I spent 12 days travelling long distances across mainland Greece with Ilias Strachinis surveying mountains for herpetofauna and taking DNA samples from some species. This on occasions required long hikes and searches in some areas with few animals encountered but at a number of sites interesting wildlife was encountered, especially amphibians and reptiles. The undisputed highlight of the trip was a gravid female Greek meadow viper (Vipera ursinii graeca) which was found at one such mountain location. Whereas at another mountain in northern Greece we observed a female Bosnian adder (Vipera berus bosniensis). Finding these two species in Greece is very hard work indeed, often owing to the isolated populations at high altitudes, often without any accessible route for vehicles. With this in mind I was very happy to see one individual of each species.
On occasions we explored areas lower down and even at sea level, we had a number of “snake calls” from Thessaloniki, Ilias’s home town and we rescued several Caspian whip snakes (Dolichophis caspius) and a Grass snake (Natrix natrix) within a few days. Back in the mountains and some other “summer surprises” turned up. Such as an adult Fire salamander (Salamandra salamandra), impossible to find active in this season but we were fortunate to find one trapped inside a cistern and we were able to free it. Sadly, a Southern crested newt (Triturus karelinii) could not be removed from the water despite considerable efforts. At one highland locality I was able to see good numbers of Balkan stream frog (Rana graeca), a very nice species with an interesting ecology.
Species observed with some notes:
Salamandra salamandra (one adult, many larvae at several localities), Ichthyosaura alpestris (Several adults seen in deep ponds together with larvae), Triturus karelinii (one adult), Pelophylax ridibundus and epeiroticus (common at several lowland sites), Rana graeca (many adults at an alpine locality), Bombina variegata (common at most altitudes), Bufo bufo (one rescued from a cistern), Testudo hermanni (common, several saved from busy roads), Testudo graeca (common), Ablepharus kitaibelli (a few seen), Lacerta viridis (common at most mountain localities), Lacerta trilineata (common in lowland localities), Podarcis erhardii (common), Podarcis muralis (common), Podarcis tauricus (common), Algyroides nigropunctatus (common in areas of southern mainland), Natrix natrix (one rescued from a garden), Natrix tessellata (one adult seen), Dolichophis caspius (several seen, two rescued from the city, several DOR including a large adult being predated by a Short-toed eagle), Hierophis gemonenis (one seen), Elaphe quatuorlineata (one large adult seen basking one morning but could not be caught), Coronella austriaca (one slough), Zamenis longissimus (one adult DOR), Vipera berus bosniensis (one female), Vipera ursinii graeca (one female).
All photos (C) Matt Wilson, so if you want to use them, just ask. Don’t nick them!