Monday, October 5, 2009

MEANDERING SALAMANDER

Sometime when I open the cottage door rather quickly, the suction draws an unexpected visitor inside. Usually these inadvertent guests, who—as luck would have it—happened to be on the outside of the sill when the door was yanked open, are spiders, or maybe a cricket. The latter are promptly sent packing, while the former are summarily dispatched with malice aforethought—usually with an added two or three broom-whacks as a cautionary deterrent to any eight-legged cronies who might be watching.
Living on the river, however, one comes to expect the unexpected. Sometimes when I open the door, both the victim and I are startled. For example, I would never have expected to accidentally suck in a salamander. And when I looked down at the wriggling creature frantically scrambling across the wood entryway floor, it was apparent the little amphibian had been equally discombobulated. I hastily but gently corralled and captured the would-be escapee and, grabbing a camera, carried it outside for a quick portrait.
Salamanders come in a wide array of sizes and colors, though unless you actually go out in search of them—and know where and when to look for a particular species—you're not likely to encounter even a single animal during the entire year. Ohio has about 30 different salamanders—and in my years of rambling, I doubt if I've seen more than half that number of species. Salamanders are secretive, and with only an exception or two, smaller than most folks realize.
But they're also quite lovely, I think—delicate little creatures, often beautifully colored and marked. My doorway visitor was a red-backed salamander, one of the more common of the woodland species. It had probably been moving from the mulch and leaf detritus of the big planting bed which runs the length of the cottage to a more sheltered wintering site under the deck.
After admiring my squirming neighbor for a few moments, I placed him at the edge of the planting bed and the deck, close to a few sheltering stones…and wished him luck through the months ahead. Life on the river is never boring.

14 comments:

The Solitary Walker said...

Grizzled! Whence this arachnophobia?

'Discombobulated'. Nice!

I saw a salamander on the Camino... We don't have them in the UK.

madcobug said...

Glad that you rescued him. Great shot. Helen

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Solitary…

The facetious answer would be—what's to question about perfectly appropriate common sense? The serious and honest answer is—I have no idea, though it extends into my earliest childhood memories. I'm actually much better than I used to be, relatively speaking.

For a spider story, read this: http://riverdaze.blogspot.com/search?q=WHEELBARROW+HORROR%21

Re. "Discombobulated" I simply reached into my bag of words and there it was! A sort of lexicon kismet.

Huh, I had no idea the UK lacked salamanders. We have somewhere between 25-30 species here in Ohio—mysterious and oddly charming little creatures.

Jayne said...

Glad you saw him before he got um... caught up in the door shutting... ack. He was one lucky salamander. :c)

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Macobug…

I'll tell you, considering there are two bird feeders—always being heavily trafficked, within a few yards of the door—he's fortunate a blue jay or some other bird didn't nab him first.

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Jayne…

Actually, his most immediate danger was being trampled by Moon the dog, as she was the reason I opened the door in the first place. But she charged through the opening and outside without noticing the salamander, which I'd "vacuumed" a good three feet inside, squirming on the hardwood. (Closing the door at that point wouldn't have mattered.)

Now birds (see answer to Macobug below) could have gobbled him in an instant. So that salamander was indeed lucky.

Scattering Lupines said...

A poetic little lesson on salamanders ... I don't think I've ever met one personally :)

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Scattering Lupines…

I sometimes go out on certain spring nights looking for salamanders—and wherever I encounter them, I find them really delightful. This is the first time I've had one in the house, though.

KGMom said...

WHAT--you dispatch spiders? Didn't you ever read Charlotte's Web to Lacy?
For shame.
I, on the other hand, always gather up any such spiders and gently escort them out of door.
I tend to like those creatures many folk have deemed undesireable--spiders, bats...I like them.
And I am (mostly) grateful for them--elsewise we would be drowning in insects.

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

KGMom…

I whack 'em with Lizzie Borden enthusiasm! And, yes, I bought and read Charlotte's Web to Lacy and got her the film which she (we) watched countless times. I understand their role as bug-eaters and commend them for their efforts. None of which matters in the least. To cross my doorstep is certain punishment unto death…and I don't care if Debbie Reynolds and Wilbur cross me off their Christmas card list.

Grandaddys, salamanders, wasps, birds, and most other invading creatures I simply escort out…though I do trap mice.

You may make of this what you will. I stand firm, resolute, unrepentant and unashamed.

The Weaver of Grass said...

A meandering salamander - I like it Scribe. We have a saying here in Yorkshire - if you want to live and thrive, let all spiders run alive. I try to do just that although I often have to get the farmer to rescue me if there is one between me and the door. At this time of the year we get enormous spiders here in the UK - I understand they are females who have just recently eaten their mates. (sorry about that)

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Weaver…

Well, that's a nice little proverb you Yorkshire folks have there…but in my book, spiders in my cottage are not going to thrive or live. As for those misguided males, well, sometimes love bites!

Jain said...

KGMom & Weaver, I gave up on this fellow with regard to spiders some time ago. There's no reasoning with him!

Scribe, it's a fabulous photo! I see salamanders too seldom.

Here's one I'd dearly love to see during my lifetime. Have you?
http://www.nature.org/wherewework/northamerica/states/ohio/science/art29197.html

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Jain…

Hey, I've long ago worked out the fact that it's mostly illogical; a phobia. And I'm honestly getting better. Not to the point that I would crawl into and share a sleeping bag with tarantulas, as a writer friend sometimes did when he was fly fishing around certain tropical islands. But I don't go all geeky and scream like a girl over a spider the size of a wood tick, either.

That said, I kill them one and all with glee once they enter my house, tent, truck, or whatever. Outside, fine—live and let live. Inside, death awaits them. No catch and release. I am incorrigible.

Now, re. photo…thank you. I couldn't do much as to working with this lively creature—but I thought this captured the size, color, and rather innocent beauty of them.

You want to see a hellbender? They are ugly, almost bizarre, and impressive. And yes, I've seen them. As a kid, we sometimes picked up one ()maybe once a year) when seining for craws. There used to be a big spring pool on a farm that always had a hellbender or two in it.

The last one I found—the year before I moved here, so, four years ago—was on a little rocky creek not too farm from where I now live. Which is, of course, southwestern Ohio…though the article states the hellbender has been extirpated from this corner because of heavy sediment from farm runoff. Obviously, no one told this particular specimen. It was maybe 14-15 inches long. I've never seen one of those two-footers, though. I'd hate to think we'll lose the hellbender from the state.