Northern Italy

Dedicated exclusively to field herping.

Moderator: Scott Waters

Post Reply
Posts: 56
Joined: June 7th, 2010, 7:53 am
Location: Stroud , UK

Northern Italy

Post by kevinb »

With 1 week available between work schedules I chose to visit Northern Italy for the 4th time with a target list of 5 species including my personal nemesis, Strinati's cave salamander. I left my girlfriend's house in plenty of time and began the long drive to the airport, an hour later I found the motorway closed and all the traffic diverted through the centre of a large town. The result of this was missing my flight, buying another, the car rental office being closed and having to buy another elsewhere at twice the price, it also meant I arrived at the airbnb at 2am and not 8pm as arranged, thanks Fabio for waiting up.
Sunday 2nd October
I had finally got a location for Strinati's cave salamander Speleomantes strinatii via a photograph on Flickr and luckily it was only a mile from where I was staying. It was also a location for the Northern spectacled salamander Salamandrina perspicillata and so I was soon walking along a footpath through the woods flipping logs and rocks with the usual amount of no luck at all. I crossed a shallow stream, looked up and noticed a cave entrance, and then another, I stood there open mouthed in disbelief, I had spent HOURS online looking for this cave. I had seen it posted on other trip reports and had tried reverse Google images, scoured Italian caving websites etc etc and now here I was standing in front of it. I stood there in the stream with a good idea of what awaited me inside and it was a truly magical moment, Strinati you have eluded me for so long but now I was about to tick the last of the cave salamanders.

ImageCave by Kevin Byrnes, on Flickr

I stepped inside and immediately saw my first salamander on the wall, I turned my head and in a crack on the ceiling I spotted another 4. I focused my attention to the water on the floor hoping to spot an Italian stream frog Rana italica hiding in the cave but there were none so I walked through the cave laughing and taking a few photos and soon emerged from the other side onto the stream again.

ImageStrinati's cave salamander by Kevin Byrnes, on Flickr

ImageStrinati's cave salamanders by Kevin Byrnes, on Flickr

I crossed the stream and found lots more salamanders hiding beneath rocks and logs including one with a juvenile Fire salamander Salamandra s gigliolii. I walked up the stream checking out the pools for frogs but noticed a lot of fish which was probably bad news for tadpoles, I pushed on further up the stream but the only herps found were a few wall lizards Podarcis muralis in a sunny open area. I turned back and then noticed a very small stream joining this one, it was almost dried up but still held a few tiny pools. I stood staring into one of them trying to identify the strange triangular shape in front of me when I realised it was the snout of R italicus, this was more like it, 2 target species in the first hour of searching

ImageStrinati's cave salamander by Kevin Byrnes, on Flickr

ImageFire salamander by Kevin Byrnes, on Flickr

ImageItalian stream frog by Kevin Byrnes, on Flickr

I hadn't eaten for 2 days and so headed to the supermarket to get some shopping, with 2 target species already found I wandered around the village trying to find the Italian slow worm Anguis veronensis, with no luck

Monday 3rd October
I looked on the Inaturalist website to get some location information for the Northern spectacled salamander Salamandrina perspicillata and found lots of sightings around a village. There was a wooded valley with a stream running through it and so this was the first stop of the morning. I paused enroute, high in the hills at a small stream where I spotted an Aesculapian snake Zamenis longissimus and a Western green lizard Lacerta bilineata, both of which escaped before I could photograph them. I walked up the wooded valley flipping rocks and logs but finding nothing at all, I did however manage to lose my glasses (again). I wasn't sure where to go next so drove 45 miles to a lake where Suzanne and I had stayed one night in 2015, sadly the lake had dried up and now looked like a field. I moved from here to a location near Bobbio and checked out a pond carved into a large rock. The water here was very cloudy today and I had no net or small aquarium but I managed to see a few Italian crested newts Triturus carnifex, Alpine newts Ichthyosaura alpestris and also a single Smooth newt Lissotriton vulgaris in the lower pool.

Image45 by Kevin Byrnes, on Flickr

Image46 by Kevin Byrnes, on Flickr

It was late by the time I got back and so I stopped at the Strinati cave to walk through again and have a count of how many there were, I counted 38 salamanders and also found another stream frog on the path.

Tuesday 4th October
I had a very lazy start to the day and when I realised what the time was I ran out to the car to get the sat nav to load some of todays locations. I turned oved a large piece of wood next to the car and found my first Italian slow worm, 3 out of 5 found !

ImageItalian slow worm by Kevin Byrnes, on Flickr

The first stop was a small cave overlooking La Spezia that I had visited in 2020 looking for Ambrosi's cave salamander Speleomantes ambrosii, I had found nothing but this time there 24 of them present along with a colony of bats.

ImageAmbrosi's cave salamander by Kevin Byrnes, on Flickr

ImageAmbrosi's cave salamander by Kevin Byrnes, on Flickr

Feeling very pleased with myself, I visited a large cave nearby and was happy to discover that the gate leading into it's depths was unlocked. I was however not very happy to discover the wire leading into my head torch had broken, which also meant I could not explore for the Leaf toed gecko Euleptes europaea on the way home.

ImageBig cave by Kevin Byrnes, on Flickr

I walked up the road to a couple of locations mentioned on a notice board and recognised them from previous reports. I searched the area and apart from a few small frogs which disappeared into a murky water trough, the only other thing here was a few scorpions.

Image66 by Kevin Byrnes, on Flickr

Image67 by Kevin Byrnes, on Flickr

Walking back to the car I saw a few Wall lizards and found a small Grass snake Natrix helvetica beneath a stone at the streams edge

ImageGrass snake by Kevin Byrnes, on Flickr

Wednesday 5th October
Heading home today so I tidied the house, said goodbye and headed for 2 parks in Milan where I hoped to find an Italian tree frog Hyla intermedia. At the first park I saw a lot of Wall lizards and a few Edible frogs Pelophylax esculentus but nothing else, the second one had a lake full of terrapins, possibly Yellow bellied sliders Trachemys scripta. I walked around the lake edge photographing Violet dropwing dragonflies Trithemis annulata and then in the last section of the very last bush before I turned back to the car, I found a tree frog, species number 4.
A quick drive up to the airport and then I was heading home .

ImageViolet Dropwing by Kevin Byrnes, on Flickr

ImageTerrapins in Milan by Kevin Byrnes, on Flickr

ImageItalian tree frog by Kevin Byrnes, on Flickr
User avatar
Posts: 613
Joined: June 11th, 2010, 6:01 am
Location: Louisiana

Re: Northern Italy

Post by Jeff »

Excellent good fortune!
The second-to-last photo could be taken in my backyard in Louisiana - a log lined with Trachemys scripta.
Post Reply