Friday, April 17, 2009
Hiking around in the woods behind my house both keeps me in touch with nature and also reveals what we humans do to it. Big storms deposit garbage throughout the flood plain, from fast food wrappers to lost soccer balls to dumped futon mattresses. Wildlife is nevertheless abundant, especially birds, including owls, hawks, and great herons, but I've also run into raccoons and snakes, turtles and salamanders, lizards and, once, an armadillo. I've blogged previously about evidence of beavers back there (which has attracted many one-handed typists to this blog, according to the tracker), but there's been no recent beaver activity.
Today I found interesting pondkill. At first I thought it was a dead snake, especially given its size, a bit longer than two feet. Upon closer inspection, I determined that it was some kind of amphibian, with its smooth, slimy skin and tiny eyes. It appears to be an amphiuma, and they can grow up to three feet long. They have sharp teeth and can inflict serious damage, should I for some reason decide to start wading in ponds at night. They're nocturnal and stay mostly in water, because their tiny legs are vestigial, but they can move on land if they have to, mostly to lay eggs. It's big, but only grows to about half the size of the largest salamander, either the Chinese Giant Salamander or the Japanese Giant Salamander (sources disagree which one is actually the largest).