A Travellerspoint blog

Exploring the Blue Ridge Parkway

Blue Ridge Mountains, VA

semi-overcast 64 °F


Despite having a cold, I took to the road on this week’s day off from my opera program. My goal was to see the heart of the Blue Ridge Mountains on this beautiful spring day and to hopefully find some lifer salamander species — this is one of the most biodiverse places in the world in terms of salamanders, and I wasn’t going to miss this narrow window of getting some range-restricted lifers.

My first stop was Mill Mountain in Roanoke, VA where I had a beautiful pair of RED-TAILED HAWKS perched up above:

And my first non-Yellow-rumped Warbler of the year, this beautiful singing male PINE!

After a bit of flipping, I found my target species and my first herp of the year: the incredibly range-restricted Dixie Caverns Salamander! At first thought to only occur in the Dixie Caverns (a nearby cave system), this Wehrle’s-like salamander was recently discovered to have a disjunct population here right in the heart of Roanoke! Way cool, and my best first herp of the year since 2021 when Oliver and I went downstate in Illinois to find Jefferson’s Salamander!

Then, I hit the Blue Ridge Parkway. My target salamander species were: White-chinned Slimy, Peaks of Otter, Seal, and Valley and Ridge Salamander. They would all be prospective lifers!

Soon, it was evident that this would be one of the most scenic drives of my entire life, and this continued for the entire afternoon. Every view seemed to get better and better with this beautiful day!

From one overlook, a nearby TURKEY VULTURE provided good views against the distant Appalachians:

My first stop along the parkway was to look for White-chinned Slimy and Peaks of Otter Salamanders. I dipped on the Slimy but came up with a single, beautifully gold-flecked specimen of a Peaks of Otter Salamander! Another way cool, range-restricted lifer!

And oh, did I mention the views?!


I found myself hiking a tiny portion of the Appalachian Trail in order to get to a seep (montane spring-fed creek) to look for more target salamanders — specifically my would-be lifer Seal Salamander.

A bit of flipping revealed a Southern Two-lined Salamander which I’ve had in IL before:

And a lookalike of the Seal Salamander but with a dark belly, meaning this was a Spotted Dusky Salamander, another I’ve seen before in IL.

Then, I flipped another Desmog-genus salamander and this one had a light belly, meaning it was my lifer (albeit juvenile) Seal Salamander! Too cool, my third lifer of the day! Seal Salamanders are one of the most widespread seep species in the Appalachians and nearby mountain ranges.

My last stop of the day brought me to a lower-elevation trail where I was searching for Valley and Ridge Salamander (that’s a single species name!). It was a beautiful trail running alongside a montane creek:

And, continuing my lucky streak for the day was this absolutely gorgeous Valley and Ridge Salamander! This was my favorite salamander lifer of the day as this guy was at the exact southern tip of his range — this species is much more common up in West Virginia and Pennsylvania. Overall, I think it has a very sleek look, too.

This means the only salamander I missed today was the White-spotted Slimy which is strange considering they are supposedly common in the area I was searching, and the ones I actually found today were generally much rarer and more range-restricted. But hey, I won’t complain about four lifers in a day! An incredible first day of 2024 herping.

Bird-of-the-day to my FOY Pine Warbler, with runner-up to several COMMON MERGANSERS I had on the James River at the end of the day.

STAY TUNED — next stop — PANAMA!!!!!!!!

Happy birding,
World Life List: 1190 Species

Posted by skwclar 22:42 Archived in USA

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How exciting Henry! They are all so beautiful!!!

by Poo

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