Category Archives: Amphibians


Anytime I see a newt, I think of the newt scene from Matilda. It is definitely not a snake (sorry Ms. Trunchbull), and if in doubt, can be distinguished by the fact that it has legs.

Came across this old photo, with its splash of color, to counteract the mounds of grimy snow that frame the landscape. I think it’s from wandering around in the Adirondacks late one July, and can’t wait to look for salamanders and newts (order Urodela) in the spring. Meanwhile, there’s the Great Backyard Bird Count to hold me over.

Red Eft, Juvenile Eastern Newt

Red Eft, Juvenile Eastern Newt, author photo from 2013

In Plain Sight

I braved the bitterly bracing cold, so gusty that I had to walk backwards for about a block in order to breathe, to hear about these frogs that had been hiding in plain sight. I forced a lot of my nerdy frog facts onto others in the days after the lecture, so here are some highlights for posterity:

  • Frogs don’t have regional accents in their croaking, unlike birds.
  • Individual appearances can vary more within the same species than between species of frogs, when selecting random specimens. This is called a cryptic species.
  • Extirpation is a possibility for this frog on Staten Island, where it was discovered.
  • The man, Carl Kauffeld, who originally discovered this species couldn’t even correctly identify all of his specimens correctly as part of this species. That’s how confounding identification was before genetics and bioacoustics.
  • Herpetologist is a fun, funny word.

Here’s hoping in this densely packed urban corridor that this frog, which needs ample space and specific marshy habitats, can make a successful stand. This story has reminded me that the coolest nature can be found in and around cities. It’s our job to help out, so that these impressive survivors can do more than just eke out an existence.

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