We’re going on a salamander hunt

We’re going on a salamander hunt. We’re going to catch a Spotted one. We’re going to catch an Eastern Tiger one. What a beautiful night! We’re not scared.

vernal pond day timeDuring the day trees reflect quietly in this vernal pool in the midst of the woods. In the summer it dries and disappears. But after a winter of ice the creatures of the night gather in its murky spring water.

We met up at the South Fork Natural History Museum and Nature Center (SOFO) and then drove in a convoy to Whiskey Hill. Some had driven hours to join us as we prepared to go on our mole salamander hunt.


My kids excitedly shone their flashlights on the ground ahead as we climbed up a hill in the dark, dark woods.

vernal pool nighttimeThen descended a hill until we reached the vernal pond.

salamander hunt vernal pondThe SOFO guides waded in the water with nets.



And soon we saw this pool’s night life.

salamander egg massMasses of eggs shone just underneath the water’s surface.  While fairy shrimp swam around them.

moth gloveA silver moth flittered near the surface and then landed on my son’s glove.

eastern tiger salamander spotted salamanderIt’s at this time when winter fades that the mole salamanders make their way to vernal ponds to mate and lay their eggs. The night hunt had to be postponed a couple of times because the water was still frozen.

eastern tiger salamanderThe Eastern Tiger Salamander is on the endangered species list in New York State. But in this area of Long Island they are abundant in protected vernal ponds. The larvae are dependent on the pond for the next few months to survive. And when they do, they live for 12 to 15 years mostly underground.

theo stroking eastern tiger salamanderMy son gently stroked one as it stared at us with its goggly eyes.

spotted salamanderThe Spotted Salamander was also here. They’re different species of mole salamanders but both are nocturnal amphibians. They lay hidden during the day under logs or underground in burrows usually made by other animals.

The salamanders were put back in the pond and it was time for us to leave.

wood frogBut then we saw a wood frog quietly contemplating the scene. And a pond is truly a vernal pool when a wood frog visits it in the spring.

vernal pool woodsI brought my children back to the same place in the woods two days later. A quiet pond in the woods during the day.  At night teeming with life.

lucew theo vernal pondvernal pond reflectionsThe night salamander hunt was a perfect way for my kids to appreciate the role these vernal ponds play in nature and why it is so important to protect them.

SOFO in the Hamptons, NY

The South Fork Natural History Museum and Nature Center is located in the Hamptons, NY between Bridgehampton and Sag Harbor. It has fantastic indoor and outdoor nature events and walks for children of all ages.  Check the SOFO website for a list of events. Annual Family Membership is only $60.

Every year when the vernal ponds melt, SOFO organizes nighttime events to a vernal pond only after heavy rains (so dates may change). Children can attend a salamander hunt accompanied by an adult. You need to prebook to attend their walks in search of the endangered Eastern Tiger Salamander as well as the Spotted Salamander. Children can also see live mole salamanders in the nature center.

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  1. Looks fun! We havent ventured out at night yet and this is a great inspiration to do it soon!

    #countrykids
    Merlinda (@pixiedusk) recently posted…Saturday is Caption DayMy Profile

  2. Isn’t that fantastic, what a great experience! I love the look of all the creatures you found too.
    Iona@Redpeffer recently posted…Saturday is caption dayMy Profile

  3. Kriss, a brilliant post, those salamanders are beautiful, what a thing for the kids to witness #CountryKids
    Mary @over40andamumtoone recently posted…Tractor spottingMy Profile

  4. Kriss I just love this post. What a wonderful opportunity to go on an organised night time trip like this and wow to all the salamanders you found. They are really rather beautiful. A brilliant post so well told and I love the idea of returning to the woods by day as well, quite a different feel to it all then. Thank you for sharing on Country Kids.
    Coombemill recently posted…Country Kids from Coombe MillMy Profile

  5. The spotted salamander looks like such a beautiful creature, what a fantastic experience x
    Alexandra Mercer recently posted…Love – Word of the week {28.03.14}My Profile

  6. Wow this is so cool! What a wonderful thing for the kids to see and be involved in. Fantastic :) xx #countrykids
    Caroline (BecomingaSAHM) recently posted…I’ve been invited to meet Buddy Valastro!My Profile

  7. This is such a lovely activity. The salamanders are beautiful and your kids look like they loved every minute of it.

  8. This is my kind of outing. How thrilling to find them and be able to get close. Fascinating to go back in the daylight to check progress. Fab! #CountryKids
    Cheryl recently posted…What do beans need?My Profile

  9. Wow what a fabulous night time adventure, my SiL recently took us on a night-time walk (no torches allowed) and it was amazing to hear all the sounds of the farm at night.

    #countrykids
    TheBoyandMe recently posted…365 #13My Profile

  10. Wow, what a wonderful experience. A brilliant adventure for all of you x
    Jocelyn recently posted…Silent Sunday & Week 13 #Project52My Profile

  11. What a fantastic experience, I would love to do that, not just the kids :)
    Sara (@mumturnedmom) recently posted…The Prompt: Week 12My Profile

  12. What a great idea going at night – it must be so exciting for your children. Lovely that you took them back in the daytime to see the difference. #CountryKids
    Mummy of Two recently posted…Silent Sunday #13My Profile

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