Slovakia 29th May-5th June
I visited my girlfriends home country of Slovakia for the first time from 29th May-5th June. Of course I had already been well informed of the great wildlife in this small, yet mostly untouched country. Slovakia is well known for its important populations of large mammals, namely bears, wolves and Lynx, impressive scenery and it also has some nice amphibians and reptiles.
Although this was not a herping trip I managed to get out to some nice areas surrounding our base of Banska Bystrica. In fact, I could find nice species in the hills and fields surrounding the family home and I was impressed by the casual sightings I had of species which would be considered extremely rare in the UK, especially birds of prey and mammals.
As this was more of a holiday than a wildlife trip I won’t mention a day by day account but rather break up into the species I saw while in Slovakia. Many thanks to Salmo Trutta and Filip Gogo Sníder for some hints and info about the herps in this area of the country.
I knew that the area surrounding the family home was good for Fire salamanders (Salamamdra salamandra) and this turned out to be true. I wasn’t able to wander off at night on this trip because of family outings etc but thankfully I didn’t really need to. After some showers I went for a wander with Kat’s dad and we quickly found a salamander as well as some squashed by cars. The agile frog (Rana dalmatina) was also a common inhabitant of the densely forested areas together with the omnipresent common toad (Bufo bufo). In puddles at the edges of the forest yellow bellied toads (Bombina variegata) were also abundant. Common tree frogs (Hyla arborea) could also be heard calling but as I didn’t do any night searches I didn’t find any.
Upon my arrival I was pleased to see several Sand lizards (Lacerta agilis) sunning themselves on the edges of the family garden. These lizards were usually encountered together with Green lizards (Lacerta viridis) on the edges of forested areas and around agricultural land. The common wall lizard (Podarcis muralis) was also seen occasionally, oddly I never managed a photo of one. At the previously mentioned salamander spot I also came across several dead slow worms (Anguis fragilis), weird considered the quiet country lane.
Within a short time of my arrival I found my first snake in Slovakia: a juvenile Aesculapian snake (Zamenis longissimus) under a piece of plastic at the bottom of the garden. Despite checking this plastic daily it didn’t produce anything else. At the edge of a nearby cultivated field I found a further two adult Aesculapian snakes, one which escaped into the long grass and a second I was able to catch for some photos. At a rather polluted lake I saw an incredible amount of Dice snakes (Natrix tessellata), I must have seen around 50 just wandering around the lake edges. Half swimming the others either basking or slithering into the water. One was seen stealing a fish from a fisherman’s line! At a nice montane lake shown to me by Kat’s dad I saw 5 grass snakes (Natrix natrix), here slightly different to the British helvetica subspecies. We also saw more grass and dice snakes near the family home, some under rocks and a few pancaked on the country roads.