Saturday, May 5, 2007

Newts Stalking Their Prey

There is a skeegy little pond next to Nells Rock Trail under the power lines - you can't miss it - which is full of little red-spotted newts quietly stalking their prey, which happily consists primarily of mosquito larvae. There is a big piece of ledge that rises nearly ten feet above the pond about 30 feet off of the trail. Sit on it, with your feet dangling over the edge, and enjoy a little break from your hike. If you watch very, very carefully, you might see some of the salamanders as they slowly stalk over and under the mass of vegetation. Think of it as an "I spy" game. See photos.

Oddly, red-spotted newts have two forms, the aquatic one (shown) and the bright red terrestrial form called the red eft. They start out as the aquatic form as babies, then switch to the red terrestrial form for a few years as adolescents, so to speak, then revert to the original form as full adults. I was watching the adults.

I once hatched salamander eggs and the baby salamanders voraciously ate mosquito larvae, which we had to raise in a little pool out back. The salamanders creep up very slowly, and as soon as one of the mosquito larvae wiggle in their face WACK - no more mosquito. A salamander can probably eat hundreds of larvae each day. While you're sitting there, tadpoles or maybe salamanders will suddenly lunge to the surface to gulp some air. You never get to actually see them, just the disruption they make at the surface.

I also got a photo of a rufous-sided towhee, which are common along the powerlines.

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