I’ve had 97 entries on my observed species list for years now. With a growing family my priorities have been elsewhere. Have the family travelled anywhere, looking after the children has severely reduced the chances of seeing much else. An upcoming business trip to Italy sparked a hope of finally joining club100 and I contacted Jeroen Speybroeck who travelled the region on his 2010 Eurotour for advice. I stuffed a headlight and a compact camera (apologies for the image quality) in my cabin luggage and set off to Florence, Italy.
Upon leaving Stockholm it was 20 °C and a clear blue sky, when I arrived in Florence it was 15 °C and a heavy rain. I’m not a big fan of heat anyway so I turned on the wipers on my rental car and drove towards the coast. A slight detour on the way to Massa tock me on a narrow zick-zackikng road up the mountainside. The generous downfall had made the conditions extremely slippery and since I was alone I proceeded with great caution. Soon I found a couple of juvenile Italian Cave Salamanders, Speleomantes italicus and decided to take safety first and turn back even though it was tempting to try to find adult specimens. On the way back to the car I met a beautiful Common Toad, Bufo bufo. I celebrated 98 with a pizza and vino rosso della casa at the La Caretta restaurant in Massa.
After finishing work rather later than I hoped I drove north into the lush hills of southern Liguria. The weather was a lot better today and I hiked along the slopes and brooks in the setting sun. I saw a couple of Italian Wall Lizards, Podarcis siculus, but apart from them and some black scorpions all was quiet. I decided to turn at the next brook. When I reached the next one the pools were full of tadpoles. Beside the brook I found the proud parents, Yellow Bellied Toads, Bombina variegata pachypus. Sadly this is no longer considered a separate species so still 98.
It was getting dark now but I just changed valley and followed a stony brook uphill. Soon I met a juvenile North Italian Cave Salamander, Speleomantes strinatii among the wet rocks. 99! The first specimen was followed by numerous individuals of varying sizes and the pools along the brook were also full of Fire Salamander larvae, Salamandra salamandra. The climbing became too difficult and I decided to turn around and try a different brook.
At the other brook it had got really dark but the place was crowded with North Italian Cave Salamander, Speleomantes strinatii and Fire Salamander larvae, Salamandra salamandra. Then, suddenly, in the clear water, I spotted an odd locking longer tailed salamander. An Italian Spectacled Salamander, Salamandrina prespicillata An utterly cool creature and a very worthy number 100!
It was now past midnight and I considered turning back to the hotel since my flight back home was early in the morning but – no rest for the wicked. I continued north and some 3000 sharp bends later I was at a grotta. The entrance was guarded by giant eight-legged monsters and their cocoons. Like Indiana Jones I really don’t like spiders but turning back was not an option. With gritted teeth I hunched past the guardians and soon met an Italian Stream Frog, Rana italica on a stone. After wading in mud for a while I spotted the first North Italian Cave Salamander, Speleomantes strinatii together with masses of Fire Salamander larvae, Salamandra salamandra and more Stream Frogs.
I stumbled out in the night and drove back to the hotel with a constant smile on my face. Finally club100.net has a worthy webmaster!
Species list (in order of apperance):
Italian Cave Salmander, Speleomantes italicus
Common Toad, Bufo bufo
Italian Wall Lizard, Podarcis siculus
Yellow Bellied Toad, Bombina variegata pachypus
Fire Salamander, Salamandra salamandra
Italian Spectacled Salamander, Salamandrina prespicillata
Italian Stream Frog, Rana italica
North Italian Cave Salamander, Speleomantes strinatii
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