15th June- 12th July
Over the past month I have been in the Cyclades islands, Greece, spending time on Ios, Sikinos, Milos and Santorini. The trip was a combination of herping and spending time with friends and can be divided into several chapters:
Part 1: 15th- 20th June, Ios and Sikinos with Carl Corbidge searching for reptiles for a couple of hours per day
Part 2: 21st-27th June, Milos with Carl and Liam Russell mostly searching for reptiles apart from during the hottest hours
Part 3: 27th June-5th July, Ios with my friends from home with only one morning of herping
Part 4: 6th-12th July, Santorini with Kat and Stephen Roussos, with some time for herping.
We succeeded in finding every species of reptile and amphibian recorded on each island which was pleasing considering the very hot, summer weather conditions and the drought on the islands since the early spring. This produced a species list of 16 species (2 amphibians, 6 lizards (of various island subspecies) 1 turtle and 7 snakes (of several subspecies). Generally speaking the most intensive herping was done with Carl and Liam earlier in the trip but because of the hot weather we only searched for a couple of hours per day and spent the rest of the time at the beach or going for an occasional drink. I was especially interested in the island forms of some species, such as the dwarf varieties of Nose-horned viper (Vipera ammodytes meridionalis) and Four-lined snake (Elaphe quatuorlineata muenteri). We discovered on the first day that the latter is not a dwarf form at all on these small, barren islands although the vipers clearly are. Although I had previously visited Milos we went back there and found all species on the island, I was especially pleased to see several Milos grass snakes (Natrix natrix schweizeri) which is a critically endangered subspecies. I was less than impressed by the damage done by people searching for snakes before us, at one sensitive site literally every rock had been turned at not replaced as can be seen in the photos. Idiots…
IOS: (two visits, 15th-19th June, 27th June-5th July)Myself and Carl flew from Manchester to Santorini via Athens and after nearly missing our connecting flight we made it to the harbour in time for an early boat to Ios. After arriving on the island we soon realised how dry and hot it was. Not surprisingly the first species seen were found commonly throughout the trip; Erhard’s wall lizard (Podarcis erhardii) here the subspecies naxensis together with Mediodactylus kotchyi. Over the next few days we explored the island by car and found some other reptile species here such as Turkish gecko (Hemidactylus turcicus), only two specimens of the rare Balkan green lizard (Lacerta trilineata citrovittata), two Four-lined snakes (Elaphe quatuorlineata subspecies muenteri), 6 Sand boas (Eryx jaculus) and at one single locality some individuals of the island’s very rare Water frog (Pelophylax sp). Ios is a very nice island and I spent some additional time there in July with some non-herping friends when I went out one morning for a walk and caught another four-lined snake. These ratsnakes seem to live close to more vegetated valleys on these small, barren islands where in winter there is likely some pools of fresh water. We were unable to find any Nose-horned vipers (Vipera ammodytes) on this island despite them being recorded several times in the past.
We spent one night on the neighbouring island of Sikinos after a short boat ride from Ios. Here we experienced the hottest weather of the trip with no breeze at all. Searching the barren hillsides we again found plenty of Erhard’s wall lizards (Podarcis erhardi), Kotschy’s geckos (Mediodactylus kotschyi) and Turkish geckos (Hemidactylus turcicus). We were also able to find a male Nose-horned viper (Vipera ammodytes meridionalis) which had considerable differences from those on the mainland, such as a slender body, longer nose horn and smaller size in general. We also observed good numbers of Eleanora’s falcons (Falco eleonorae).
Liam Russell joined us for this part of the trip to form a three man herping team to the island of Milos. I’d been there before but for Carl and Liam it was the first time searching for the island’s endemic species. With hot, hot hot weather we spent most of the afternoons at the beach during our 6 days/nights on this large and beautiful island. Despite this we found every species recorded on Milos. Milos wall lizards (Podarcis milensis) were shy as usual but thankfully I knew a spot from last time were they were a little more used to people. Kotschys gecko (Mediodactylus kotschyi) were again common together with Turkish gecko (Hemidactylus turcicus). My “top spot” for Milos green lizard (Lacerta trilineata hansschweizeri) was an epic fail this time around with only one individual seen there and of the dozen or so seen during the trip I never managed a half decent photo of one compared to my last visit. We found the debated Milos frog (Pelophylax sp) at only two localities compared to 6 during my last visit, one of those previously visited had been completed filled in with cement and stone. Other species were seen in the form of one individual each: Snake-eyed skink (Ablepharus kitaibelli) up at sunrise one morning, a Balkan terrapin (Mauremys rivulata) that I had to rescue from a underground water cistern, Leopard snake (Zamenis situla) and a nocturnal crawling Cat snake (Telescopus fallax). We were pleased to see at least 4-5 different individuals of Milos grass snake (Natrix natrix schweizeri) but they were all swimming in their pond and I never managed a decent photo. Of course the main attraction is the Milos viper (Macrovipera schweizeri) and we found one sub-adult female and a large adult male. We had a great time despite the hot weather and limited searching opportunities but again others who visited the island before had to ruin it a little with their lack of consideration for the fragile viper habitat and their relentless stone turning, as you can see from my photos taken with my iphone.
It was time to say goodbye to Carl and Liam while I stayed on Ios and then Santorini for a further 2 weeks. Carl didn’t take a direct flight home but decided to fly with a new airline once he arrived closer to home as seen in the video below:
I went to the touristy island of Santorini on 5th July for one week with Kat. I mostly spent time doing touristy things, seeing the sunset at Oia, visiting Fira and staying at the beach. I was able to briefly meet up with Herpetologist Stephen Roussos and we went herping two evenings together. With only 5 species officially recorded on this volcanic island I wasn’t expecting much from herping but in the end had some nice finds. Erhards wall lizard (Podarcis erhardi myconensis) was again very common, as were the two gecko species. I also managed to find a couple of Cretan cat snakes (Telescopus fallax pallidus) as well as 25 sloughed skins, indicating that it is a common species on Santorini.
Ios water frog (Pelophylax sp)
Milos water frog (Pelophylax sp)
Kotschys gecko (Mediodactylus kotschyi)
Turkish gecko (Hemidactylus turcicus)
Erhards wall lizard (Podarcis erhardi ssp)
Milos wall lizard (Podarcis milensis)
Balkan green lizard (Lacerta trilineata ssp hannschweizeri and citrovittata)
Snake-eyed skink (Ablepharus kitaibelli)
Balkan terrapin (Mauremys rivulata)
Sand boa (Eryx jaculus)
Milos grass snake (Natrix natrix schweizeri)
Leopard snake (Zamenis situla)
Four-lined snake (Elaphe quatuorlineata muenteri)
Cat snake (Telescopus fallax ssp fallax and pallidus)
Nose-horned viper (Vipera ammodytes meridionalis)
Milos viper (Macrovipera schweizeri)