2023 was a great year for me. I found a lot of notable snakes and even more notable salamanders. Given that I haven't posted on this forum in a very long time, I decided I'd hop back on to showcase my favorite finds from my favorite order, Caudata.
At the beginning of the year, I set out to prove several new winter cruising roads throughout my home county and its closest neighbors. As expected, lots of Ambystoma maculatum came out of this endeavor, but one fateful night on a random backroad made it all worth it.
My lifer Ambystoma talpoideum
As winter turned to spring, I found myself stuck in a Pseudotriton kick that desperately needed itching. After trying several sites along the coast, I made a spur of the moment decision to try a locality close to my house. The habitat was great; a matrix of mucky seeps originating from a small bluff feeding into a beaver-impounded floodplain. After checking the initial spring, I wandered further into the floodplain and found one more seep surrounded by rocks and woody downfall, where a particularly submerged log gave exactly what I was hoping for.
A battle scarred Pseudotriton montanus
April is often my favorite month for snakes, but it did not disappoint in the amphibian department this year. Here a just a few of my favorites I managed to scrounge up during a rocket run to the northwestern corner of NC.
A heavily patterned Plethodon welleri
My lifer Plethodon richmondi
One of three Desmognathus marmoratus
At the end of February, I took a field tech job for the summer (3 months in WY surveying Anaxyrus boreas) and knew I would be away from the salamander hotspot that is the southeastern US for a while. So, to make up for it, I planned one more rocket run in May with a group of friends to the Allegheny Front of WV to turn up a few lifers.
A striking Plethodon nettingi
A beat up Plethodon wehrlei
The summer, and my time in WY, were amazing, but I was ready to get back to "my" salamanders by the end of my job. The drive home was long, but not without a quick stop in the cumberland plateau of VA. I had never spent time in this region, but the myriad of roadside rock faces and outcrops made me hopeful I'd see something I had been wanting to target for a long time...
My lifer Aneides aeneus
Every year for labor day I try to make a trip to southwestern NC, and every year I cross off a few more species from that region. This year was no different, and I had a great time night shining and flipping stream edges for a few endemic species during this break from my university studies.
My lifer Plethodon cheoah
My lifer Eurycea junaluska
As the weather got colder, I began to spend more time walking through swamps flipping logs and dipnetting. This style of herping normally comes with a few surprises, but this year was exceptional. My friend sent me in a pin for a large cypress-tupelo swamp in the inner coastal plain of NC and we both knew we had to go check it out. Upon arriving, the water table was quite low, with the old waterline showing on trees over fifty feet from the current one. Despite this, the ground was still moist and all of the downed logs had water reserves underneath. Within five minutes of arriving, we began flipping a species I had only seen once before.
One of ten Stereochilus marginatus
My last big find of the year came after a failed attempt at road cruising in SC. With the predicted rain nowhere in sight, I switched tactics and went back into NC to try a new locality for night shining Siren and Amphiuma. Not expecting much, I was blown away when I spotted one of the targets as soon as I stepped out of the car.
One of two Siren intermedia
2023 was a blast and I hope you enjoyed this longer form post detailing several trips from across the year. I have lots of plans for 2024 and can't wait to see more species and explore new places!
Moderator: Scott Waters
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Also, did you find that Junaluska in Tennessee or NC? From what I understand, the NC populations are much declined and it is very rare to find those on the Tar Heel side of the Appalachians anymore.
Thanks for the support on the post! Fortunately, Junaluska can still be locally abundant in certain areas of their NC range, which is where I found this one.