Eight out of 18 species of amphibians living in Poland are found in the Stołowe Mountains. The most popular are the common toad and common grass frog. Fairly often we can find the spotted salamander, smooth newt and alpine newt. The rarest species among those living in the Stołowe Mountains and endangered of extinction include: green toad, water-holding frog and crested newt. The common toad is the largest European anuran, found in large quantities in meadows and humid broad-leaved and mixed forests of the Stołowe Mountains. Like all members of this phylum, the common toad eats large quantities of various insects and snails. The common grass frog is a very common species in the Stołowe Mountains. There are places of reproduction of this species where, in spring, dozens of thousands of individuals are gathered, after the long exhausting (particularly for females) journey from places of hibernation. In the course of migration, the female very often has to carry a male on her back through a distance of several kilometres. In the reproduction period, the male of common grass frog shows nuptial colouration in the form of blue-coloured dewlap and starts to emit mating sounds that are amplified by the special pouches, so-calledresonators. Covered with beautiful contrasting colours, the spotted salamander is the largest amphibian found in this area. The females of this species can reach up to 25 cm in length. The characteristic body colouring (black with yellow blotches) is designed to frighten the enemies. The salamander is an exclusively land amphibian, leading a nocturnal way of life. However, these amphibians get activated in daytime by heavy rains and high temperatures. Therefore, we advise not to give up walking tours of the Stołowe Mountains in rainy days, as then it would be easier to encounter this wonderful timid amphibian. The salamanders are ovoviviparous which means that their females carry already fertilized eggs and give birth to larva in mountain streams in spring. The salamanders inhabit mountain shady forests with wet substratum, where they stay in the vicinity of streams and their water-heads. They spend the winter in land hiding places, often in a group. In the Stołowe Mountains, they have been spotted, among other places, in the vicinity of Kudowa Zdrój and Wambierzyce. The most popular tailed amphibian within the Stołowe Mountains is the smooth newt, reaching up to 11 cm in length. During the breeding season, the individuals show distinct sexual dimorphism: the males develop a tall crest, which is not interrupted above the tail base, their back become dark brown and their carmine abdomen gets covered with large black blotches, while the females' crest are low, their back clayish-brown and abdomen cream-yellow. Smooth newt is the first amphibian that starts breeding. The female lays eggs one at a time, wrapping each one in the leaf of a water plant. In the summertime, the newts are spotted in wet shady places, always close to the water reservoir in which they have developed from larva. When it is dry, they are active mainly at night, however they also get activated during heavy rains in daytime. When frightened they can use their defensive weapon which is the secretion from their skin glands featuring bitterly-acrid taste and unpleasant smell of fustiness. Main components of their food are dipterans, including mosquitoes. Unlike frogs, the newts are very voracious during the breeding period between March and July. The above-mentioned spotted salamander and alpine newt are the only mountain species, typical of amphibians in the area of the Stołowe Mountains.
The Stołowe Mountains National Park is inhabited by five out of eight most common species found in Poland. Since reptiles are heterothermal animals, their activity depends on ambient temperature and substratum. The two species of lizards, sand lizard and scaly lizard are found in the area of the Stołowe Mountains. It is very difficult to spot a lizard, because they quickly disappear when they perceive danger. In early spring right after awakening and after longer periods of adverse weather, they become more ponderous. As the scaly lizard is more tolerant to low temperatures, it becomes active in March, about a month earlier than the sand lizard. It prefers shady and humid places. It also does not avoid water and takes refuge there in emergency situations. Because of the above-mentioned reasons, the scaly lizard normally occurs in the mountains in greater quantities than the sand lizard, however the Stołowe Mountains offer plenty of spots (exposed rocks, sand) where it is possible to quickly get warm, and therefore the sand lizard is equally common. Both species feature the breakable tails which they snap off in dangerous situations. Such a winding tail distracts the predator's attention from its prey. The sand lizard does not grow more than 24 cm long, and the scaly lizard not more than 16 cm, however every third individual in the lizard population is shorter as the once- lost tail never reaches the original size. The scaly lizard can be distinguished by the strip of dark blotches running along the middle of its back, contrasting with lighter strips that run parallel to the middle one. The scaly lizard has lighter back and even if decorated with a strip it never consists of any blotches. It should be noted however, that there is considerable variability in colouring and pattern. In the breeding season, between August and June, males of the sand lizard show grassy-green colouration, particularly on the sides of their body, and the mating colours of scaly lizard mates appear on their bottom side. The males are very aggressive to themselves during this period. The sand lizard lays 5 - 15 eggs in soil and after about 2 months the offspring break the parchment-like coverings. Generally, the difference in the names of these species refers to the fact that the scaly lizard is ovoviviparous, i.e. the offspring breed in the female's body just before leaving it, since the scaly lizard prefers such environments that it would be difficult for her to find the places heated to temperatures that allow the development of embryo in the egg. Both lizards are the important component of biocoenosis: feeding on invertebrates, they also become the food for many vertebrates. Growing to even 50 cm in length (usually to 20 - 30 cm), the slow-worm is a limbless lizard less often found in the Stołowe Mountains. The body of the slow-worm is rather stiff, therefore it can not wind as efficiently as snakes do, instead it can perfectly "drive" itself into the ground cover or soil. Like the lizards, theslow-worm is able to snap off its tail in dangerous situations. It is active at night and twilight. The slow-worms wake up in the middle of April after six- months of hibernation, and start breeding immediately. In August, the females bear young which number as many as 5 - 25. The slow-worm hunts mainly for earthworms, slugs and arthropods. It moults over the entire body a few times a year, just like vipers. The grass snake that grows up to 1.5 m in length can be easily identified by characteristic yellow-orange blotches beyond the temples. To the large extent, life of the grass snake depends on water, where it hunts for food, mainly amphibians. It can swim very well. Therefore, it usually keeps to the wet peripheries of the Stołowe Mountains. Despite having jaws that are equipped with sharp outward teeth, it uses them on a very rare occasion, even when captured by a human. The grass snake is not venomous but in dangerous situations it can emit offensive odour from its cloacal glands. When teased, it often lies on its back, opens the mouth, and extends the tongue, pretending to be dead. This looks rather funny. The grass snakes hibernate from the end of September to April. In the area of the Stołowe Mountains National Park, the common adder can be found fairly often due to the optimal conditions that exist there, i.e. sandstone rocks exposed to the sun with numerous fissures and recesses where it can hide. It preys at twilight and night. In daytime, it basks in the sun on forest passages or meadows. When being approached by a human, it usually escapes and never attacks unless we get very close to it. The venom injected from its venomous teeth is used for hunting and only occasionally in self- defence. Adder's bite is rarely fatal to adult humans. The common adder can be easily identified by a characteristic dark pattern of zigzag stripes that runs along the back (Cain's band) and is visible even on new-born young. Occasionally, it can reach 90 cm in length. The breeding season starts in May just after the awakening. During the mating period, a whirling mass of snakes may form, where very ritual, dance-like combats take place, in which the reptiles do not use their venomous fangs. The female gives birth to 5 - 20 live young.
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Park Narodowy Gór Stołowych
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