Unfortunately the last month I have been very busy with exams so I have not been able to visit some of my local sites for amphibians and reptiles. But in early April I visited a local area of exposed moorland which is home to a population of Viviparous Lizards (Zootoca vivipara). As the site is so exposed, you really need a calm and clear day to be able to find them basking in the heather. On this particular afternoon there was no wind at all and not a cloud in the sky, therefore I was able to find a couple of basking males in about an hour of searching. One of which after alot of patience I was able to approach face to face with my macro lens. The only other species I have found at this site are Common Frogs (Rana temporaria) which seem to breed in the temporary rain pools that form on the moorland. Hopefully after my finals I will be able to do some more visits and find some females, here are some macro shots from that afternoon:
And the habitat:
An amplexus pair of Common Frogs (Rana temporaria) also found out on the moors:
For the first time in a couple of years I collected some eggs of the Common Frog (Rana temporaria) in my local area in order to release them back to the pond as fully developped frogs. Although a common species in my local areas as throughout the UK I still try to do my part for amphibian conservation even at home :-). They seem to be progressing well, and already some have developped back legs in a relatively short amount of time, as you can see from the following photo.
At 6 weeks:
At 3 weeks, feeding on fish food:
At 1 week:
After first collected:
I thought I would upload some more photos from my Crete trip last week, this time including a couple of landscape shots to give abit of an idea of some of the areas we explored. Have a good weekend.
A rocky hillside with a number of old stone walls where I found Balkan Green Lizards (Lacerta trilineata) and Balkan Whip Snake (Hierophis gemonensis). Further down the hillside in cultivated areas we also found Occellated Skinks (Chalcides occellatus), Green Toads (Bufo viridis), Cretan Frogs (Rana cretensis), Leopard Snakes (Zamenis situla) and Dice Snakes (Natrix tessellata).
The Lassithi plateau, this fertile valley has plenty supplies of freshwater so here we found many breeding sites for Green Toads (Bufo viridis) and some Common Tree Frogs (Hyla arborea).
This fresh water inland lake was a great spot where we found some of the frog and lizard species we wanted.
A female Balkan Green Lizard (Lacerta trilineata) that belongs to the Cretan subspecies polylepidota.
A big female Dice Snake (Natrix tessellata) of 120cm, the open mouth of this specimen is not a sign of aggression but it is in fact the first stage of its feigning death display
This Green Toad (Bufo viridis) was photographed as found when it was uncovered beneath a stone
This Leopard Snake (Zamenis situla) was found hiding beneath a flat stone at the side of a dirt track passing through cultivated land.
The Balkan Whip Snake (Hierophis gemonensis) is the most common snake found on Crete, as well as being a common species throughout most of western Greece and many other islands.
Here is a photo of myself and Kevin Byrnes after capturing a very fiesty Balkan Whip Snake (Hierophis gemonensis) in a beautiful olive- grove habitat last week on Crete. We managed to capture a further two of these shy snakes during our great trip. Thanks to Suzanne for the pic:
Just got back from my trip to Crete with Kevin Byrnes and his girlfriend, and fellow herp enthusiast Suzanne. What a great trip it was, despite mixed weather, including hail storms we found pretty much everything we wanted. After a first couple of days with rain and wind which were spent in pursuit of amphibians, we were lucky to have two whole days of sunny weather which allowed us to find lots of reptiles. As well as seeing some nice endemic species, we were able to find two beautiful Leopard snakes (Zamenis situla) on our final day at a great spot we discovered, both hiding under stones. The most beautiful specimen was a first snake find for Suzanne, and what a lucky first find! Furthermore I was happy to meet John Mclaren at the Crete aquarium in Heronissos who is doing wonders to educate foreigners and locals alike with regard to the reptiles (especially snakes) found on Crete. You can see his website at: www.aquaworld-crete.com. John informed me how he has to be very careful with regard to some foreigners who visit and claim to want to see snakes, but in fact the Leopard snake is a grand prize for terrarium keepers, and many specimens are taken each year from Crete and elsewhere in Greece. These people are not real Herpetologists, no one who loved these animals would ever take them from their habitat, put them in a suit case and then sell the in the UK, Germany or any other country. I really hope these people get what is coming to them when they arrive at the airport. But I am happy to say, the nice areas we discovered will never be reached by such people. Here are a couple of photos from the trip:
I have recently recieved word that an area where I have some good memories has been turned into a quarry near to the city of Cartagena in Murcia, Spain. In March last year, in this small hillside area I caught a wonderful male Montpellier snake (Malpolon monspessulanus) of 180cm, the biggest I had caught to date. At the time there were signs of development but I did not feel it would be an immediate threat to the entire area, it seems I was wrong. Most snakes have an ability to survive in areas which have been developped radically, so hopefully the snakes and other wildlife present in the area have moved away from their regular territories due to the disturbance to the steeper parts of the hillside where further development is not possible. Here is a photo of the specimen just after I found it:
Last year, I was in the barren southern province of Murcia, which due to lack of annual rainfall and being one of the driest regions in the whole of Spain was loosing some of its amphibian reproductive sites. With a rare day of heavy rain in May 2008, I and local biologist Vicente Hernandez- Gil discovered a wonderful small pond which not all contained Natterjack Toads (Bufo calamita) but also Parsley Frogs (Pelodytes punctatus) and Western Spadefoot Toads (Pelobates cultripes)! Parsley Frogs are unknown from the drier parts of the province and were only thought to be distributed in the north-western regions. After my return to the UK, Vicente informed me that in September after some further rain the pond was alive with amphibian choruses, and this year he has found a further two amphibian species at the site, which is really great news in a province so straved of any freshwater. To see a short video of the Parsley Frogs see an uploaded video of Vicentes: http://herpetosmurcia.blogspot.com/2008/09/pelodytes-criando-en-charca-temporal.html
In 2006 I visited the Dodecanese island of Kos, here I found a number of Black Whip Snakes (Dolichophis jugularis), but to my surprise I also found some Large Whip Snake (Dolichophis caspius) including a real giant of 220cm! Both are large (over 200cm) diurnal snakes, that feed on large rodents and usually inhabit cultivated areas. These big whip snakes cause alot of confusion for Biologists as in the past animals found on islands such as Rhodos and Kalynmos were mistaken for a caspius when in reality they were female jugularis which had not developped the black colouration of the jugularis species. Both species have not however been found on an island together, until now! After I was able to discover both of them on Kos, it turns out a month earlier some Dutch Herpetologists led by Jaco Bruekers had also discovered populations of both species on this island. As a result after some collaboration they are publishing our interesting new findings, its nice to know that there are still many things to be learnt with regard to reptile distribution in general in Europe.
This time last year I was living in Spain seeing all kinds of reptile and amphibian species. This year, back at home in the North- West there are still a few herps to be found. Some recent nice weather allowed me, mostly in the company of my girlfriend, to photograph some emerging species close to home, such as Common Toads (Bufo bufo), Common Frogs (Rana temporaria), Smooth Newts (Triturus vulgaris), Viviparous Lizards (Zootoca vivipara) and Adders (Vipera berus). There may not be alot in the UK, but they still provide a nice distraction from uni exams 🙂 Getting out to my local sites in early spring is always a nice warm up for me before my trips abroad which usually start in April. But also this time, as I was not here last year, means that I can see how my local populations are doing in comparison to the last time I visited them in spring 2007.
Welcome to my blog, as a first posting I thought I would tell you of my final trip of 2008, which was on the Dodecanese island of Symi, Greece. I last visited this tiny, barren island in April 2007, where I lived on a rural farm with my South African friends Nicholas and Adriana Shum. It was really a great experience having an accommodation in an olive- grove which was alive with wildlife, especially reptiles and insects. I again stayed on the farm except this time I was there in August, with day temperatures of 40C! So unlike my previous trip, it was really hard going looking for herps during the day. Unlike my April trip when I was able to find some big Ottoman Vipers (Montivipera xanthina) and an even bigger and more beautiful Coin- Marked Snake (Hemorrhois nummifer) this time around no vipers could be found at all, however a further two big coin snakes were found active just before nightfall to avoid the unbearable heat. My main target for this trip was the Cat Snake (Telescopus fallax) a secretive, nocturnal species that is not often seen. I went out every night with my torch searching endlessly, in rocky terrain with old stone walls and disused buildings. On the last day of the trip whilst walking to the port at 6am, I saw an elderly Greek woman hitting a snake with her stick, it was a Cat Snake! The animal I had been searching for! I ran over and put a stop to her antics but sadly the little snake was already dead L a nicely patterned animal at around 60cm. I was very frustrated by this as I didn’t get my photographs of a living specimen, but I’ll be back for sure, as Symi is such a beautiful gem of an island, untouched by tourism. On the plus side I found a rare Golden Skink (Trachylepis auratus), which I could not find during my last trip and also a nice little Black Whip snake (Dolichophis jugularis) I found near my cabin. Last time around one of these snakes actually came into my room, in search of some shade from the blistering heat.