It's getting downright chilly outside now, but last week's weather was wonderfully sunny and warm, and I came across several cool creatures while exploring the woods next to our house. After some rain and warm weather, this place turned into salamander paradise. This wonderful Jefferson Salamander (or perhaps it's a salamander in the quite confusing unisexual complex that involves genes from this and other species) was hiding out under a piece of bark on the forest floor:
Salamanders are always awesome, and I just love the handsome blue speckles on this guy. (I haven't yet figured out the best way to take pictures with my actual camera in the dark woods, so my iPhone's camera will have to do for now.)
A few Red-backed Salamanders (smaller and sleeker than the blue-speckled fellow) were nearby:
This next Red-backed Salamander was particularly active and surprisingly fast. I wouldn't want to be a bug with one of these creatures after me!
A big Groundhog was prowling the edge of the forest behind the house the other day, walking along drainage pipes and digging into the leaf litter:
It even went partway up a tree at one point. I didn't know Groundhogs could climb!
I thought this big orange sphere on a fallen leaf must be some sort of gall, but on closer inspection it turned out to be a species of orb weaver spider (Araneus iviei). Spiders are so weird!
I actually saw this last creature a couple of weeks ago, but it's too strange not to share:
What looks like a giant ant (maybe close to an inch long) is actually an oil beetle (genus Meloe). The small coverings (elytra) on its abdomen pointed me toward the beetle family, and some internet searching did the rest.
Here's hoping the cold weather doesn't come in too fast.... I'm going to miss all these cool creatures when they go away!