Herping in Cantabria (bad year)

Azhael

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It had been about a year and a half since the last time i could go herping, and i was dying to.
So, finally, the time had arrived, i had the opportunity to satisfy my thirst for nature and i had two days to do so. So the first day i decided to go to one of my favourite spots. This place is the clossest thing to heaven for me, it´s just gorgeous and lush. Well...it usually is...

The place is a valley covered by typical european mixed forest (mainly beech, but also chestnut, oak, hazelnut, holly...). As such, it´s usually very damp and lush with endless green carpets of moss. It´s prime territory for L.helveticus alonsoi and S.s.fastuosa (the place is a famous location and many european herpers visit it).
This year, although the rest of Spain has had a very humid and rainy winter, Cantabria (northern spain) which is isolated by a large mountain range, has received and unusually low amount of rain during february and march, apparently because all the rain came from the south (we all know what´s been happening in the Azores). The valley where i went herping appears to have been one of the places with worst luck, and you could really see that everything was waaaay too dry.

As a result of the unusual drought, the main river and the adyacent streams had not overflown this year, which means that there were no side pools and flooded areas, which are precisely what the local caudates use. The moss carpets were bone dry and broke when touched, the leaf litter rustled..it was obvious there had been a serious lack of water in a place that is usually dripping year-round.

Anyway, after two hours of searching in spots that i know for a fact that normally contain a good number of adult L.helveticus and many S.s.fastuosa larvae (i´ve been visiting the place for well over a decade, so i know where to look), i had found nothing...absolutely nothing. I was desperate...more so since i hadn´t seen a single Rana temporaria which are locally very abundant. When you don´t see them, something is seriously wrong.
In the end, just when i was returning to the car, i decided to give a good, thorough check to a tiny little stream (if that can be called a stream) where every year there are lots of S.s.fastuosa larvae. In one of the wee pockets of water (about the width of a hand), in a good year you can find as many as 16 larvae. I new that if i didn´t find something there i wouldn´t find anything at all no matter how hard i tried.
Thankfully there were a few larvae, but in a good few meters and several pockets of water i only managed to find 5 larvae!!!
When i got to the car my father told me that he had found tadpoles, so i went and checked. There were a couple dozen R.temporaria in a road pool. The ONLY tadpoles that i managed to see.

Ok, so enough blabbering, sorry for the long speech xD Here are a couple of pics of the S.s.fastuosa larvae and lacking anything better, a few shots of the local spring flowers (which by the way where and absolute joy in an otherwise sad day) some of which i can´t identify, sorry.


Pictures:
-nº1, nº2: S.s.fastuosa larva
-nº3: The "stream".
-nº4: Oxalis acetosella
-nº5: I think Crocus.sp
-nº6: Parasitic plant (i wish i had my Bonnier)
-nº7: Euphorbiaceae (no idea of the species)
-nº8: Anemone nemorosa
 

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Azhael

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Second day, a bit of background:
I´ve been searching for I.a.cyreni for years, but i always miss the little buggers. I was told that they could be found in a place in another valley in Cantabria. Although the directions were very poor and lacked a lot of specificness (telling someone: "go to this mountain there are alpine newts there" is not the best directions you can provide), i set out to see if by chance i found them. Of course, as it couldn´t be any other way, i didn´t xDD I´m cursed, there´s no other excuse at this point xD
However the trip was not in vain since i found two very nice places high up the mountain where at least i could satisfy the need to see my beloved L.h.alonsoi (one male, four females and a few advanced larvae) and a large amount of S.s.fastuosa larvae. The place is lovely, so that´s something too xD

I was surprised to find well over 30 S.s.fastuosa in a tiny, shallow artificial pool fed by a dripping wall. It´s nice to see that at least the drought hasn´t affected all the places equally.

On the way down, we discovered a large artificial pool connected to a pretty big stone trough, which by the way has become one of my favourite places and i´m certainly going to visit it in the future. Again, no alpine newts. No surprise there. There were no palmate newts either, but i´m convinced on normal years there must be, the place is just too good for them to miss.
What i did find were the largest R.temporaria tadpoles i have ever seen, a very nice number of S.s.fastuosa larvae and a very healthy population of what i assume should be Rivulogammarus pulex. I particularly enjoyed finding a large S.s.fastuosa larva that was completing metamorphosis but was still aquatic.

Pictures:
-nº1: Gravid female L.h.alonsoi
-nº2: Male L.h.alonsoi
-nº3: Advanced larval L.h.alonsoi
-nº4: Dead S.s.fastuosa being eaten by Trichoptera larvae.
-nº5: S.s.fastuosa larva
-nº6, nº7: Large S.s.fastuosa aquatic metamorph
 

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John

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You know, I'd give my right arm to herp in Cantabria, the Picos and Asturias. Fire salamanders are the kings of the caudate world. Thank you for posting these, Rodrigo.
 

Azhael

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It´s certainly a beautiful area. I´ve had the good luck of growing up partially in Cantabria and i´m just in love with it (seriously, it even affects my mood. As soon as i see cantabrian ground i´m happy)...every single valley is gorgeous and lush with green!!
Hopefully i´ll be able to live there when i finally leave Salamanca...and then...oh man....i´m going to explore every single inch of it xDD

By the way you´re welcome to join me any time xD Just bring a car with you, will you :p?
 

John

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By the way you´re welcome to join me any time xD Just bring a car with you, will you :p?
I have a feeling they'll charge me for being over the baggage weight limit.
 

SludgeMunkey

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I am brimming with jealousy. If that is a bad year of herping, I would hate to see a good year!

Come on out to Nebraska where the odds of finding a caudate are comparable to finding the Loch Ness Monster or Bigfoot.:p
 

Azhael

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Truth be told...good years are reaaaaally good xD Sorry Johnny :p
In the very same area and the very same places where i looked this time (first day trip), i´ve had the luck of finding well over 30 adult L.helveticus and innumerable S.s.fastuosa larvae. Not to mention the swarms of R.temporaria in various stages of their life cycle and an assortment of other herps.

This was a bad year because of the severe drought in the area, but thankfully the second day was successful enough!

The same luck you have in Nebraska, i have in my hometown. We have plenty of amphibians yet they always manage to avoid me entirely. I only have luck in Cantabria because it´s paradise on earth.

PS: John, maybe the scientist will have a break through with the inflatable cars soon xD
 
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barkv

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the place is really good.
 
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