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!