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  • Writer's pictureDirk

Almost 30 years and a nice surprise

Updated: Dec 14, 2019

Mountains, field season, fantastic landscapes – I was talking about those to an old classmate of mine, who runs mountain trails and cross competitions, but never has set foot in the Pyrenees. In addition, that old friend, with whom I had lost touch for almost 30 years, is an even greater fanatic about photos than myself… So, what is more natural than to invite him over during a long weekend and to show him the fantastic scenery of the French Pyrenees?!

It is always funny to meet classmates after such a long time, seeing that, like you, they have aged, but still sport the same habits, gestures, and way of talking (and walking). Okay, we did not talk in our home dialect Palatinian, it did not come naturally, but of course there was much to talk about. Most importantly the plans for the next days, which also included fieldwork with two American students, Kurt and Alessandra, from Vance Vredenburg’s lab in San Francisco. Especially for that day, I had hold back on sites in our most spectacular region, Neouvielle. Neouvielle is always a special site and day, as there are six sites to be sampled at AND 5hrs of driving AND high altitude (up to 2700 meters). So, I trusted in the physical condition of my classmate Boris, who did ultra-marathons (but not at that high altitudes). He came also with his almost full photographing equipment, roughly 12 – 14kgs heavy. No way to use him as research donkey, like planned, helping us to carrying up some of our equipment for the sampling, including 5kgs of dry-ice… (damn, needed to carry it myself). So, that day, Kurt, Adeline, Boris and myself set-off early (7 am) and we arrived 2.5hrs later at the parking in Neouvielle. The looks on Kurt's and Boris' faces were priceless, when they saw the landscape unfold in front of them. Admittedly, Neouvielle is one of my favorite parts of the Parc National des Pyrenees. In addition, we had great weather. Well, actually for photographing light was too intense and Boris was talking about taking tourist photos with a professional DSLR-camera.

For Boris, more a computer guy than an ecologist, our work looked strange, obvious from the many comments he made. Charging after tadpoles, taking samples on invisible things in the water (plankton and microbes) and then swabbing tadpoles with cotton sticks. Strange people, those ecologists. Nonetheless, he enjoyed himself (and will write a blog on it some when) and took some really nice photos of our fieldwork.

Several of the lakes we went to where lakes where chytridiomycosis has decimated populations of Alytes obstretricans, the midwife toad. In most places, they have been replaced by Rana temporaria, the common frog, which became very numerous by now.

However, we had a fantastic surprise at one of our sites, a first sign of recovery of the midwife toad. We were enthusiastic and our cries of enthusiasm could be heard all over Neouvielle, I guess….

After the fifth lake (out of six), we arrived back at the parking and it was late already. Boris was begging us to wait a bit longer so that he could take some photos of the sunset. How could we decline? So, we went off doing our sixth lake, leaving Boris behind alone, setting up his cameras, finding the best spots, and swearing about planes leaving traces in the sky, people cooking near the shoreline and walking in the water exactly where his photos would be taken.

Long story short, we came back way too quickly and had to wait until 9 pm for the sunset to kick in and making Boris happy. After some really nice shots (hence, it was quite worth the wait), we drove back home, where we arrived at midnight, falling in bed exhausted from a long day (18hrs), but being happy to have seen that sign of recovery in one of our sites, from a nice sunset, and having shared an extraordinary day in the field.

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