Salamanders & Birds Tour
April 2, 2016
A beautiful day in Pisgah National Forest, with forecasted winds up to 50mph but because Pink Beds is nestled against the mountains and tucked into the Cradle of Forestry, it was the perfect place to be to listen for birds and get in the water to catch some salamanders! From the parking lot, our first migrant was a Louisiana Waterthrush, singing its mnemonic, “Louie, Louie, Louisiana…garbly goop!” Never got our binocs on either of the 2 birds we heard, but appreciated its loud song over and over again and how it overcompensated for the creek noise. Along our way to the boardwalk, we admired an old pine tree with old Yellow-bellied Sapsucker sap lines, which run horizontally across the tree, all the way up to about 15ft of the trunk.
Once we got to the boardwalk and beaver dammed wetland, we heard a distant Red-eyed Vireo and had a few Blue-headed Vireos singing nearby, but were quickly distracted by looking down into the water to see Red-spotted Newts doing it, floating on the surface and wiggling around amongst the Green Frog tadpoles. Alan Kay was the first to find a mated pair and we all got to witness the hardships of being a female Newt and we coined the term “cloacal interuptus”. No luck finding any surviving Wood frog tadpoles along the boardwalk, but folks, including Chris Coulter, found some in some of the smaller pools further north. All in all, the wetland was significantly drier than observed in the previous 4 years I have visited it, so less to find but still an adventure allowing us to walk into the wetland further than I have ever been able to travel! Alan Kay, again, was our master scouter and explorer and came across 2 egg masses, both from a Spotted Salamander! They were both the cloudy variety this species produces, which seems to be the more common phenotype in western NC and must allow for increased survivability for the species. While in the wetland, we continued hearing the Blue-headed Vireos and an occasional Pileated Woodpecker drumming and laughing through the woods.