"Temporary Ponds: a natural habitat to be protected!"

Discovering the nocturnal wildlife in ponds

> The LIFE Charcos project promoted two raising awareness events in Odemira and Vila do Bispo counties, where it introduced the nocturnal wildlife associated with temporary ponds.


Despite the cool nights of April threatening rain, kids and grown ups used flashlights and rubber boots to set out to discover the bats and amphibians that populate the Mediterranean Temporary Ponds in the Southwest Coast of Portugal.

These "nocturnal wildlife discovery" activities took place on the nights of April 8th and 9th, 2016, organized by the LIFE Charcos Project team, with the support of the municipalities of Vila do Bispo and Odemira, on visits to the temporary ponds of these two municipalities.

The night out in Vila do Bispo took place on Friday, 8th, where three dozen of participants were present, among them, children and adults. The session began with a presentation about the biology and ecology of bats, by the biologist Tiago Marques of the University of Évora, and another presentation regarding the main characteristics of the amphibians associated with temporary ponds of the Southwest Coast, given by biologist Edgar Gomes from LPN - Liga para a Protecção da Natureza.

The participants then visited a temporary pond near Vila do Bispo with the accompany of the biologists to discover these two groups of the fauna on the ponds. Unfortunately no bat species were reported in the area that night, perhaps because the weather conditions with cold and wind are not the most favorable for this group of animals.

It was quite pleasant to hear the seduction chants of the Iberian green frog (Pelophylax perezi) and Mediterranean tree frog (Hyla meridionalis) males, as well as to observe some individuals of these species.

It was also possible to observe and identify some tadpoles of amphibians that populate the waters of the puddles, such as the Southern marbled newt (Triturus pygmaeus), the Iberian ribbed newt (Pleurodeles waltl), the  Iberian Spadefoot Toad (Pelobates cultripes) and the Mediterranean tree frog (Hyla meridionalis).

The following night, on the 9th, the adventure was repeated, but this time in the Almograve, municipality of Odemira, with the same dynamics of the previous day, but without the component of the bats. About 30 participants attended the session, half of whom were accompanied by their parents.

The diversity of amphibians found in the temporary pond visited near Almograve excited both the youngest and the oldest.

Here we also heard the seductive songs of the males of the tree frogs (European and Mediterranean) and the Iberian green frog (Pelophylax perezi). With the help of some parents, it was possible to find and see adult specimens of Iberian Spadefoot Toad (Pelobates cultripes), Mediterranean Tree Frog (Hyla meridionalis), European tree frog (Hyla molleri) and Iberian green frog (Pelophylax perezi).

There was still time to observe the Iberian Spadefoot Toad (Pelobates cultripes) defense strategy to bury itself in the sand with the help of its black spurs (metatarsal tubers), a characteristic that gives it the name by which it is commonly known, black nail frog in Portuguese. The participants also had the opportunity to appreciate the differences between the two species of tree frogs found when placed side by side.

For all the children and young people present, who had already heard about the habitat and the species associated with it during the environmental education actions of the LIFE Charcos Project within their classrooms, it was a pleasant surprise to be able to see some of the amphibians alive.

For the adults present, it was gratifying to see the children go through experiences similar to their childhood memories. With these activities, all the participants could witness the importance of temporary ponds for amphibians, a conservation target in the LIFE Charcos Project.

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