Salamander Night – April 4-5, 2014

portrait of Lang Elliott among maple leavesLast night, I was delighted to witness a fairly large-scale movement of Spotted Salamanders, mostly occurring in the wee hours of the morning. It’s April 5 here in upstate New York. Most years, the spotties would be done by now.

After dark, I met up with my friend Bill Wallauer and we checked out several locations near Syracuse, N.Y. One high elevation spot was cold and snowy; the weather was miserable and no salamanders were found. Next we went to a location at a lower elevation and found a number of Spotted Salamanders (and some Jefferson sallies) crossing a blacktop road, heading for woodland pools. The temperature dropped into the high 30s.

My most important catch of the night, however, occurred when I drove back to Ithaca, N.Y (my hometown). In the wee hours of the morning, I discovered spotties moving in masse to a swampy area on the Cornell University golf course. Then, at around 2:30am, I was fortunate to find a “congress” or “mating frenzy,” as I call it. The water was fairly clear. As you can see from the video, I got some pretty nice material.

I was disappointed, however, in that I didn’t get much underwater footage (most of the footage in the video was taken from above the water, looking down). When I placed my camcorder underwater in a waterproof housing and lowered it into the water, the salamanders were disturbed and quickly took cover. So I only got a couple of rather brief segments.

I plan to go back to the same location tonight, in hopes of getting better underwater footage. But the temperature dropped today, into the low 30s, and it will be below freezing tonight. So I doubt if I’ll find anything going on. Have all the spotties mated at the Golf Course swamp? Maybe or maybe not. I’ll keep an eye out and let you know what happens.

EVENING UPDATE! Night of the 5th. Plenty of sallies in the pools and over a dozen “fields of spermataphores” from wee-early-morning dances, but no mating frenzies tonight. Is it over? I think not. Rain sometime next week may flush-in new individuals (esp. more females) and hopefully stir the males back into action. I sorely want another crack at it!

Go Here for NatureWatch profile for the Spotted Salamander.

Video Metadata
Salamander Night 4-5-14
Salamander Night 4-5-14

Spotted Salamander mating frenzy. Clip highlights from Lang's April 4-5, 2014 excursion in upstate New York.


  1. Spectacular footage, Lang! I am amazed at how different the patterns of the spots are. If it wasn’t for your incredibly crisp video, I may have never noticed it.

    • Probably, the spot patterning could act as a “fingerprint” for an individual, carried through its adult life. I understand that in the case of the Red Eft (and its aquatic counterpart the Red-spotted Newt), the spot pattern (= relative positioning of all the spots) remains constant from when the subadults first emerge from the water to when they return to the water years later.

  2. I love the deep dedication at the heart of the work you are doing.It offers me a window into the wildlife of your continent and inspires me to do something similar here in Scotland. Amazing you got such footage. Thanks for introducing me to spotted salamanders !

      • Yes Woodhead Community for some years and now part of the Findhorn Community and Ecovillage..Our peninsular has a rich biodiversity of plants , is on a migration route for many birds as well as having a resident pod of bottle-nosed dolphins in the firth nearby. It’s the birds which drew me to your site originally and your amazing recordings of bird song….

  3. Gorgeous. Truly an intimate perspective! The videography is so crisp and beautiful that I can even see the different texture of the yellow spots. A first! Kudos, buddy!

    • “Prehistoric” only in terms of human habitation in the ranges of these remarkable amphibians. It is important for we humans to commune with such primal earthly rites of spring that preceded us by many thousands of years.

  4. Fantastic video Lang! I hope to see a congress like this someday! We did a road crossing the weekend before — helped 24 Spotted Salamanders across and hundreds of frogs – and talked to a number of drivers who asked “is everything ok?” — “No,” we said – and explained how the road bisected this migration route. The next morning, I perused the vernal pool listserv and saw that the forest at least from here in VA all the way to MA was alive with millions of migrating salamanders and frogs – and there were others like us helping with the road crossings.

    • I love that image: from “VA all the way to MA was alive with millions of migrating salamanders and frogs.” These are sacred rites of spring and it’s wonderful that so many people are tuning-in, communing with the Earth, and dreaming a healthy dream of our place in the grand scheme of things.

  5. Hi Lang! Warm rains make me think of salamander hunts in Ithaca. This is beautiful to see. Let’s hope the golf course is eco-friendly…

  6. Great video Lang! I keep looking for these guys here in Indiana. Found a vernal pool with Wood Frogs but have not found Salamanders. Thanks for sharing! Such beautiful and mesmerizing creatures!

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