Photos from a friend in Symi, Greece

On my travels I get to meet some great people and make many new friends, what is also great for me is that many people still send me photos of animals they find for me to identify. In this case my good friend Adriana Shum who lives in Symi sent me some nice images of a snake that turned up on their farm a few days ago. The snake which had gorged itself on a large prey item was a Cat snake (Telescopus fallax) only the fourth recorded specimen from this island, interestingly all four have been found near Adriana and her husband Nichola’s farm! This little snake is strictly nocturnal and I have spent many hot summer nights scouring dry stone walls with my torch in the hope of finding one.

Cat snake (Telescopus fallax) (C) Adriana Shum

Cat snake (Telescopus fallax)

I have been lucky enough to stay with Adriana and Nicholas on their farm in a beautiful valley during all my trips to Symi, however I have only ever seen one cat snake there, and the snake was sadly recently killed by a local in the street. Adriana’s and Nicholas’s respect for nature means that reptiles are free to come and go around their home and I have found almost all of Symi’s reptiles on their front door step, including animals that most people was certainly kill, such as a big Coin-marked snake (Hemorrhois nummifer). On two occasions I have even found a snake inside their home, and two species of gecko sit happily on the walls of the kitchen every night.

I must go back soon…

Cat snake (Telescopus fallax) (C) Adriana Shum

Cat snake (Telescopus fallax) (C) Adriana Shum

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By Matt Wilson

Murcia visit

This weekend I have been in Murcia (Spain) visiting some friends. Not a herping trip at all but on Saturday I did spend the afternoon in the field with my good friend and famous Murcian Naturalist and Conservationist Vicente Hernandez-Gil. We drove up the north west of Murcia where I was hoping to find some Betic midwife toads (Alytes dickhilleni) as I had a very reliable spot kindly shared with me by Kevin Byrnes.

However despite lifting a vast amount of stones I couldn’t locate a midwife toad. But a few nice things turned up, such as a Bedriaga’s skink (Chalcides bedriagai) which is a new record for that area of Murcia and is generally a very under recorded species in the province. Further to this I found some Large psammodromus (Psammodromus algirus), Spanish psammodromus (Psammodromus hispanicus), Spanish wall lizard (Podarcis hispanicus), and Turkish gecko (Hemidactylus turcicus). Close to some fresh water lifting some stones revealed a tiny hatchling Viperine snake (Natrix maura) which i didn’t bother to photo as the animal was so small and fragile. The best find was slightly further away from water when I found a Natterjack toad (Bufo calamita) and a Southern smooth snake (Coronella girondica) under the same stone. On the banks of the water I also saw hundreds of Perez’s frogs (Pelophylax perezi) and a Spanish terrapin (Mauremys leprosa), another new record for the area.

After stopping at some ideal Alytes habitats such as small water cisterns we found we couldn’t even find a tadpole of the species. In the evening driving back to Murcia city Vicente and I stopped at the pond in one of the driest and most barren areas of Europe which has Western spadefoot toad (Pelobates cultripes), Parsley frog  (Pelodytes punctatus), Natterjacks (Bufo calamita) and Common toad (Bufo bufo). Sadly however it was bone dry despite some rain the previous night so all we saw here were some more lizards.

Here are a few photos from the afternoon:

Bedriaga's skink (Chalcides bedriagai)

Spanish psammodromus (Psammodromus hispanicus)

Iberian wall lizard (Podarcis hispanicus)

Iberian wall lizard (Podarcis hispanicus)

Natterjack toad (Bufo calamita) as it was found beneath a stone

Natterjack toad (Bufo calamita)

Southern smooth snake (Coronella girondica)

Southern smooth snake (Coronella girondica)

Southern smooth snake (Coronella girondica)

Southern smooth snake (Coronella girondica)

Scorpion (Buthus ssp)

Habitat

By Matt Wilson

A few photos from Greece

Here are a few highlight photos from my trip across northern Greece these last 2 weeks, its going to take me a long time to upload all the photos from this one!

Ottoman viper (Montivipera xanthina)

79cm Sand boa (Eryx jaculus)

Eastern spadefoot toad (Pelobates syriacus)

Adder (Vipera berus bosniensis)

Nose-horned viper (Vipera ammodytes)

By Matt Wilson

Back to the UK…

I fly home to Manchester today and I want to say a big thank you to my travel companions on this trip, so thanks alot Thomas, Bobby and Ilias, as well as Ilias’s parents who kindly allowed me to stay with them some nights in their home in Thessaloniki. I will try hard to get a report up in the next few days but this may be a very long process due to the numbers of animals we have found during the last two weeks (46 species!!). Thankfully I was able to photograph nearly all of them, but I was the only one of the team that didn’t get photos of those darn shy Meadow lizards (Darevskia praticola), but I saw too many other nice species to be bothered about this!!

Despite the more ‘interesting’ findings it was great to see some  common species in incredible numbers, for example over 100 Glass lizards (Pseudopus apodus), why is it so common on Lemnos?? As well as several hundred tortoises (Testudo graeca and hermanni).

The only real downsides to this trip was the ”Malaka” driving in front of us at Thrace who ran over the big Blotched rat snake (Elaphe sauromates) we had tried so hard to find, but we were still able to find and photograph a living juvenile specimen.

By Matt Wilson

Thessaloniki snake rescues

On my final day in Greece I have spent the day with my Greek friend Ilias Strachinis recieving phone calls from worried members of the public to catch and relocate snakes that have ventured into urban areas. Today we had three calls, the first despite hours of trying to find a snake, it had disappeared down a pipe and was probably dead thanks to firemen and locals who had poured toxic chemicals down the pipe and probably killed the animal. Another call also ended in failure to locate a snake. However we were successful at catching and relocating a Large whip snake (Dolichophis caspius) that had wandered into someones garden and taken refuge in a small tree!

By Matt Wilson

Mountain mission accomplished!

Well Ilias and I did it, we braved falling boulders and tree trunks to reach 2000m in Greece to find the Northern viper or Greek Adder (Vipera berus bosniensis).  Without doubt one of the most isolated and beautiful habitats in the entire country, the vipers are also nice 🙂 Report and photos to follow.

By Matt Wilson

Update from Greece

I have been in Greece for 10 days now, and this has been the most amazing trip. I cannot wait to share photos and videos from this excursion which has easily been my most successful ever, having found many specimens of all the species I wanted to see as well as alot more.  Our first 4 days at Thrace in north-east Greece were fantastic, with observations of over 20 Ottoman vipers (Montivipera xanthina), we also managed to find a wonderful area by stopping randomly at the roadside were we found many vipers together with several Sand boas (Eryx jaculus) and many other snake and lizard species. The only negative side to Thrace was our failed findings of Blotched rat snake (Elaphe sauromates), we found 4 juvenile animals and a large adult that was hit by a jeep driving in front of us and Ilias and I had to act quickly to give the large snake a quick death 😦

Since I forgot my camera card reader, Ilias has loaned me one of his photographs of one of the Ottoman vipers were found from the first part of our trip:

Ottoman viper (Montivipera xanthina), 2nd May 2010, (C) Ilias Strachinis

The last 5 days we have been on Lemnos island, which Ilias knows well, here we had fantastic observations, including many Eastern spadefoot toads (Pelobates syriacus) found active at night. In addition other highlights include some Sand boas, especially a huge 80cm specimen that was very fat indeed after eating a large rat or small rabbit.

At the moment I am in Thessaloniki with Ilias after saying goodbye to Thomas and Bobby at the airport, and in the next week we will visit the Prespa lakes area, and I look forward to sharing photos of the 40 species we have found so far.

For now I will leave you with a short video I made on Lemnos:

By Matt Wilson