Last September I was walking by the outdoor water bowl (favourite drinking place for both Murphy and Mozart) and I saw an adult red-backed salamander and many very tiny young ones. I’ve got a bit of a background in salamanders. When I was young I spent most of my spring, summer and fall days exploring the woods and swamps around my hometown in southeastern Massachusetts, turning over partially rotten logs looking for salamanders and newts.
The most common ones in my neck of the woods were the red-backs, although not all of them are red-backed. They are interesting because the young come out of the eggs fully formed miniatures of the adults as opposed to other salamanders that have an aquatic tadpole-like stage. I liked to catch a couple and create terrarium habitats for them with moist earth and moss and logs. When I was in fifth grade we were asked to write an autobiography for English class and I wrote mine in an anthropomorphic style as if I was a salamander. This caused a great stir at school and my parents were brought in to explain that I wasn’t abused (in my story the young salamander wasn’t allowed to sit in the father’s chair). I never did get the story back……. hmmmmmm.
So it was like seeing old friends when I spied the large salamander and babies in the bowl last year. They were having a nice swim but seemed to me to be stuck in the bowl because of the slippery metal sides, so I put a couple of branches in and a rock to hold them in place and later noticed that they all, including the little ones, had found their way up the branches to the rim of the bowl. A couple of days later and they were gone.
I’ve been thinking about them lately and sort of watching out and today there they were, only this time there are six or seven adults and a handful of babies. It would seem that maybe the young have returned and maybe they hatch somewhere near where I position the bowl and returned for a swim.
Naturally I needed to provide them with the means to escape their shiny swimming pool so I put the branches in again and anchored with a couple of rocks, also good for stepping stones. Amphibians are our most vulnerable of neighbours so I find it gratifying that these salamanders seem to be thriving in my current neck of the woods, here in mid-coast Maine. It’s a wonderment, truly.