Unfortunately the patches of blue sky I noticed earlier were completely swallowed up by thick clouds the time I set out. The wind was strong, especially in the open areas, so I decided to do some birding first in the hope that the sun would break through as promised. I found my first Savannah Sparrows of the year on Rushmore and Trail Roads singing their buzzy, insect-like song; the usual ducks were at the Moodie Drive quarry pond, while a couple of Tree Swallows and a single Barn Swallow were hawking for insects overhead. At the Richmond Lagoons I found three Green-winged Teals swimming in the same cell as five Northern Shovelers, presumably the same ones I had observed here a week ago.
Although the sun showed no signs of breaking through the cloud, I headed over to Marlborough Forest anyway. The birds were fairly quiet; I saw both species of nuthatch, heard a Ruffed Grouse drumming, and saw a single Great Blue Heron flying over the trail. I scared up a Spring Azure on my walk, and thinking that would be it for butterflies, started looking for salamanders under logs and debris instead.
I hadn’t really expected to find any salamanders, and so I was startled when I saw a Blue-spotted Salamander under one piece of debris. It seemed larger and plumper than I remembered from past experiences with this species. I was even more surprised when I realized there was a second salamander right next to it; this one was much smaller and skinnier, with the reddish hue of a lead-back phased Eastern Redback Salamander.
Seeing the two together gave me a fantastic opportunity to compare the size and colours of these two common species. This opportunity didn’t last long as the Blue-spotted Salamander, which is nocturnal in nature, decided it had had enough of the light and found a dark nook in which to disappear.
I was even more surprised when I discovered a third species, a Red Eft! This is the terrestrial form of the Eastern Newt, also called the Red-spotted Newt, which occurs between the larval stage and the aquatic adult. While adult newts are generally found in slow-moving ponds or quiet streams, the terrestrial eft is found in the surrounding damp woodlands, usually under logs or bark on the forest floor. Both adults and efts spend the winter on land, adults beneath logs or rocks and efts in leaf litter on the forest floor.
Another amphibian was in the same area; I almost stepped on this Leopard Frog as I was heading back to the main trail. All four amphibians were new for my year list. I don’t think I’ve managed to see more than two salamander species in a single year; I was thrilled to come across three in one day!
Back along the main trail I came across two more Spring Azures and this interesting wasp. The orange-tipped abdomen intrigued me, but the wasp didn’t stay long enough for me to get a better shot.
The wind blowing off Roger’s Pond was too cold and gusty to make me want to linger in the open for very long; only a few Canada Geese appeared to be swimming on the pond anyway. I checked out the eastern trail just north of the pond instead, following in Rick’s footsteps, and was happy when I came across this Mourning Cloak resting in the leaf litter. This is not the first one I’ve seen this spring, but it is the first one I’ve photographed, making me happy with my decision to visit the Cedar Grove Nature Trail.
Even if it wasn’t great butterfly weather, I was happy to find three Spring Azures and the single Mourning Cloak in the woods. The amphibians, however, made the whole outing worthwhile; three salamander species in a single day is a new record for me!