Despite low temperatures and thick clouds Laura and I went into the dunes, to enjoy autumn but also to have a look if there would still be some animals out and about. Well, we succeeded in both goals and had a enjoyable day in the Dutch dunes. Several Tree Frogs (Hyla arborea) were calling by day and three were found resting on low vegetation. Other finds included many Grass Frogs (Rana temporaria) and a few Common Toads (Bufo bufo) and Natterjack Toads (Bufo calamita).
The next day the weather improved substantially so we took the bikes and cycled towards the beach near my house and enjoyed the autumnal sun.
This weekend Laura and I had a "Wanderwochenende" together with Martha and Daniel. On Saterday we did a hike on the Herzogstand, this beautiful mountain divides the Kochelsee and the Walchensee and offers some splendid views on both lakes. Even tough the place was crowded we still were able to see a few Viviparous Lizards (Zootoca vivipara) basking next to the trail, apparantly not hindered by the many hikers.
The next day the weather forecast didn't look too promising but we decided nonetheless to go out and have a stroll along the Isar, a good choice indeed! Within 5 minutes I was able to find a stunning adder (Vipera berus) and afterwards we found a juvenile Grass Snake (Natrix natrix) and two Smooth Snakes (Coronella austriaca) just before the rain came pooring down and we were soon soaked. A nice lunch in a nearby monastery was the only sensible thing to do before Martha and Daniel had to catch their plane back to Essen.
We stayed for two nights in a very luxurious hotel in the capitol of the province of Limburg; Maastricht. Besides some sightseeing in this beautiful city we also went out to look for animals of course. Just outside the city centre the only naturally occuring population of Wall Lizard (Podarcis muralis) in the Netherlands is found. Here we met up with my former intern Anniek and her friends Rick and Thomas. Besides many Wall Lizards we also found some Midwife Toad tadpoles and several Slow Worms (Anguis fragilis).
At night we went into a quarry to look for interesting amphibians and we found the usual suspects; Alpine Newts (Ichthyosaura alpestris), Grass Frog (Rana temporaria) and several Yellow-bellied Toads (Bombina variegata).
The next day we went to one of my favourite places in Limburg, a limestone cliff with some ponds and beautiful scenery. Wall Lizards are introduced here and impossible to miss, we saw large numbers of them and especially many newborn babies running around. An entertaining sight of course but the highlight for the both of us was an adult Midwife Toad (Alytes obstetricans).
A family visit in Oer-Erkenschwick allowed Laura and me to visit a nearby population of Fire Salamanders (Salamandra salamandra), it took us some time but in the end we both managed to find a juvenile and Laura flipped a beautiful adult salamander. Several Alpine Newts (Ichthyosaura alpestris) with spotted throats were found along with some Common Toads (Bufo bufo) and Grass Frogs (Rana temporaria).
A few days later we were back in Munich and eventough we were planning on swimming in the Walchensee, faith decided otherwise... Due to the pooring rain we had to look for Alpine Salamanders (Salamandra atra) and strangely we found only one despite the seemingly optimal conditions.
Together with Jasper I went to Haarlem to visit the Artisklas. This small zoo is home to an introduced population of Midwife Toad (Alytes obstetricans), a species highly vulnerable to a fungus that is potentially lethal to amphibians. This fungus (Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis) causes an infectious disease known as Chytridiomycosis. In 2009 there has been an extensive investigation going on about the distribution of this disease in the Netherlands and this year the research is continued to see if the fungus has spread since then. I volunteered again and collected skin tissue of Midwife Toad tadpoles and Common Newts.
I received a phonecall from Matthijs who found a nice spot where it would be possible to get good views of Pine Martens. The spot was quite near where I live so we decided to go there, fellow nature enthousiasts Jasper and Dieuwertje tagged along and of we went. While the sun was setting we posted near the trees where the martens had been seen the day before but despite our patience none of the cryptic mammals showed up. While Matthijs had to catch the last bus home Jasper, Dieuwertje and I decided to go even further into the dunes to take a look at a place I was a few days before. This was a wise decision, besides many cockchafer (Melolontha melolontha), Fallow Deer (Dama dama) and calling Tawny Owls (Strix aluco) we saw a few Common Toads (Bufo bufo), Natterjacks (Bufo calamita), Grass Frogs (Rana temporaria) and especially many, many Tree Frogs (Hyla arborea). They proved to be tricky to find amongst the Soft Rush vegetation but with a keen eye and patience many could be found. The chorus was deafening but we came to the conclusion my last train would depart soon so we hiked back to the car, Jasper and Dieuwertje dropped me of at the trainstation and I just managed to catch the last train. 02:30 in bed after a great evening!
Gertjan Verspui contacted me in the morning because he wanted to look for Tree Frogs in the afternoon near where I live and since I already got done with work early I decided to get my bicycle in the train and join him. When I arrived Gertjan was already at the pond. We observed several Tree Frogs (Hyla arborea) as well as many hundreds of Grass Frogs (Rana temporaria) and a few Sand Lizards (Lacerta agilis). Sadly he needed to go home soon but I decided to stay on my own and enjoyed my beer in the grass underneath the sun and had a good time!
Another great weekend in Munich! On Saterday Laura and I went into the Alps and found many (n=22) Alpine Salamanders (Salamandra atra), Alpine Newts (Ichthyosaura alpestris), Common Toads (Bufo bufo), Grass Frogs (Rana temporaria) and one Viviparous Lizard (Zootoca vivipara) basking on Laura's camera. We hiked up to a very nice "Alm", had a nice diner with a view and while the sun was setting we decended from the mountain and we made it just in time back to the car because some torrential rains would have made it very unpleasant otherwise. The toads didn't seem to mind as we saw a few sitting on the tarmac.
On sunday we went to a cool place for reptiles, we woke up a bit too late so it was already very hot when we arrived but we still managed to find some nice animals such as Yellow-bellied Toads (Bombina variegata), Sand Lizard (Lacerta agilis) and Laura found a Smooth Snake (Coronella austriaca). Sadly no black adders this time...
Laura and I went into the Alps to look for Alpine Salamanders (Salamandra atra) which we managed to find really soon, the first log we turned already delivered! We found eight indivuduals within half an hour of searching. After that the rain really started to poor down so we decided to check Laura's salamanderwoods for Fire Salamanders (Salamandra salamandra) and found the first individual just sitting on the path, great!
Together with Emil, Jasper, Bart and Matthijs I went to the Veluwe. Eventough the weather forecast looked promising, the sky was grim and we were only briefly in the field when we needed to find some shelter for the rain. Picking the smallest tree in the forest wasn't the best idea to take shelter but we didn't care. After a while we noticed the sky turned slightly lighter in the north so we walked through the forest towards a more northern heathland. When we arrived the rain stopped and we soon found a male Agile Lizard (Lacerta agilis) and two adders (Vipera berus), a male and a juvenile. After some pictures we walked back to the area close to our car and the sun came through. We saw a few Viviparous Lizards (Zootoca vivipara), four more adders and thousands of Common Toads (Bufo bufo), both migrating towards the water and breeding in the water, an amazing spectacle to behold! Also some Moor Frogs (Rana arvalis) and Natterjacks (Bufo calamita) were calling. After this long winter all amphibians were triggered by the rising temperatures to breed, so species that normally don't breed at the same time were now found together, really weird and possibly a once in a lifetime experience! We even saw a few Moor Frog males with breeding colours that truelly made our day complete.
In the afternoon I received a call from Emil Kuys, aspiring documentary maker and fellow coldblooded creature enthousiast. If I wanted to join him in his quest to search for spawning European Smelt (Osmerus eperlanus). My knowledge about fish is limited but my willingness towards discovering new fields of interest is not, so I decided to join. After a diner at my place we set of towards Lelystad, so we could search the dikes around the Ijsselmeer, a huge lake created by man. Intentionally we found many species like Bullhead (Cottus perifretum), European Perch (Perca fluviatilis), Three-spined Stickleback (Gasterosteus aculeatus), the introduced Western Tubenose Goby (Proterorhinus semilunaris) and some other species of exotic Goby as well as exotic lobsters (Orconectes limosus). Emil went into the freezing water to search for the Smelt and attempt to film them while I searched the water next to the dikes. We also discovered a small Common Newt (Lissotriton vulgaris) perched on top of a big rock of which the dikes are made of. Also on the roads many, many Common Toads (Bufo bufo) and Grass Frogs (Rana temporaria) and a Barn Owl (Tyto alba) hunting for them. At 01:00 am we had no succes with the Smelt and decided to call it a day and headed towards Hilversum. Around this semi-large city are some interesting ponds for Northern Crested Newt (Triturus cristatus) which we found quite soon along with hundreds of Common Newts, really spectacular to see them in these numbers! Also an undetermined Water Frog (Pelophylax spec.), Common Toads and Grass Frogs at this site. At 03:00am we decided it was time for sleep and we did so at 04:00am.