Let your heart be a portal for the songs of the universe.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Barred Tiger Salamander

High plains thunderstorms tend to move in quickly and spawn heavy rains. They inundate the prairie ecosystem. In the wake of last night’s gully washer temperatures drop into the 40s with an expectant daytime high in the upper 60s. At first light Cooper and I head into the Llano Estacado greeted by brisk 50s and clear, azure New Mexico skies.

Cooper stretches last remnants of sleep out of his sinewed limbs with lively dashes into the grasslands. A dripping wet coat and muddy paws are his rewards. On one of his helter-skelter streaks across the damp landscape, he comes to a screeching halt. His demeanor is one of caution. I beat feet to his location expecting a tense confrontation with a prairie denizen. To my surprise I find a secretive, rarely seen creature. It is a very sluggish ten-inch amphibian--a Barred Tiger Salamander. Although a nocturnal hunter, the moist prairie environment has stirred it to daylight activity. I surmise it is on the move to a known spring mating location, where it will overwinter.

I am blessed to see one of these creatures in the wild. Barred Tiger Salamander’s range from the Northern Great Plains down to Mexico. They spend most of the summer and winter in burrows of other animals or a similar humid environment, where they can keep their skin moist. A daytime appearance is rare. To Cooper's delight, I soon find myself on all fours and angling for a closer look. The joy in my heart makes photography a secondary concern. But, I manage a few rewarding images.

Here are a few fun factoids about Barred Tiger Salamanders. They are the Kansas "State Amphibian"; may live to be 20 years old; seem to have a perpetual grin on their face; have four toes on the front and five on their back feet; are the largest terrestrial salamanders in the world--up to 14 inches long; prefer earthworms and insects, but will eat small frogs and baby mice.

© Ilija Lukić 2011

Barred Tiger Salamander

Sluggish Amphibian

Prairie Tiger

Big Smile For The Camera

Salamander After Heavy Rains

1 comment:

  1. I love your writing! The Salamander has the most precious smile! what a gift to be in its presence.