Between Sorède and Laroque, 190m up in the Albères, above a small weir, there's a rock pool that's worth checking out at this time of year. Fed by runoff from the slopes of Pic Néoulous it can by turn be a raging torrent after heavy rain and bone dry at the height of summer.
We've had a relatively wet spring but now the temperature is rising (29 degrees forecast for later this week!), the stream will dry up, the pool will rapidly stagnate and finally evaporate, which could spell disaster for some of the creatures in it.
I've seen tadpoles and tiny froglets there in previous years. What might 2017 bring? A few days ago I found out.
It was some minutes later when movement by rocks to my right turned out to be a big frog with an impressive fluorescent yellow stripe running from the tip of his nose to his bottom.
And teeming with tadpoles.
Those in the shallowest, sunniest patches of water were the liveliest, while others in the cooler, shaded areas appeared sluggish or asleep.
A few leaves, faded oak flowers and a dead bumblebee slowly drifted across the surface towards the weir, past dancing pond skaters, and above what I assumed were water boatmen - until a photo revealed that at least one was swimming upside down. I have since double-checked - it's a "backswimmer" not a boatman! I had never heard of them before.
Was this my first sighting of a newt?
The longer I looked the more of them I saw. When stationary, they look like just another piece of debris, but they can move fast when they want to, using legs and their fish-like tail to half-crawl, half-swim.
Knowing nothing about newts - and little about any amphibians - I had no idea what species they might be, but hoped that photos and a short video would help me find out. When I subsequently compared those with illustrations in the Flore et Faune des Pyrénées Méditerranéennes book, my question was quickly answered. (This proves that even poor photos can reveal details missed with the naked eye, and provide an invaluable aid to identification. Thanks to these pictures, I've also been able to get the ID verified by experts on a website dedicated to recording local wildlife sightings: faune-lr.)
They are fire salamander larvae (Salmandra salamandra) - at different stages of metamorphosis. What best distinguishes these from larvae of other species of salamander/newt are the pale dots where their legs join their bodies.
This spring I feel I've seen fire salamanders in almost every stage of their development. I would love, one day, to see a live adult, but in the meantime shall have to return to the rock pool to monitor the youngsters' progress. Fingers crossed the water won't dry up before they can survive on land.