Friday, 29 May 2015

Salamander, salamander

Okay, I know it's a rubbish photo, but given how secretive the fire salamander is I was delighted to see it and manage to fire off a photo before it disappeared.

Just under four weeks ago (it feels much longer, given all the things I have been up to in the meantime) I was in Czech Paradise (Cesky Raj) researching a geological tour. I woke early and, although it had been raining heavily in the night and was still mizzling, I decided to walk the Riegerova trail. The trail is a nature trail with an emphasis on geology, but the most exciting sight was not the very impressive and varied rocks but a small golden and black amphibian.

I had nearly finished the trail and was walking down a track in the direction of a restaurant by the road, when I saw something gold and black some yards in front of me. I have never seen a salamander in the wild before, although they are to be found in Czech forests, and at first I didn't realise what it was. It seemed too brightly coloured to be an animal so at first sight I thought it a bit of rubbish left by some careless walker. When I drew closer and as the salamander made a dash for the verdant verge I scrambled to get my camera out of my rucksack.

It is amazing that such a brightly coloured animal can still be so secretive. Apparently it rarely comes out of its hiding places during the daytime and only then when it is raining. It likes to hide in rotten tree trunks, which may account for the legends about it living in fire as it would appear in people's fires when the log it was hiding in started to burn. The salamander has therefore a special place in alchemy and myth.

It very soon disappeared and I had to be content with this blurry picture. But I went on my way rejoicing at my luck at seeing it at all. I thought as I walked about how I would have shared this experience with my Czech friend, had she been alive. But then I thought that maybe she had been there all along, after all hadn't her online name been Salamander?

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