sexta-feira, 2 de março de 2012

@ The Benelux

On the 20th of January I flew to Belgium, where I would be presenting a slideshow regarding my latest works in the portuguese islands to the members of the Belgian Arachnological Society, in their annual meeting in the Natural History Museum of Brussels. After that, I would be staying with Robert Bosmans and Jan Bosselaers for few days, to advance some of the papers I have under construction, before I would visit my better-half in The Netherlands.

The presentation was light and went well. Apparently, some of the viewers were somewhat tired of slideshows with the fashion phylogenetics with DNA and cladistics that nowadays have their way into many scientific publications. That day I followed to Gent with Robert Bosmans and through the next days we took a look into some non-prioritary specimens I brought, and in the end the azorean Linyphiidae I am describing and mentioned in the previous post. Robert's expertise was very helpful (and will continue to be) and he concurred with my opinions on some tricky matters either with the referred azorean linyphiids and also with some madeiran Hahnia specimens, which pleased me.

In Gent I visited the Central Square and took a stroll around the area with Robert, it was a charming Belgian city, but I didn't grasp more than a first glance at its face. Additionally, Robert took me to the Bourgoyen-Ossemeersen nature reserve in the vicinity of the city where a big number of bird species could be found. Although these large animals are not my cup of tea, there were some interesting sightings there. Many ducks, especially. After 3 days with Robert, I headed to Antwerp where I would travel to Beerse, a small little village close to Turnhout, where I would meet with Jan Bosselaers, with whom I have a current undergoing revision of the liocranid genus Apostenus. Although we haven't set up a definitive plan for these days, it was good to sort the tasks at hand and to do some brainstorming. We spent the time contacting people at Museums, asking for material and looking at some specimens in the microscope. On Friday (27th January) we went to a site where Eresus sandaliatus was recently found along with Hans Henderickx, and we immediately found a cocoon with juveniles, but strangely there was no adult female in the corresponding burrow. We searched around for a while in a patch of Calluna heathland, but to no avail. This piece of heathland was an unfamiliar landscape to me, as the ground in more undisturbed areas contained a big number of Cladonia lichens, with large red apothecia. This made the landscape vey beautiful, although not exuberant, as no trees could be found. Jan and Hans had told me before we got there that this site will be bulldozed in some time, to build industrial facilities... I guess it's not only in Portugal that people like to put concrete everywhere.

Anyways, this week in Belgium was very nice. Not only was I received with kindness from Arnaud (who was my host in the day of the arrival) Robert and Jan, but I advanced with my works.

On Saturday 28th I headed to Antwerp and from there caught a train to Utrecht, in The Netherlands, where Sandra would be waiting for me.
I spent exactly 1 month in dutch lands trying to make things easier on us after the hard year of 2011. It was very nice. I spent most of the working hours at home working at the computer (had to deal with a boring evaluation of a Masters subject), especially advancing the paper on the azorean micronetine spiders. On the weekends we did a couple of turn-arounds, mostly on bike, which we could rent for free for a limited amount of time.

Ah! as soon as I got there, it started to snow, the first snow (and probably the only one) of the winter! White landscapes everywhere. Something new for a portuguese that only used to see snow at the top of the highest summits in Portugal.  

Some geocaching was done, of course! Two demanding multi-caches and an easy one. One of these multi-caches was done in the Castle De Haar, a nice castle West of Utrecht. We walked, walked and walked, even inside one of those mazes made of hedges, and guess what: we lost ourselves inside it for some brief moments. :P
On one day prior to this, and after the other multi-cache we went to a typically dutch pancake house. I had an apple pancake with hot chocolate, it was sooo nice to put back some energies and to enjoy the moment along a nearly frozen canal in an area with little or few concrete installations.
Additionally, I had the opportunity to play some Magic tournaments in a nearby store, and also some board games, with Sandra as well. Through this I met Álvaro, a spanish friend of Sandra's, who likes to play board games. In one day, we went for lunch with the brasilian friends of Sandra, too.

These were happy days.
I am back in Portugal now...