Spotted salamander hides in hostas

Despite our dry weather, amphibians are out and about these days. Peggy from Two Inlets spotted a tiny 2 inch salamander in her hostas Monday, July 24. "He was really pretty - a midnight blue color with pale blue spots," she wrote. Judging from P...

Despite our dry weather, amphibians are out and about these days.

Peggy from Two Inlets spotted a tiny 2 inch salamander in her hostas Monday, July 24. "He was really pretty - a midnight blue color with pale blue spots," she wrote.

Judging from Peggy's description, she probably saw a blue-spotted salamander, Ambystoma laterale. According to Stan Tekiela's "Reptiles and Amphibians of Minnesota Field Guide," these little salamanders eventually grow to be 3 to 5 inches long, and they can live to be five to 10 years old.

Blue-spotted salamanders like "moist habitats" in the summer, generally living in the woods near ponds. They can tolerate cold better than other salamanders, but they do need to avoid drying out.

Salamanders can absorb chemicals through their skin, so Stan Tekiela says you should wash your hands before handling them.


I saw three tree frogs clinging to the house and garage here in the meadow the night of July 23.

The largest tree frog was about 2 inches long, not counting legs, and he used his suction cups toes to cling to a window. The other tree frogs were smaller, measuring 1 and 1.5 inches. One frog was clinging to the white garage door while the other clung to the screen door.

I knew they were tree frogs once I saw those big toes, but I wasn't sure if they were gray tree frogs or Cope's gray tree frogs, since the two species look very similar and are often identified by their calls. Then I read this phrase in Stan Tekiela's description of Cope's gray tree frogs: "Often seen on windows after dark, hunting bugs."

So - the lights inside the house drew the bugs, and the bugs in turn drew the Cope's tree frogs.


Orioles are showing up at area feeders. Stan from Becida said a friend of his had eight orioles at his feeder Monday, July 24 up on Lake Bemidji. Peggy from Two Inlets said her baby orioles are "at the jelly feeders non-stop." I saw a juvenile oriole Friday, July 21 and again Monday, July 24.

Young male orioles lack the bright orange color of their fathers, and their wings are streaky looking.

In other bird news:


n Bud Schlong said he saw a family of wild turkeys on CSAH 109, near 1st Crow Wing Lake. "Present were the parents and their brood of seven babies," he wrote. Peggy from Two Inlets has also seen wild turkeys at her place, and I've repeatedly seen a flock of at least eight birds just south of my house.

n Peggy has also been seeing rose-breasted grosbeaks, brown thrashers, bluebirds (with babies), red-winged blackbirds and a kingbird "who was chasing after everyone, even the butterflies."

n Stan from Becida watched "as a northern harrier landed in the hazel brush and came out with a chipmunk."

n Yvonne Hughes of Nevis has really been seeing some wonderful birds. July 25 she saw a robin and a scarlet tanager take a bath, and an indigo bunting "comes each day to pick at bird seed."

In addition to observing birds at her home, Yvonne went on an "adventure" with her daughter, Sandy Eberhart and her grandchildren, Tara and Clayton Eberhart. Clayton is an intern studying burrowing owls with the Forest Service in Theodore Roosevelt National Park in North Dakota, and one night he took his family to observe these unusual ground-dwelling owls, which measure only about 9.5 inches tall.

Flutter flirters

A couple of Milbert's tortoiseshell butterflies spent most of July 21 flirting with me.

I was outside doing a lot of painting, and these two pranksters kept fluttering near enough that I thought I might be able to get a photo. As soon as I raised my camera to take a picture, though, they would flutter away.


Margaret Kraft of Mud Lake found a monarch cocoon on a plant in her back yard, the first of her life. "It is just beautiful," she wrote. "Green with gold around it."

John Weber reported a mass-mergence of cabbage white butterflies July 24 and July 25. This is earlier than normal and John attributes the emergence to the warm, dry weather we've been having.

John also said the common green darner dragonflies that emerged July 24 will migrate all the way to south Texas later in the summer.

Cookie anyone?

Peggy of Two Inlets not only has a chipmunk who shows up at her door everyday for a cookie, she has also been receiving visits from a weasel and a baby woodchuck she nicknamed "Splinter."

I don't think I can top that.

Thank you to all who wrote with news. When sending your reports, be sure to give your name and a little information on where you made your sighting. Send to maureeng@unitel no later than 8 a.m. Thursdays. If it's easier, feel free to drop a letter by the office, or in the mail.

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