Meeting a salamander
Finally we got it: hiking for sampling in P³ means getting up before the sun rises, searching your stuff in a moldy shelter room without light and having breakfast with milk powder and rusk… well, at least in the central part of the Pyrenees. Lets see for the years to come, as the refuge will be completely renovated.
As the first sunbeams tickled the mountain tips we started the most difficult tour up to the mountain pass (2664 m asl), forcing our challenged legs 1000 meters up on a steep path. Fortunately the weather was on our side: the sky showed a cold clear blue and the sun illuminated the astonishing stone formations of this part of the Pyrenees.
On the way up we met a fire salamander – still a little stiff from the cold mountain nights, but alive. The fire salamander is a large urodele, up to 28cm in length with a wide head and thick, strong legs with non-webbed digits and a cylindrical thick tail which is rounded at the end. There are three different subspecies that are present in France, Salamandra salamandra terrestris being the most common all over the country, S. salamandra salamandra can be found in the extreme south east and we met S. salamandra fastuosa. The species might be threatened of extinction due to a fungal pathogens.
Tadpoles and frogs were already hiding in places inaccessible to us, so sampling takes less time as during spring and summer.
Instead, marmots were blocking our way back down while feeding frantically for the long and hard Pyrenean winter soon to come. We were standing there observing in a distance of 20 m while the well-fed marmot heaved its body slowly up the hill. After it passed we continued our sampling without any other interruption neither by humans nor by animals.
We are close to finish the campaigns of this year – winter can come.