Lesvos!

Finally after years of planning and even a cancellation, I will be visiting the Greek island of Lesvos (Lesbos) this October. I have wanted to visit this island for so many years now, as it is relatively untouched by tourism and is also one of the largest Greek islands. Furthermore there are some great reptiles and amphibians to be found, such as Eastern Spadefoot toads (Pelobates syriacus), Dwarf snakes (Eirenis modestus), Sand Boa (Eryx jaculus) and an old friend of mine, the Ottoman viper (Montivipera xanthina), as well as a further 12 species of snake. I shall be staying in one of the most ideal areas for herps, an area consisting of sand dunes, temporary ponds, large river systems and cultivated land such as old olive groves. Although October is not the best time for such a trip, it can be very profitable if the usual September rains arrive, bringing all the animals back to life for a couple of months after a long, dry summer. Spadefoot toads are especially tricky, unless it actually rains whilst I am there I do not think I will find them, as most of their life is spent deep below ground in sandy burrows. Also unlike most amphibians they do not emerge consistantly, and usually only leave such burrows after heavy rain or when humidity is very high. In many dry areas, spadefoot toads can be active for no more than a couple of weeks per year, in which they must find all the food reserves possible, as well as time to breed. They have some of the fastest developping tadpoles of all amphibians that grow to a huge size, as often the tadpoles only have a couple of weeks to develop into toadlets before the ponds dry out.

I was hoping some friends and colleagues would be able to join me on this trip, as this year I have been fortunate enough to do my Greek field trips in the company of others. It has been a while now since I did a trip on my own, but maybe this is not such a bad thing, as often when I am searching alone I am like a man possessed, searching day and some of the night until I find what I want. Needless to say finding a nice species is alot more satisfying when you have spent days (sometimes weeks!) in the field on your own, rather than a colleague finding one and bringing it to you…Having said this field trips in groups are extremely rewarding, being able to see many more animals and sharing an interest with people very similar to yourself, hopefully in 2010 I will be able to do more trips like this.

In fact only one of my trips this year has been solely to find herps (Crete), and I can see this being the case on Lesvos, as there is simply too much to be explored and too many species to see for me to get distracted with anything else!

Matt

By Matt Wilson

3 comments on “Lesvos!

  1. Hi Matt,
    Well it sounds like we will both be hoping for September rains and fruitful searching in October. I have been making enquiries about Corfu and a couple of other places to start going on some trips myself.
    Not decided yet whether to convince some friends to forgo the usual beach holiday in search of wildlife instead or whether to have a solo adventure of my own.
    Either way your blog and the European fielding site have been an invaluable find over the past months. My lack of experience on such field trips had held me back a little. But reading other peoples field reports and wanting the chance to see such herps and other wildlife has inspired me…and at least now I have somewhere to source for information and perhaps ask for advice from others with more experience.
    So once again thanks to Daniel and yourself…and if I settle on Corfu perhaps I could pick your brains nearer the time for some advice on where to go etc?
    And as I am a real Invertebrate enthusiast as well I am bound to find lots of other things to enthrall me whilst I get a bit of practise with the herping.
    Louise

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  2. Hi Louise,
    I’m glad to hear you are becoming more interested in field Herpetology, but I warn you, it can become like an addiction after a while…
    No problem about your Corfu trip, I will help you with some nice spots. This island along with neighbouring Kefalonia are the places where I first started catching snakes and other reptiles at a very young age, so I am sure you will enjoy them as I have done.
    Matt

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  3. Hi Matt,
    Oh I have no doubt I will become addicted 🙂
    And thanks for the offer of some help…I can also promise that the only thing I will be bringing back is hopefully lots of incredible memories and photographs!!!
    I am glad you did address the issue of smuggling animals for the pet trade…its a topic I am very passionate about. People are always surprised that as such a huge animal lover that I have no pets of my own. Personally I would never keep a captive bred herp let alone a wild caught one!
    One of the main reasons I want to start going on some trips is because I want to see animals where they belong…in the wild!
    I have been fortuante enough to work and volunteer in a number of zoological facilities that do some amazing conservaton and educatiom work! But being around animals in tanks all the time has started to become quite soul destroying.
    I am very excited planning some trips.
    Thanks again
    Louise

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