunting style. They climb up onto a leaf (often near wet areas or small streams) and lie in wait for insects.
The unfortunately-named Northern slimy salamander (Plethodon glutinous.)
The slimy salamander is much larger than the red-backed or two lined — as long as 8” or 9” in my area, although I frequently see smaller ones in the 3" to 5" range. The slime is protection against desiccation -- these salamanders don't hang out near water. They do not seem to climb and I have seen several that stayed close to their holes where I would see them every time I walked by. Salamanders, in general, are supposed to be territorial and will argue over the square meter of so that is their domain although I've never seen this. To me, they seem pretty indolent and unmotivated.  Occasionally I've been lucky enough to find two of them courting in the spring. 
I've no way of knowing if it was the same individual (I suspect it was) but I saw one in the same hole for three consecutive years.  To see more photos of amphibians from various countries visit my website here: https://www.jeremysquire.com/Amphibian-macro-photographs-world
I don’t like photographing in the rain but it is the best time to find salamanders -- these were all shot at night with an Olympus OM-D E-M1ii, the Zuiko 60mm, and my usual DIY diffusion and Godox flash.