Larval spotted Salamanders!
You will have to look close to see the spots but this was the best shot I could get as I had just previously seen him stick his head out of a hole below the stump on the front side of the tree. I looked around the side of the tree and there was another hole in which he had headed toward. I was able to get a few, not very good shots, of him watching me, watching him.
When gently touched, appeared to assume defensive posture with head tucked down and tail raised.
One of my most exciting finds of 2014. I can't say it was the most difficult observation to photograph because birds fly away, but finding this guy was a challenge. Although, as I was walking the trail with my headlamp, I just happened to notice this Spotted Salamander with it's head popping out from a hole under a tree. I had been on this trail all summer long and this was my first observation on this trail. I had seen one previously in the same state park, but on a different trail. Because of the position of the salamander in the opening of the hole which was along the root system of the tree, I was unable to get my fixed flash to capture the upper part of the salamander easily but was able to get enough of it for identification.
Metamorph under log.
Yellow Spotted Salamander observed at Snake Road at larue Pine Hills in Shawnee National Forest in southern Illinois.
The spotted salamander or yellow-spotted salamander (Ambystoma maculatum) is a mole salamander common in the eastern United States and Canada. The spotted salamander is the state amphibian of South Carolina. This salamander ranges from Nova Scotia, to Lake Superior, to southern Georgia and Texas. Its embryos have been found to have symbiotic algae living inside them.