Hot Stove Herping 2021: Salabama

Note: ‘Hot Stove Herping’ is a phrase I coined years ago, for use in end-of-year posts on the old Field Herp Forum. I stole it from baseball; members of the ‘hot stove league’ huddle together during the cold winter months and talk baseball until spring and the game comes back. In a similar fashion, field herpers living in moderate climates hunker down amid the cold and snow and think of the year that passed, and dream of the coming spring.

Brandon, Tim, John, and Adam

For the first time in ten years, I did not start off the herping season in January with a trip to Peru. Due to Covid, we canceled our expeditions for the year and planned on regrouping in 2022. As it turned out, I made a January trip to central Alabama instead, and hung out with some old and new friends while looking for frogs and salamanders.

Amplexing Pseudacris collinsorum

The first herp on the list to look for was the newly described Collinses’ Mountain Chorus Frog (Pseudacris collinsorum), recently split off from the Mountain Chorus Frog (Pseudacris brachystoma). Along with genetic differences, the two species have different calls as well. We were able to find these frogs the first night, including an amplexing pair in a small roadside pond.

Ambystoma opacum

Late January was also time for some ambystomatid activity in Alabama, and we say plenty of Spotted Salamanders (Ambystoma maculatum) and Marbled Salamanders (A. opacum) in flooded flatwoods, and there were lots of egg masses from Spotties and Wood Frogs in woodland ponds.

A chilly night with a heavy fog

We spent some time wading through wet places in search of amphibians, and one foggy night had a real Hound of the Baskervilles vibe to it. Welcome to the Grimpen Mire! Is that a dog howling?

Hemidactylium scutatum with eggs

We also turned up a few Four-toed Salamanders (Hemidactylium scutatum) sitting on eggs under logs or moss in wet woodland habitats.

Eurycea quadridigitata

I’ve seen Dwarf Salamanders (Eurycea quadridigitata) before but it was fun to get more pictures of them. Look at the pair of cirri on this ardent suitor!

Pseudotriton montanus flavissimus

We also found some Gulf Coast Mud Salamanders (Pseudotriton montanus flavissimus) in the same wet-woods milieu, a new subspecies for me. Not as flashy as some other Pseudotriton but I dig that orangey-brown color.

Adam and Brandon, prepared to do a little dip-netting.

Some days were quite pleasant – if the sun came out, it was shirt sleeve weather, or at the worst, light jacket weather.

Desmognathus conanti

Dipnetting in a small creek turned up a few larval Spotted Dusky Salamanders (Desmognathus conanti) but I need to work on my photo-tank techniques. Or, actually come up with some photo-tank techniques.

(Deirochelys reticularia miaria)

We checked out some ponds in search of gopher frogs, but turned up a nice Western Chicken Turtle (Deirochelys reticularia miaria) instead, which I was very happy to see. My first chicken turtle. She did not do the full neck extension thing but that’s okay.

Ambystoma talpoideum

Among the many ambystomatids were a few Mole Salamanders (Ambystoma talpoideum).

Eurycea hillisi

Did I mention we hit the caudates hard? This was a big one for me – Hillis’s Dwarf Salamander (Eurycea hillisi), under a log in a damp flatwoods forest.

Eurycea aquatica

It took some doing but we managed to turn up one Brown-backed Salamander (Eurycea aquatica). A very distinct little brook salamander with a chonky form and a little pug nose. Cross a pit bull with a breakfast sausage and you get Eurycea aquatica.

Plethodon websteri

We visited a spot where Webster’s Salamanders (Plethodon websteri) were known to occur, and I managed to save us all a lot of time and trouble by finding one under the first log I turned.

Desmognathus monticola

There was some good by-catch too – we weren’t targeting Seal Salamanders (Desmognathus monticola) but we turned up a nice one anyway.

John and Tim on one of the chillier days.

January in Alabama was pretty good – the weather was tolerable, except for a few days when it was downright chilly. A good way to start off the year.


  1. Peter K. Berg

    You took a meander in the bog
    And walking along found a log;
    You tipped it over and took a gander
    And to your surprise found a salamander
    It was shiny, wet and slimy
    Andy your hands clicking and grimy .

    1. Mike Pingleton (Post author)

      Bloody brilliant, Mr. Berg!


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