Species of the Week: The Eastern Red-Backed Salamander

This week’s #SpeciesOfTheWeek is the Eastern Red-backed Salamander (Plethodon cinereus). The first photo features 2 red-backed salamanders and a sneaky red-spotted newt eft! The second picture is also an Eastern Red-backed Salamander, but it is a lead-back morph. This is a great example of the two different colour variations that this salamander can have. This little amphibian is one of three salamander species in Ontario which does not have any lungs! This means that the salamanders breathe entirely through their skin. To do this, salamanders must keep their skin moist, which means living in certain environments that allow them to stay cool and damp at all times. Have you ever wondered what can live under rotting logs on the forest floor? Salamanders can! Under rocks and logs, salamanders have the perfect cover to keep them out of the heat on warm summer days. They also have an all-you-can-eat buffet with all of the invertebrates and other insects that live there too. Like other salamanders, red-backed salamanders are most likely to come out on rainy nights and hunt for insects and spiders on the forest floor. It’s important to remember that since salamanders breathe through their skin, humans can make them very sick if we pick them up, due to our natural oils which are foreign to them. Sunscreen and bug spray can be especially damaging to salamanders as they contain harsh chemicals. Please admire these awesome amphibians from afar! If you’re curious if you have any Eastern Red-backed Salamanders in your area, check out this cool interactive map of Ontario!  https://www.ontarioinsects.org/herp/index.html?Sort=41&area2=squaresCounties&records=all&myZoom=5&Lat=43.13&Long=-81.22

Posted in Friends of Murphys Point, Murphys Point, Murphys Point Provincial Park, Species of the Week | Leave a comment

Species of the Week: The Eastern Musk Turtle

Photo by Nata Culhane

This week’s #SpeciesOfTheWeek is the Eastern Musk Turtle (Sternotherus odoratus). Also known as the Stinkpot, it produces a musky odour when disturbed. This species is one of the world’s smallest turtles and is seldom seen due to its shy nature. Additionally, it spends a lot of time hanging around the bottom of different wetlands – the muddier, the better. In fact, musk turtles rarely swim, despite being good swimmers. As carnivores, they eat a variety of critters such as minnows, tadpoles, fish eggs, and small invertebrates found on the bottom of lakes and other bodies of water. Since the Eastern Musk Turtle is considered a Species at Risk in Ontario, it is important to remember to watch out for them, as well as other wildlife, when driving the winding road to Murphys Point. Have you ever been lucky enough to spot one of these turtles?

Posted in Friends of Murphys Point, Murphys Point, Murphys Point Provincial Park, Species of the Week | Leave a comment

Species of the Week: The Elfin Skimmer

This week’s #SpeciesOfTheWeek is the smallest dragonfly in North America, the Elfin Skimmer (Nannothemis bella). With a body length of 18-20 mm and a wingspan of 10-15 mm, this diminutive dragonfly is smaller than most damselflies. Like all other dragonflies, Elfin Skimmers are sexually dimorphic. Males have a blue-grey body, while females have a black body with yellow stripes on the thorax and yellow bands on the abdomen. Due to their small size, females may be mistaken for wasps. Elfin skimmers reproduce in sphagnum bogs, and adults rarely travel more than a couple of hundred meters from the bog in which they hatched. They will fly at the water’s edge and in nearby vegetation, frequently perching on low shrubs and sedges. In Ontario, the flight season is from May to August. This species was first discovered in the park in 2017, but was not seen again until 2021! A larger population was discovered this June on the Silver Queen Mine Trail. Keep a keen eye out when hiking this area, and you just might see this small skimmer!

Posted in Friends of Murphys Point, Murphys Point, Murphys Point Provincial Park, Species of the Week | Leave a comment