It's raining! ... But so what?!

Spruce, fir and a fiery surprise

"Aren't I beautiful?"

This summer we don't have a choice. So it's time to put on rain pants and a rain jacket, and get out into the forest. My little hiking group is well equipped, and the children smiled at me happily and expectantly.

The many trees

We walk into the forest and I tell them things about our many trees. The children especially enjoy learning how to tell the difference between a spruce and a fir tree. For a while they check every conifer along the path: "spruce, spruce... fir... spruce... fir" is how it continues. The star-shaped seedlings on the ground are also carefully examined and circumvented, which is quite difficult given how many there are. After all, each one of them should grow into a tree!

Spruce seed with little crown

What's walking through the forest here?

When we look down at the ground we experience a very special highlight – a fire salamander tries to run away as fast as it can. But our little explorers have spotted it, and follow its trail. I kneel down and place it gently in my hands. I hold it carefully, so that I don't provoke it or irritate its venom glands.

The children kneel carefully down next to me and observe the beautiful forest inhabitant, who loves these wet weather conditions. I tell them about its living habits and childhood in the creek. The children react with astonished "oohs" and "aahs". We look at its head, its feet and its body, and recognise a letter in its pattern. Leonie quickly christens it "Leni". Back on the ground "Leni" makes her way into the undergrowth fast, followed by lots of happy pairs of eyes. I only just managed to take a photo of "Leni".

Leni on the run!

Then we found something else...

In the nearby creek my searching gaze also quickly found a fire salamander larva, which the little explorers discovered too. And another one! What a lot of fun! Who would have thought that the larvae don't have a yellow spot on them, but instead have gills to breathe?

We finish up our walk through the forest, happy and content. The explorers are happy, have learnt something, been out in the fresh air despite the rain, and also had a very special experience - they met "Leni".

Once I get home I'll send the photos and find-sites to the amphibian researcher Florian Glaser, at the University of Innsbruck, who is currently carrying out a survey of the Tyrolean fire salamander population, and is happy to receive every report. This means that I can make a contribution to science in addition to my satisfying work as a nature educator. This makes both Florian and I happy. Everybody can take part in this! Simply call Florian (+43 650 5762100) and describe the find-site as precisely as possible; GPS details would be perfect! If you're able to take a photo you can send it toflorian.glaser@aon.at

It's raining ... again! Fire salamanders love rain! So - let's go! :)

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