Recently we spent a weekend at our cabin in northern Pennsylvania and had some time to explore the nearby forest. In addition to the fantastic breeding birds such as Blue-winged Warbler, Blackburnian Warbler, Yellow-rumped Warbler and Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers, we noticed that there were Red-spotted Newts (Notophthalmus viridescens) everywhere along the trails. Luckily, they are so bright that it was easy to spot them and avoid stepping on them. We easily saw over 50 of these colorful little salamanders and I had to take the opportunity to get some close-up photos. I considered moving them off of the path, but since it is infrequently traveled, I decided to let them continue on in whatever direction they were moving.
The brilliant red-colored creatures we were seeing are actually the juvenile stage of the Red-spotted Newt, and are often called red efts. Red-spotted Newts have 3 life stages– an aquatic tadpole or larva, the terrestrial red eft, and the once again aquatic adults. Red efts can spend 2 to 3 years wandering around in search of a pond, before transforming into adults which are olive-brown but still retain their distinctive spots. These spots signal to predators that they are slightly toxic, an adaptation that allows them to coexist peacefully with fish that are generally quite happy to munch on other salamanders.
Red-spotted Newts thrive in both deciduous and coniferous forests and prefer a moist environment to live in. The terrestrial efts can often be found in forests after a good rain which was likely why we were seeing so many. These red efts were likely dispersing in their search for a good pool of water to transform into an adult.
Red-spotted Newts are found across the entire eastern half of the US, so the next time you are out in a forest after a good rainstorm, keep your eyes on the ground and see if you can find a few of these efts. It is/was definitely enjoyable to observe so many.
Tags: birding, birds, Blackburnian Warbler, Blue-winged Warbler, Eastern Newt, Efts, Newts, Pennsylvania, Red-spotted Newt, Reptiles-and-Amphibians, salamanders, Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, Yellow-rumped Warbler