I went out for a short hike this morning with my 11-year-old son. One of our favorite nearby hikes is the orange trail at the State Botanical Gardens here in Athens. One of the reasons it’s a favorite is the stream and the chance to explore for critters.
Today’s catch were two salamanders, both of which I haven’t seen before. We found both under rocks just to the side of a small stream, within a couple of feet of the water. Both stayed put when we lifted up the rocks, and we didn’t try to pick these up because they looked so fragile.
The first one we found was a beautiful Three-lined Salamander (Eurycea guttolineata). It was tan, about 5–6" long, with a dark stripe down either side and a dark stripe down its back that ended just to the rear of the hind legs. The dark stripes on the side had small tan spots. It stayed perfectly still, even though we lifted its rock a couple of times.
The second one was a Spotted Dusky Salamander (Desmognathus conanti). This one was pretty dark and very small (< 2 inches). I’m not entirely sure about the identification, but the rear legs were larger than the front ones, and given the markings and the habitat, this seemed like the best fit. It thrashed its tail when we lifted the rock, which is apparently a response to a threat. We didn’t eat it.
I’m eager to explore the Botanical Gardens for more salamanders, having found these. I suspected they should be there, but I’ve never found them before. What was different this time was, rather than turning over rocks in the stream, we turned over rocks on the banks.