Menorca 23rd-31st October 2010
After visiting the Balearic island of Majorca in August, there was a notable species absent from my list, and this was the main reason for a visit to the neighbouring island of Menorca. The Algerian false smooth snake (Macroprotodon cucullatus mauritanicus) proved to be very secretive during the hot summer months, and therefore I decided to give it a second attempt at the end of Autumn. However on this trip I would be joining the Belgian Hyla field team (http://www.hylawerkgroep.be/) which are a highly dedicated group of Herpetologists and throughly enjoyable company. There were a total of 8 of us: Jeroen Speybroeck, Peter Engelen, Jan Van der Voort, Gijs Damen, Anniek Aerden together with Bobby Bok from Holland, Leonard Zammit from Malta and of course myself.
Menorca is an island I have always wanted to visit, and although quite small and with only 13 species of herpetofauna, we thoroughly enjoyed exploring and searching for the snake, which in the end was found with relative ease. In fact a total of 11 Macroprotodon cucullatus were found during our week in Menorca. This was certainly helped by rain prior to our trip, and unlike my trip to Lesbos last October, Menorca was very green and damp after considerable Autumn rain. During our stay we had several days of overcast, windy and rainy weather, but with such a dedicated team we could uncover most species hiding beneath ground cover. With 2-3 days of fairly persistant sunshine we could find quite a few animals out basking or searching for prey. Furthermore the trip was not entirely intensive searching, as with short driving distances and cold weather in the early morning, we sometimes took things a little easier.
I must apologise of the excessive use of flash photography in this report, but as mentioned the weather was often cloudy or raining. For a better report from out trip visit Jeroen’s homepage at: http://www.hylawerkgroep.be/jeroen.
You can also see Bobby’s field report (in Dutch) at: http://www.herpet.mysites.nl/mypages/herpet/504445.html
All photographs (C) Matt Wilson unless otherwise stated.
While the Belgians, Bobby and Leonard arrived in Menorca early sunday morning, it was almost lunch time before my flight from Manchester arrived. During the first few hours of searching the others managed to find some Italian wall lizards (Podarcis siculus), Moorish geckos (Tarentola mauritanica), and a few Hermann’s tortoises (Testudo hermanni). After this the team came to pick me up from the airport in our 8 man vehicle, and immediately we stopped at some nice habitat close to the airport with dry stone walls and a small rubbish tip. Very quickly some snakes were found, Gijs found a Ladder snake (Rhinechis scalaris) and a juvenile Algerian false smooth snake (Macroprotodon cucullatus), while Peter uncovered a large adult of the latter. I spotted a few Italian wall lizards, Moorish gecko and Hermann’s tortoise, but the snakes were without doubt the stars of the afternoon. After lengthly photography of the ‘easily’ found snakes, we drove to the resort of Son Bou that has a large wetland and sand dune area. We spotted many Stripeless tree frogs (Hyla meridionalis) sitting between the bramble bushes and high reeds. After some further searching we went for some dinner before going to our hotel in the resort of Cala Galdana on the south-west coast. After dark, myself Bobby and Jeroen did some nocturnal wanderings, with beer can in one hand and a torch in the other. Close to a river and small wetland we crossed paths with numerous Stripeless tree frogs and Moorish geckos but sadly no Green toads (Bufo viridis balearicus).
With wind and light rain in the morning, our proposed search for the Moroccan rock lizard (Scelaris perspicillata) didn’t look like it would be successful. However we visited a known site close to the town of Ciutadella. Wandering around in the rain we had no chance of spotting basking lizards, however like the day before, two Algerian false smooth snakes we found beneath stones. After this we searched a quarry where again under stones and some other debris we found three Moroccan rock lizards and a nice Green toad (Bufo viridis balearicus). After this success and some dinner we visited a small stream surrounded by cultivated land. It was still raining, but I managed to find our first Viperine snake (Natrix maura). We then left this area, but on our subsequent visits to this place it would turn out to be the most diverse area we found on Menorca for herpetofauna. After dark in Cala Galdana again we encountered some tree frogs.
Again with cloudy weather we visited a natural ‘torrent’ and an impressive cave in the morning. Hiking to the cave, we passed a known islet for Lilfords wall lizard (Podarcis lilfordi) and then Leonard found another False smooth snake (Macroprotodon cucullatus). At the cave we enjoyed photographing a couple of bats that were sleeping. In the afternoon we returned to the place we stopped the previous day. Lifting more stones I found another Viperine snake and some Stripeless tree frogs.
We awoke to nice sunny weather, so we decided to visit a top spot known by Bobby for European pond terrapin (Emys orbicularis). The site consists of sand dunes, pine forest and a nice stream that leads to the beach. Walking to the beach front we spotted a few basking Italian wall lizards and Moorish geckos but upon reaching the river surprisingly not a single terrapin was present. While the others searched along the river for terrapins, myself and Bobby went to explore the nearby pine forest where many Hermanns tortoises where known to be found. We searched here for around half an hour without a single tortoise, then Bobby spotted the tail of a snake disappear into a bush, I then ran over and grabbed the fleeing snake which turned out to be a large, and very bad tempered Ladder snake (Rhinechis scalaris). After photographing the snake and catching up with the others we were informed they had only been able to spot the introduced American red-eared slider (Trachemys scripta). In the afternoon we stopped at Ciutadella and found several basking rock lizards together with Moorish gecko and Italian wall lizard. After a nice pizza we went back to the place we visited on day 2 with the stream. I wandered off on my own and found a dying juvenile Ladder snake on a path that had just been run over. The others however managed to finally spot a Pond terrapin, and also found a larger Viperine snake, and a big false smooth snake of 60cm.
The large part of this day was wasted trying to find someone to take us to either Isla del Aire or Isla del Rey to see the Lilfords wall lizard (Podarcis lilfordi). Chasing fictional fishermen through the villages, even chasing up their family to help us get to the islands resulted in nothing. We searched some cultivated land in the afternoon and found Hermanns tortoises and Italian wall lizard. In the early evening we finally managed to find someone to take us to an islet of the north coast the next day. Before sunset we hopped onto a boat with Martin to an islet only about 6 metres from the shore for a quick search. Expecting Italian wall lizards here we were pleased to find some Lilfords wall lizards (Podarcis lilfordi) instead.
We drove back to meet our friendly local friend Martin who would take us in his boat to the Isla Addaia Grande, where the subspecies Podarcis lilfordi addaiae lives together with a subspecies of Turkish gecko (Hemidactylus turcicus spinalis). Reaching the island and climbing to reach the flatter areas we were surprised how timid these lizards were in comparison with some of the those we had seen in Majorca. However with some patience we were able to photograph them, and find three Turkish geckos under some stones. After this Martin took us for a boat ride around the bay and then we again tried to find some European pond terrapins at a nice sand dune system. Here I failed to catch a large Viperine snake that slithered away, whereas the other spotted some terrapins and Leonard found a nice False smooth snake. While myself and Bobby photographed this snake the others found another two false smooth snakes searching near where we had parked the car. In the late evening we went back to our favorite stream, where I found a recently killed Pond terrapin on the road, together with many tree frogs that were calling all around us. As nightfall approached we all went back to the car, except Peter who managed to find a viperine snake, a false smooth snake, and in the cracks of a dry stone wall, two Ladder snakes! After some photography of the nice ladder snakes we found a recently killed Barn owl closeby that appeared to have been shot by some senseless person.
In the morning, after a very late night of drinking in Ciutadella, we drove Leonard to the airport for his flight to Barcelona and then on to Malta. After saying bye to Lenny we stopped at a lighthouse where we found some Moroccan rock lizards and Moorish gecko. Afterwards we visited another torrent, where Jan caught another Ladder snake that crossed the walkers path, and Peter found our final and a baby False smooth snake. The next morning in hurricane-style weather we drove to the airport and I thanked everyone for a fantastic trip and promised I will be tagging along again in the future!
Once again I would like to thank everyone for a fantastic and memorable trip which turned out to deliver much more than we had expected, especially with regards to the numbers of snakes we found. Our only real ”failures” if you could even call it that we to photograph the shy pond terrapins (Emys orbicularis), and we only managed to find a single Green toad (Bufo viridis balearicus) despite nocturnal searches.