International Rock Flipping Day 2011

Today’s the day! It’s not too late to participate – if you haven’t yet, grab a camera and go find some rocks to flip. I have a confession to make, though. I started out flipping rocks and only rocks, determined to play by the rules. But after walking quite a ways flipping rock after rock and only finding dirt, leaves, and the occasional beetle…

…I started eyeing the inviting-looking decaying logs that cover the forest floor here. If I were a small creature in this forest, I think I’d make my home under a log. For one thing, there are many more logs than rocks, and for another, you have all that soft wood to burrow into. The areas under the logs also seem moister, important when we’ve had such a dry summer.

The last straw was movement catching the corner of my eye as I walked: something small and dark scooting off of a log and disappearing into the leaf litter. When I poked around the spot where it had vanished, I found what looked like an entrance to a tiny burrow, and seized by a hunch I reached out and flipped the log that the little whatever-it-was had been on.

Under the log, its long nose quivering, was a tiny shrew. If only I’d had my camera at the ready I could have gotten a pretty good photo, because it sat there for several seconds, stunned by the sudden removal of its roof, before vanishing into the same hole as its companion. Well, there’s something you don’t see every day! I carefully replaced its home and continued down the path. After looking at some pictures online I’d guess it was something in the genus Sorex, but I’m not going to hazard a more specific identification than that.

A little way farther along I found this perfect, irresistible chunk of log. Having learned my lesson, this time I held my camera in one hand as I lifted the log with the other.

At first when I saw the glistening blue-black something I thought I’d found an enormous millipede or worm, but then my brain caught up to my eyes and I realized I’d found the holy grail of rock- and log-flipping (at least as far as I’m concerned.) That’s right… a SALAMANDER!!!

Specifically, a blue-spotted salamander, Ambystoma laterale. I’m not sure what it is about finding salamanders that is so amazingly exciting, but I know I’m not the only person that feels this way. Salamander, salamander, salamander! This was the first one I’d seen in over a year, actually, and I was pretty dang happy.

So, I’m sorry that I technically broke the rules by flipping over non-rocks, but it was worth it. Actually… come to think of it, I’m not sorry at all. See you next year for International Rock Flipping Day 2012!

19 replies on “International Rock Flipping Day 2011”

jealousjealousjealous! i’ve only seen one of those suckers and THEY ARE SO COOL! next weekend i’m definitely going out herping. maybe i’ll even go tonight if i get far enough in my research. god, i want a sallie so bad!

I’d never seen a blue-spotted before that I can remember – and I was definitely thinking of you when I wrote that I know I’m not the only person who gets so very excited about salamanders. I think this may be the first time I’d seen one since the long-tailed we found at the Glen and went nuts over. You should go out herping tonight and flip a rock while you’re out and submit a post for International Rock Flipping Day!!

Yaaaay! I found my first Blue-spotted Salamander under a log earlier this summer, too, and my reaction was exactly the same! Salamanderrrr!! They’re such wonderful creatures, definitely the best thing you can find under a log! :D

aw, lucky! the only salamander i’ve seen in the wild is the grotto salamander, Typhlotrion spelaeus, in an Arkansas cave earlier this spring. All i found under rocks and logs were a few snails, a five-lined skink of great commonness (Eumeces fasciatus), and a large black spikey caterpillar with red bands, but I have no idea what kind it was.

I didn’t notice the color on the beetle when I was actually looking at it – it wasn’t until I pulled up the photo on my computer screen that I noticed that lovely purple shine. It is funny how my critters ended up being color-coordinated.

I’m too far north for red-backed salamanders here, but that’s definitely the kind I found under logs most often when I lived in Ohio. You’re right about this being a great excuse to go for a ramble in the woods…!

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