Herpetofauna of Europe : s italy & sicily (march-april 2005)
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Herpetological trip to southern Italy and Sicily
26 March - 10 April 2005

All pictures (c) of Jeroen Speybroeck.

Rather early in the year, we went for a herping trip mainly focusing on some endemic Italian amphibian species. Probably due to the late winter conditions preceeding our trip, but also the general weather in that time of the year, the somewhat smaller team and the lower abundance of some interesting species, this trip did not deliver the same coverage of species like e.g. the northern Greece trip last year. The group consisted of Jan, Peter, Anniek, Gerd, Johan, Elfriede, Gijs and myself. 27 species of amphibians (15) and reptiles (12) were observed. Main areas covered can roughly be summarised as (in a chronological order) the Pollino National Park, several sites in northern Sicily, the forest near Serra San Bruno (Calabria) and some sites in the wider surroundings of Rome. Of the species present, we observed all but one of the amphibians (Italian Yellow-bellied Toad (Bombina pachypus)), no tortoises or terrapins, all lizards and only the two most common snake species. Especially southern Asp Viper (Vipera aspis hugyi), Italian Aesculapian Snake (Zamenis lineatus) and Italian Yellow-bellied Toad will be the goals of a future visit. This report is surely incomplete, as I have listed only the observations that I could write down in time, but it should give a good idea of what we saw where and a complete species list is added at the end of this page.
Apart from the group of which I was a part, I would like to thank some people who shared their knowledge on where to find some or several species: Paolo Mazzei, Marco Bologna and his student Federico, Fabrizio Li Vigni and Fulvio, Johan De Smedt, Sergé Bogaerts and Frank Pasmans.


overview of prospected sites

26 March - from Belgium to PN Pollino

We flew from Charleroi (Brussels South - Belgium) to Rome (Italy). First herp was Italian Wall Lizard (Podarcis siculus) at Ciampino airport. This species was present nearly everywhere during the remainder of our trip. We checked in to our hotel in Chiaromonte and went for some first exploration of the Bosco Magnano. We found several species like Italian Wall Lizard, Italian Stream Frog (Rana italica), Slow Worm (Anguis fragilis), Southern Spectacled Salamander (Salamandrina terdigitata), Agile Frog (Rana dalmatina), Grass Snake (Natrix natrix sicula) and Italian Newt (Lissotriton italicus).

27 & 28 March - PN Pollino

Further excursions within the Pollino area added Western Green Lizard (Lacerta bilineata), Common Wall Lizard (Podarcis muralis breviceps), Italian Crested Newt (Triturus carnifex), Common Toad (Bufo bufo) and Edible Frog (Pelophylax kl. esculentus) to our observations.


Torrente Peschiera (Bosco Magnano)

Grass Snake (Natrix natrix sicula)

newt photography ... (Jan and Gerd)

couple of Italian Newts (Lissotriton italicus)

forest pond with Triturus carnifex, Lissotriton italicus, Rana dalmatina, Natrix natrix

a remarkable Italian Stream Frog (Rana italica)

portrait of a male Italian Crested Newt (Triturus carnifex)

Common Wall Lizard (Podarcis muralis breviceps) - we found it as low as at 714 m absl

Southern Spectacled salamander (Salamandrina terdigitata)

same

same – ventral view

scenery near Chiaromonte

29 March – transit to Sicily

We drove to the south and took the ferry to Sicily. We explored the Naso river east of Capo d'Orlando. Both Edible Frog and Pool Frog (Pelophylax lessonae bergeri) were found here, besides Moorish Gecko (Tarentola mauritanica), Western Whip Snake (Hierophis viridiflavus) and also 6 adults and eggs of Painted Frog (Discoglossus pictus).


Naso river - with Gijs taking pictures of Painted Frog (Discoglossus pictus)

Painted Frog (Discoglossus pictus)

eggs of Discoglossus pictus

Western Whip Snake (Hierophis viridiflavus) - Sicilian and S-Italian animals are black

Moorish Gecko (Tarentola mauritanica)

30 March – again Naso river + Vulcano island

Before we took the boat to the Aeolian island of Vulcano, we went back to the Naso river and found Ocellated Skink (Chalcides ocellatus). On Vulcano, we focused on the northern peninsula Vulcanello. We found Moorish Gecko, a skin of Western Whip Snake and maybe Aeolian Wall Lizard (Podarcis raffonei), the latter being however clearly outnumbered by the also present, abundant Italian Wall Lizard. Identifying both wall lizard species and possible hybrids proved to be a tough job. I saw (but couldn't photograph) at least one animal with a heavily marked throat. At night, we went back to the Naso river. We were hoping to hear some tree frogs but it was too cold. We did, however, find a huge female Common Toad of 18 centimetres!


Ocellated Skink (Chalcides ocellatus)

habitat of the overran Aeolian Wall Lizard (Podarcis raffonei)

possibly Aeolian Wall Lizard (Podarcis raffonei)

the huge (18 cm !) female of Common Toad (Bufo bufo spinosus)

31 March & 1 April – NW Sicily

We met with Fabrizio Li Vigni and his friend Fulvio near Palermo and explored the Monte Pellegrino. We found Green Toad (Bufo viridis), striped Painted Frogs, Ocellated Skink and Sicilian Wall Lizard (Podarcis waglerianus). On the grassy banks of the artificial lake at Piana degli Albanesi, we found Western Whip Snake, Sicilian Wall Lizard, Italian Wall Lizard and some Italian Three-toed Skink (Chalcides chalcides). Near Gallitello, we explored two ponds and found also both Water Frog taxa, Western Green Lizard, Grass Snake (ssp. sicula), larvae of Painted Frog, Western Whip Snake, Green Toad, Turkish Gecko (Hemidactylus turcicus) and Italian Tree Frog (Hyla intermedia). At "lo Zingaro", we spent too little time but still found both wall lizards, Moorish Gecko and Ocellated Skink.


Monte Pellegrino pond with Green Toad (Bufo viridis) and Painted Frog (Discoglossus pictus)

striped individual of Painted Frog (Discoglossus pictus)

portrait of a male Sicilian Wall Lizard (Podarcis waglerianus)

basking Sicilian Wall Lizard (Podarcis waglerianus)

ventral view of breeding male of Sicilian Wall Lizard (Podarcis waglerianus)

habitat of Sicilian Wall Lizard (Podarcis waglerianus), Green Toad (Bufo viridis) and Ocellated Skink (Chalcides ocellatus) on Monte Pellegrino

Piana degli Albanesi - habitat of Italian Three-toed Skink (Chalcides chalcides)

Italian Three-toed Skink (Chalcides chalcides)

Sicilian Grass Snake (Natrix natrix sicula)

Italian Tree Frog (Hyla intermedia)

Gijs and Peter immortalising the same animal

2 & 3 April – Serra San Bruno

After some rather unsuccesful snake hunts, we left Sicily and drove to Serra San Bruno. Here, we searched at a known site for the southern variant of the Asp Viper (Vipera aspis hugyi) without any luck, but in the beautiful woods we found Fire Salamander (Salamandra salamandra gigliolii). Our second shot at Italian Yellow-bellied Toad (Bombina pachypus) was as unsuccesful like the ones following afterwards.


Fire Salamander (Salamandra salamandra gigliolii)

4 April – alpestris lakes

On our way north and back for a second stay at PN Pollino, we stopped at the lakes Trifoglietti and dei Due Uomini. At the former we found Italian Newt, Agile Frog, Fire Salamander, Common Wall Lizard (again breviceps), Western Green Lizard and Edible Frog. At the latter, a horrifying scene was discovered. The shallow zones near the banks of the lake were covered with literally hundreds of dead newts, mainly Italian Crested Newt but also Italian Newt and Alpine Newt (Ichthyosaura alpestris inexpectata). We guess this was caused by a period of nice spring weather followed by sudden, extreme cold. Also some dead Edible Frogs were present.


Lago dei Due Uomini - massacre scene

dead newts (Lissotriton italicus, Triturus carnifex and Ichthyosaura alpestris inexpectata)

5 April - PN Pollino part 2

Bad weather and hardly any interesting observations. The usual suspects turned up, when we visited the lower parts of the valley of the river Lao: Italian Wall Lizard, Italian Newt, Agile Frog, Edible Frog, Moorish Gecko, Western Green Lizard and Slow Worm. At night, 5 male Italian Tree frogs were heard and seen in a swimming pool in Rotonda.

6 April – to Rome ...

We drove back towards Rome and met with Paolo Mazzei. Near his house in Castelli Romani regional park, we found Common Toad, Agile Frog, Common Wall Lizard (ssp. nigriventris), Common Newt (Lissotriton vulgaris meridionalis) and heard Italian Tree Frog.


Common Wall Lizard (Podarcis muralis nigriventris)

Common Newt (Lissotriton vulgaris meridionalis)

7 April - to the east ...

Accompanied by Paolo, we drove a long way east to find Italian Cave Salamander (Speleomantes italicus) and Italian Yellow-bellied Toad. No succes with the latter, but we found the former in an artificial cave near Farindola.


entrance of the cave

inside the cave ...

Italian Cave Salamander (Speleomantes italicus)

cave men - with Paolo at the left and Jan at the right

no Bombina here yet ...

8 April – open woods near Nettuno

We drove south from our Albano hotel to a moist open forest near Nettuno, with Common Newt, Italian Crested Newt, Agile Frog, Common Toad, Edible and Pool Frog, Common Wall Lizard, Italian Wall Lizard, Western Green Lizard and Western Whip Snake.


pond in Nettuno woods, with Anniek, Peter, Johan, Elfriede, Jan and Gerd

the lack of snakes started to affect Peter's brain ...

... for a moment

Western Whip Snake (Hierophis viridiflavus)

Western Whip Snake (Hierophis viridiflavus)

Western Whip Snake (Hierophis viridiflavus)

man with snake

9 April – Monte Argentario

We woke up with bad weather -again- and drove to Monte Argentario, hoping to find some Tyrrhenian endemics like Tyrrhenian Painted Frog (Discoglossus sardus) and/or European Leaf-toed Gecko (Euleptes europaea). We didn't find those, but did find Common Newt, Common Wall Lizard, Moorish Gecko, Turkish Gecko, Common Toad and Edible Frog.


Turkish Gecko (Hemidactylus turcicus)

List of the observed species

1. Fire Salamander (Salamandra salamandra gigliolii)
2. Italian Crested Newt (Triturus carnifex carnifex)
4. Alpine Newt (Ichthyosaura alpestris inexpectata)
3. Common or Smooth Newt (Lissotriton vulgaris meridionalis)
5. Italian Newt (Lissotriton italicus)
6. Southern Spectacled Salamander (Salamandrina terdigitata)
7. Italian Cave Salamander (Speleomantes italicus)
8. Painted Frog (Discoglossus pictus)
9. Common Toad (Bufo bufo spinosus)
10. Green Toad (Bufo (viridis) siculus)
11. Italian Tree Frog (Hyla intermedia)
12. Agile Frog (Rana dalmatina)
13. Italian Stream Frog (Rana italica)
14. Edible Frog (Pelophylax kl. esculentus)
15. Pool Frog (Pelophylax lessonae)
16. Turkish Gecko (Hemidactylus turcicus)
17. Moorish Gecko (Tarentola mauritanica)
18. Western Green Lizard (Lacerta bilineata)
19. Common Wall Lizard (Podarcis muralis) - breviceps and nigriventris
20. Italian Wall Lizard (Podarcis siculus)
21. Sicilian Wall Lizard (Podarcis waglerianus)
22. ? Aeolian Wall Lizard (Podarcis raffonei)
23. Slow Worm (Anguis fragilis)
24. Ocellated Skink (Chalcides ocellatus)
25. Italian Three-toed Skink (Chalcides chalcides)
26. Western Whip Snake (Hierophis viridiflavus)
27. Grass Snake (Natrix natrix sicula and lanzai)

What we missed …

In general, species were missed because we were too early in the season. Some are, however, not very abundant.

1. Italian Yellow-bellied Toad (Bombina pachypus)
2. European Pond Terrapin (Emys orbicularis)
3. Four-lined Snake (Elaphe quatuorlineata)
4. Italian Aesculapian Snake (Zamenis lineatus)
5. Dice Snake (Natrix tessellata)
6. Smooth Snake (Coronella austriaca)
7. Asp Viper (Vipera aspis)

Some species occur only in areas where we spent little time: Tyrrhenian Painted Frog (Discoglossus sardus), European Leaf-toed Gecko (Euleptes europaea), Aesculapian Snake (Zamenis longissimus) and Southern Smooth Snake (Coronella girondica).
Some species which occur in the wider area, but not in places that we have visited are Hermann's Tortoise (Testudo hermanni), Meadow Viper (Vipera ursinii) and Leopard Snake (Zamenis situla).

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