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 Post subject: Of mountains, lakes and human fish - Slovenian vacation
PostPosted: July 16th, 2017, 11:07 am 
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Joined: June 7th, 2010, 5:17 am
Posts: 367
Location: Copenhagen, Denmark
This year's family vacation went to Slovenia, a week based in a village in the Julian Alps and stops on the way to and from in Thuringia, Bavaria and Salzburg. We had a wonderful trip, hiking in the stunning scenery of Triglav National Park and swimming in crystal clear lakes.

On some of our recent trips my herping endeavours had perhaps taken a bit much focus relative to the interests of the rest of the family so it was a conscious decision to tone it down this time around. Accordingly, with one notable exception, herp encounters were merely accidental, few and far between and largely unphotographed. Even so, there were a couple of nice finds, justifying a short report.

The first find was a slow worm in the woods outside Bad Lobenstein, a small town in Thuringia where we spent the first night at a night cozy old hotel. I had gone for a short evening walk after saying good night to Henriette and the kids, forgetting to bring not just my camera but also my cell phone. I didn't much mind missing pics of the Anguis but I would have liked to get some of the fighting male roe deer I also happened upon.

Pauline found a second slow worm one morning in the Vrata valley but I was some way ahead on the path at the time, only heard about it afterwards.

Lacertids seemed shockingly scarce as we encountered only two specimens in 12 days, both in Triglav National Park. The first one, found by Gustav at 1100 m below the north face of theTriglav, looked familiar, yet perhaps a little different, a viviparous lizard that, depending on unresolved issues regarding taxonomic status could be a new species for me, Zootoca (vivipara) carniolica.

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I saw the second lacertid on a steep rock face at 1150 m at the end of a two day trek. At the time I was uncertain of the species but since we were all tired and just wanted to get back down to the house I only took a couple of quick snaps. After returning home I was happy to receive confirmation that it was indeed a Horvath's rock lizard, a(nother) new species for me.

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On this hike we also found three adders in an alpine valley at 1700 m. Looking very much like bosniensis, these should nonetheless belong to the Italian clade of the nominate subspecies. Unfortunately, the silver and black freshly shed male evaded my lens but the two females were quite nice as well. The second was spotted by Gustav, just as he was about to step out onto the rock in the middle of a lake upon which it lay basking.

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The only other snakes found were at Lake Bled where we ended up going swiiming three times because Pauline and Gustav fell so in love with the place. We found a large, dead grass snake in the parking lot and Pauline saw a second, smaller snake swimming in the lake itself, by her description most likely a dice snake.

On the aforementioned hike as well as elsewhere in the area we also saw a few common toads, including somewhat interestingly an amplexed couple in a small puddle – in July!

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Besides these toads, the anuran list was completed by just a few common frogs found here and there.

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This brings us, finally, to the caudates. One morning, when the rest of the family were feeling a bit worn out and wanted some quiet time in the apartment I explored some of the surrounding landscapes. In a deep gorge, I spotted some fire salamander larvae in a puddle next to the main stream. I searched the surroundings for adults, didn't manage to find any.

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Thankfully, I had more luck with their alpine congeners. Though I didn't have any spots and hadn't set any time aside for searching I had very much hoped to find alpine salamanders somwhere in the mountains. On a short family hike, right next to where Gustav found the Zootoca I casually flipped a few rocks and was rewarded with two of these beauties – wonderful.

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Headed home, we made a stop at Obersalzberg for a history lesson, not for herping. It was a rather cold, gray morning and the thought that this might be perfect salamander weather did cross my mind but still I wasn't really looking. I was all the more delighted when Gustav suddenly called me over when he saw something moving through the shrubs among the rocks at 1840 m.

View from Kehsteinhaus
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...& that's pretty much it for the herps, except... wait, there was that one dedicated herping outing...

One day, as we headed into Ljubljana, I left the others behind for a few hours while I drove out into the countryside. It was a nice trip :-)

Behold the olm, human fish, Proteus anguinus

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Of course, apart from the herps, there were the inverts, mammals (missed photos of the red deer as well...), landscapes, flowers, etc.

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Species list:

Salamandra atra 3
Salamandra salamandra 4 larvae
Proteus anguinus ~25 – mostly juveniles

Bufo bufo 7 (+ 2 dead)
Rana temporaria 5

Anguis fragilis 2
Iberolacerta horvathi 1
Zootoca (vivipara) carniolica 1

Vipera berus 3
Natrix natrix 1 dead

Opihidia sp. (probably Natrix tessellata) 1


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 Post subject: Re: Of mountains, lakes and human fish - Slovenian vacation
PostPosted: July 17th, 2017, 5:40 am 

Joined: June 7th, 2010, 10:42 am
Posts: 2228
Wow, what a beautiful part of the world! Your family does vacations right. Thank you for the wonderful images!


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 Post subject: Re: Of mountains, lakes and human fish - Slovenian vacation
PostPosted: July 18th, 2017, 3:44 am 
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Joined: June 7th, 2010, 5:17 am
Posts: 367
Location: Copenhagen, Denmark
Thanks for the kind words, Tamara :-)


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 Post subject: Re: Of mountains, lakes and human fish - Slovenian vacation
PostPosted: July 19th, 2017, 7:07 pm 
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Joined: June 11th, 2010, 5:01 am
Posts: 517
Location: Louisiana
Yours was a very nice travelogue to a place that most of us will never see. Combining scenic photographs with the animals allows viewers to see, in a two-dimensional sense, what was certainly a very memorable trip.

Pelias basking on a rock in a stream!

The offhand remark that you left the family in Lubjlanja for a sortie that located olms was very subtle. Certainly you didn't see it in a roadside ditch.

Jeff


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 Post subject: Re: Of mountains, lakes and human fish - Slovenian vacation
PostPosted: July 20th, 2017, 8:38 am 
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Joined: June 7th, 2010, 5:17 am
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Location: Copenhagen, Denmark
Thanks, Jeff :-)

Jeff wrote:
Pelias basking on a rock in a stream!


The lake (perhaps I should say pond) was immediately next to a popular hiking path and the rock no more than a couple of meters from the shore.
It was quite near the cabin and we had just started out on our hike when I realized we had left the sandwiches in the room and went back to get them. When I came back after a few minutes my wife and kids showed me the adder. At the time it was just basking on the rock. They told me that when they found it most of its body had been submerged along the side of the rock, maybe even partially under it, and it had slowly made its way up.

I imagine the adder might have fled out into the water from the shore when other hikers walked by before us, emerging onto the rock to dry when the danger had passed. It was remarkably exposed.

Jeff wrote:
The offhand remark that you left the family in Lubjlanja for a sortie that located olms was very subtle. Certainly you didn't see it in a roadside ditch.


Of course not - but that's actually closer to the truth than you might imagine.

I knew of a cave where it should be possible to find them in the water near the entrance without the need for guides, speleological training or specialized equipment. As it turned out they were both plentiful and remarkably easy to find. I took my time enjoying the cave and the olms yet made it back in time for a late lunch of tender as butter octopus with potatoes and squash and a nice refreshing glass of rebula at the wonderful Friday food market in old town Ljubljana.

Olms are truly amazing creatures. Anything that looks like an invader from outer space, can live for a century and go without food for a decade to subsist in such harsh habitats where it dwarfs every other living thing is pretty high on my list.

The surface of the Slovenian karst in undercut by an expansive network of caves and underground rivers. Originally I had thought we would go visit one of the show caves as well (and the coast, and...) but in the end we just enjoyed staying in the mountains too much. Also, we had seen similar caves in Italy a couple of years ago and it's more fun exploring on your own than going on organized tours anyway.


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