As in 2011 and 2012 I was invited back to Corfu by the Durrell School of Corfu to lead aspects of herpetology for Gerald Durrell’s Corfu 2013. However, this year I decided to stay on the island for a little longer once the field course had finished. In the company of Swedish ex-pats Bosse and Marie Stille (Bosse being a crazy herper like me and Marie a Botanist) we decided to spend several days on the island of Paxos, just south of Corfu. Indy, a young male husky also joined us for the majority of our time in the field. Many thanks to Bo and Marie for allowing me to stay with them at their home.
In total, I spent 14 days exploring Corfu, 7 of these for the Durrell School in the company of Dr David Shimwell, Dr Lee Durrell, Colin Stevenson, David Bellamy, Rosemary Bellamy and Alex and Dave Ashcroft. This allowed me to learn many aspects of other areas of flora, fauna and culture of the island that I am less accustomed to, and in turn I could introduce them to many of my favourite reptiles and amphibians during our explorations.
Although I was able to find many species whilst conducting the guided walks on Corfu I had a number of nice finds searching in the evenings by myself or after Gerald Durrell week, when Bosse and I explored the island.
After one of the wettest winters on record the vegetation all over the island was very high indeed, often over at least a metre high. This was great for the flora and the insects but spotting and then catching reptiles, especially snakes became very difficult. At times we became frustrated chasing snakes in the tall vegetation and not being able to even see let alone catch them. This resulted in a rather small ratio of caught snakes compared to the number we saw (usually 5-10 a day). Nevertheless we found and photographed the majority of species found on Corfu. We were especially pleased with finding an Aesculapian snake (Zamenis longissimus) a rare species on Corfu which I managed to snatch from the road on the last day before it was run over. Another highlight was finding five Nose-horned vipers (Vipera ammodytes), mostly out crawling at night. We saw some species in high numbers, for example over 40 Grass snakes (Natrix natrix persa) and over 30 Balkan whip snakes (Hierophis gemonensis). Although we didn’t count, we easily saw over 50 Glass lizards (Pseudopus apodus) which were more common than any of the snakes (excluding Natrix natrix around fresh water). Unfortunately road-killed snakes were a very common sight, often over 10 per day, some days over 20. But we did manage to save a couple.
All photos (C) Matt Wilson
We spent 3 nights on the small island of Paxos and was forced to spend a fourth night on the island after weather conditions were not suitable for our boat ride back to Corfu. Taking only twenty five minutes to drive from corner to corner we did not expect to find many species living here. Indeed we were correct but based on a small amount of literature we had some surprise findings. Like Corfu the island has a dense covering of olive groves whereas along the coast small areas of maquis still persist. Paxos seems to have a number of differences to Corfu geologically, and is generally a more rocky island. There are no natural fresh water sources on Paxos.
We found 5 species of reptile and no amphibians on the island during our stay. Two of these would appear to be new records. Dalmation algyroides (Algyroides nigropunctatus) was found everywhere, but never in large numbers and was the only lacertid present. An old record of Green lizard (Lacerta viridis) seems highly unlikely to us, as does a record for Starred agama (Laudakia stellio). To our surprise we found a number of Kotschyi’s geckos (Mediodactylus kotschyi) under stones. This species is not found on Corfu. We also found a couple of Turkish geckos (Hemidactylus turcicus). As for the snakes, 14 Balkan whip snakes (Hierophis gemonensis), half DOR, would indicate that this is a very common snake on Paxos. Twice we even encountered individuals being killed by feral cats, which are an even bigger problem on Paxos than on Corfu. The first species we saw on the island was a 120cm Aesculapian snake (Zamenis longissimus) crossing the road. Over the next few days we realized that they grow large on Paxos. We caught a female of 175cm and found a very fresh DOR male of 185cm. A further 120cm specimen was also found as a roadkill which would indicate the species is at least quite common on the island.
1. Green toad (Bufo viridis) C
2. Common toad (Bufo bufo) C
3. Common tree frog (Hyla arborea) C
4/5. Epirus water frog/Marsh frog (Pelophylax epeirotica/ridibundus) C
6. Smooth newt (Lissotriton vulgaris graeca) C
7. European pond terrapin (Emys orbicularis) C
8. Balkan terrapin (Mauremys rivulata) C
9. Hermann’s tortoise (Testudo hermanni) C
10. Balkan wall lizard (Podarcis tauricus) C
11. Dalmation algyroides (Algyroides nigropunctatus) C P
12. Balkan green lizard (Lacerta trilineata) C
13. Turkish gecko (Hemidactylus turcicus) C P
14. Kotschyi’s gecko (Mediodactylus kotschyi) P
15. Snake-eyed skink (Ablepharus kitaibelli) C
16. Greek slow worm (Anguis graeca) C
17. Glass lizard (Pseudopus apodus) C
18. Balkan whip snake (Hierophis gemonensis) C P 25+ seen (half DOR)
19. Dahl’s whip snake (Platyceps najadum) C 8 seen (half DOR)
20. Caspian whip snake (Dolichophis caspius) C 1 DOR plus several possible sightings
21. Montpellier snake (Malpolon insignitus) C, over 30 (half DOR)
22. Grass snake (Natrix natrix) C, over 40 (some DOR)
23. Dice snake (Natrix tessellata) C, 4 seen, none caught
24. Four-lined snake (Elaphe quatuorlineata) C, 5 adults (+1 DOR)
25. Leopard snake (Zamenis situla) C, 1 DOR and 1 slough
26. Aesculapian snake (Zamenis longissimus) C P, 6 adults (3 DOR)
27. Nose-horned viper (Vipera ammodytes) C, 6 specimens (1 DOR)
28. Worm snake (Typhlops vermicularis) C, 5 specimens