We could start our story off with a cliché opening: it was a dark and stormy night, and it would almost work this time. But in all reality, it was a rather cold, foggy evening instead. We were out walking the dog at the edge of the village when we spotted something in the middle of the road.
We had grown accustomed to regularly spotting Smooth Newts (Lissotriton vulgaris) while out in the field last year, yet this time we knew we had spotted something completely different.
Because it was so cold that evening and the newt was evidently in harm’s way, we carefully moved if off the road to safety. We took a quick photo with the only equipment we had on us at the time: the camera phone.
Fast forward ahead a few months …
This past Saturday, the 25th of February, the first salamander/newt (because everyone seems to call them something different) of the season was spotted. Slowly making its way across the road was a L. vulgaris!
An idea suddenly formed: if this one was out already, could there be others that have finally emerged from hibernation?
The next day, after walking around for approximately 1.5hrs in an area where we expected them to be, 2 flattened L. vulgaris were found. This was distressing enough. But then something else was spotted … something else flattened on the road that was definitely not the same species. It was quite dried out but some intriguing spots on the body were clearly visible.
What came to mind initially was a possible toad on the road fatality. With the LED headlight quickly losing it’s charge, a few quick photos were snapped … photos which would be more closely examined upon returning back to the house.
When the computer was fired up and the photos loaded onto the screen, it became clear that this was no toad. Instead, this was a roadkill T. cristatus! They are out now and are still in this area! Perfect!
A few days later, the same route was walked for close to 2 hours, but nothing was spotted. Which is good in a way – no more road fatalities in that time period along that stretch of road.
But on Wednesday the weather looked promising. It was about 8C in the evening, a bit foggy but definitely not too cold for this time of year. Another attempt at finding these newts was definitely in order (everyone who knows us, knows that we’ll head out looking for reptiles and amphibians all day and every day if we could).
En route to the location where the first T. cristatus was spotted, a L. vulgaris was moved safely out of the way of passing cars just in time. Good timing! This definitely means that the salamanders were out exploring once again.
A bit further down the road, something small was definitely on the road up ahead. The body color was definitely darker than the L. vulgaris that were found. Which could only mean one thing: it was a juvenile T. cristatus! A few photos and some video footage were quickly taken and the little guy was carefully moved off the road … to the side that he was originally heading towards of course.
But the evening was not over yet. Within 10 minutes, another L. vulgaris was found and once again, escorted carefully to safety. This area is without a doubt, a hotspot for salamanders!
despite the abundance of frogs and toads known to be in this area (such as P. klepton esculenta and Bufo bufo), no amphibians were spotted at all.
However, yet another T. cristatus was found on the road … this time, a decent sized adult who apparently had lost it’s tail somehow. Maybe it was hit in traffic or a predator got a hold of him … the true cause of this tail loss we will never know. It really didn’t seem to bother him too much and with great delight, this beautiful creature was also moved to safety.
And yet still the evening was not over. Another road meant more possible finds … or at least that was what was hoped for. Whether it was getting too late or the temperature had dropped too much, nothing was found so it was decided to call it a night.
Once back in city limits, another T. cristatus was spotted on the road!
This walk was a huge success! Not only were 3 T. cristatus spotted in about a 1.5hr time period, but also 2 L. vulgaris … and all 5 stunning specimens were moved off the road alive!
What makes the T. cristatus finds so exciting is the fact that in The Netherlands, it is listed on the Red List (Rode Lijst) as a severely threatened species . Finding these was a real treat and encouraging news in this particular area as they require extremely good water quality with no pollution in order to survive.
Now we sit and wonder what is out there waiting to be discovered tomorrow if the weather cooperates!