Herpetofauna of Europe : corsica - france (august 2019)
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Herpetofauna of Europe European Amphibians & Reptiles

Herpetological trip to Corsica (France)
August 17th-31th 2019

Unless specified otherwise, all pictures (c) of Jeroen Speybroeck.

As my most avid readership might remember, my 2018 Corsica trip report ended with a declaration to return soon. Not too long after, I decided to choose this lovely island as the destination for a 2019 camping trip with my children Bas (7) and Lili (3). Herping buddy Jan and his wife Lea and their daughter Kato (also 7) joined us. We didn’t cover as much ground and the trip included more swimming and ice cream than my solo run the year before, but I am blessed with kids who can be easily persuaded to do mountain hikes and look for animals.


sites of observation (mainland chapters not shown)

August 17th

I broke up the drive back and forth to keep things digestible for the kids, so on day 1 we drove south from Belgium to a resort-like place just north of Valence. Nothing more than Common Wall Lizard Podarcis muralis next to the swimming pool.




August 18th

Our ferry from Toulon to Ile-Rousse wasn’t until early the next morning, so we had a whole day to reach our budget hotel in Toulon in the evening. Again tried to find Edwards’s Psammodromus Psammodromus edwarsianus in Massif des Maures, but temperature shot quickly well above 30°C and it was game over.


no Psammodromus

A cooler and more child-friendly activity came to mind, as I remembered a spot Wouter B. told me about with a bunker and a man-made tunnel in the PN Mercantour. It had been years since Wouter found this place, so we were lucky to find it was still accessible and productive, holding numerous Strinati’s Cave Salamanders Speleomantes strinatii. Of course, this called for ice cream celebration.





Strinati’s Cave Salamander Speleomantes strinatii







After an unsuccessful European Pond Terrapin Emys orbicularis stop we made our way back to our Toulon hotel.

August 19th

Waking up before sunrise to catch the ferry - the least agreeable, overcrowded part of the journey. Much to our surprise, not a lot to be seen in terms of seabirds let alone mammals, yet two Loggerhead Sea Turtles Caretta caretta.










We got off the boat in the afternoon. Jan & co took the seaside route to drive to our campground in Porto-Ota, while I decided to do the extra half hour to go through the mountains, passing the Col de Vergio. Exploring a first brook before the col, Bas found our first Corsican Painted Frog Discoglossus montalentii. Of course, we also found the first Tyrrhenian Wall Lizard Podarcis tiliguerta here.


Corsican Painted Frog Discoglossus montalentii




The end of the day was spent with setting up camp and pizza.




August 20th

We decided to spend some time in and near the Porto river. This was so agreeable that we ended up spending practically the entire day on the river banks. The spot provided good looking Corsican Painted Frogs last year, but for now we only flipped a few Tyrrhenian Painted Frogs Discoglossus sardus. Larvae of Corsican Brook Newt Euproctus montanus in the water. Barbecue in the evening concluded a calm but lovely day.





Tyrrhenian Painted Frog Discoglossus sardus




August 21st

Now it was time to really start with one of my favourite activities – amphibian searching in and along Corsican brooks. While last year it was fairly easy to turn up adult Corsican Brook Newt, it seemed they had already left the water. On the other hand, the presence of fish struck me more than before (although I may not have been paying enough attention before). So, we settled for newt larvae and tadpoles and metamorphs of Corsican Painted Frog. Also no Tyrrhenian Rock Lizard Archaeolacerta bedriagae at the Col de Vergio this time, so I resorted to photographing some wall lizards instead.





Tyrrhenian Wall Lizard Podarcis tiliguerta - male


Tyrrhenian Wall Lizard Podarcis tiliguerta - female

August 22nd

We hiked towards Lac Nino. I wanted to test how far the mountain legs of the kids would go. Unfortunately, we never made it to the lake, as cold rain, hailstones and lightning fell down on us during the last, more challenging part of the ascent. Nevertheless, I was very proud of the stamina of the children. On our way up, we could see Tyrrhenian Rock Lizard in high abundance.





lizard admirer


Tyrrhenian Rock Lizard Archaeolacerta bedriagae


Tyrrhenian Rock Lizard Archaeolacerta bedriagae


Tyrrhenian Rock Lizard Archaeolacerta bedriagae


Tyrrhenian Rock Lizard Archaeolacerta bedriagae

The upside of the rain was finding our first Corsican Fire Salamander Salamandra corsica on our way back down.





Corsican Fire Salamander Salamandra corsica

August 23rd

The weather forecast seemed not too promising for seeing European Leaf-toed Gecko Euleptes europaea, one of my absolute Tyrrhenian favourites, in the Porto area, so I decided to book a night in a hotel near Bonifacio. Before making it that far south in the evening, rain in the inner parts of the island was our cue for getting some more fire salamander observations. This worked like a charm – afternoon thunderstorms seem to lure out diurnal salamanders easily in summer, just like last year. Great to be back in these beautiful beech woods.





Corsican Fire Salamander Salamandra corsica


Corsican Fire Salamander Salamandra corsica


Corsican Fire Salamander Salamandra corsica

The southern after-dark target site delivered again, with numerous leaf-toed geckos, as well as one Moorish Tarentola mauritanica and a few Turkish Gecko Hemidactylus turcicus, and two very enthusiastic young gecko lovers.


Moorish Gecko Tarentola mauritanica


European Leaf-Toed Gecko Euleptes europaea

The water-holding building in these great ruins this time did not have adult tree frogs, but numerous metamorphs of Tyrrhenian Tree Frog Hyla sarda and Tyrrhenian Painted Frog, together with a juvenile Barred Grass Snake Natrix helvetica. I was particularly pleased with the latter, as I had spend a lot of fruitless time and effort to find this one the year before. A short attempt for Green Toad Bufotes viridis at a site where I had seen some in spring 2009 didn’t deliver, and then it was bedtime for the kids.


Tyrrhenian Tree Frog Hyla sarda


Tyrrhenian Painted Frog Discoglossus sardus


Barred Grass Snake Natrix helvetica

August 24th

To add two lizard species to our sightings, we went back to the gecko site early in the morning and quickly found basking Italian Wall Lizard Podarcis siculus and Pygmy Algyroides Algyroides fitzingeri.





Pygmy Algyroides Algyroides fitzingeri

Still lacking an adult brook newt, we stopped at Bavella on the way back to our Porto campground. Just the one, but surely the best looking one I ever saw. Late afternoon, we were back in Porto.





Corsican Brook Newt Euproctus montanus

August 25th

In the morning, it was time to revisit a healthy population of European Pond Terrapin. High wall lizard abundance and several terrapins, as well as one Western Whip Snake Hierophis viridiflavus. Lunch in town delivered an additional Italian Wall Lizard.


European Pond Terrapin Emys orbicularis


European Pond Terrapin Emys orbicularis - not so shy, shot with 100mm

The afternoon was spent with amphibian searches near Ota, which delivered larval brook newt and a few Tyrrhenian Painted Frogs.





Tyrrhenian Wall Lizard Podarcis tiliguerta


Tyrrhenian Painted Frog Discoglossus sardus

After dark, a single juvenile leaf-toed gecko, some Tyrrhenian Painted Frog and Bas was particularly pleased with his first ever Green Toads.


Green Toad Bufotes viridis


Green Toad Bufotes viridis


Tyrrhenian Painted Frog Discoglossus sardus

August 26th

Before we started the hike of the day, I checked a few more brooks.


morning glory


cute disaster

At one of them, I caught a very chunky Corsican Painted Frog.





Corsican Painted Frog Discoglossus montalentii


Corsican Painted Frog Discoglossus montalentii

Then, my 3rd year old made me very proud again with her hiking enthusiasm. Many, many more lizards along our way to a photo-friendly waterfall.








Tyrrhenian Wall Lizard Podarcis tiliguerta


Tyrrhenian Rock Lizard Archaeolacerta bedriagae










August 27th

Up early to find a single Hermann’s Tortoise in the central valley.





Hermann’s Tortoise Testudo hermanni

Some more brook searching along the way. Time to relax a bit more, with lazy afternoon at the campground swimming pool. After dark, a short exploration of the Porto river after dark, with a juvenile brook newt and both species of painted frogs.


Tyrrhenian Painted Frog Discoglossus sardus


Corsican Brook Newt Euproctus montanus - juvenile

August 28th

Our last full day on the island. Bas and I went for a final fire salamander run, finding 80 animals in a 40 minutes search. Great!


Corsican Fire Salamander Salamandra corsica


Corsican Fire Salamander Salamandra corsica

Father and son also explored the Porto river after dark one more time, again with both painted frog species in decent numbers.








Corsican Painted Frog Discoglossus montalentii


Tyrrhenian Painted Frog Discoglossus sardus


Corsican Painted Frog Discoglossus montalentii


Tyrrhenian Painted Frog Discoglossus sardus


Corsican Painted Frog Discoglossus montalentii


Corsican Painted Frog Discoglossus montalentii

August 29th

Our ferry back to the mainland ran in the afternoon. I decided to go back the way I came, preferring the mountain route over the seaside once more. A tiny brook with a diurnal metamorph fire salamander, newt larvae, tadpoles and metamorphs of Corsican Painted Frog and a nice Barred Grass Snake made a lovely final stop.


Corsica Fire Salamander Salamandra corsica


Barred Grass Snake Natrix helvetica


Barred Grass Snake Natrix helvetica

After some midnight confusion finally got into our hotel room in the same Toulon hotel.

August 30th-31st

After a final night at a child-friendly stop halfway into France, we made it back home.




Epilogue

Corsica never bores. Each visit is different. This time, amphibian reproductive activities seemed to be further along than last year, judging by the presence of more brook newt larvae, tree frog metamorphs and the virtual absence of aquatic adult brook newts.

Species list

MAINLAND & SEA

1. Strinati’s Cave Salamander Speleomantes strinatii
2. Common Toad Bufo bufo
3. Loggerhead Sea Turtle Caretta caretta
4. Western Green Lizard Lacerta bilineata
5. Common Wall Lizard Podarcis muralis brongniardii

CORSICA

1. Corsican Fire Salamander Salamandra corsica
2. Corsican Brook Newt Euproctus montanus
3. Corsican Painted Frog Discoglossus montalentii
4. Tyrrhenian Painted Frog Discoglossus sardus
5. Green Toad Bufotes viridis balearicus
6. Tyrrhenian Tree Frog Hyla sarda
7. Pool Frog Pelophylax lessonae bergeri
8. Hermann’s Tortoise Testudo hermanni hermanni
9. European Pond Terrapin Emys orbicularis galloitalica
10. European Leaf-toed Gecko Euleptes europaea
11. Turkish Gecko Hemidactylus turcicus
12. Moorish Gecko Tarentola mauritanica
13. Pygmy Algyroides Algyroides fitzingeri
14. Italian Wall Lizard Podarcis siculus siculus & campestris
15. Tyrrhenian Rock Lizard Archaeolacerta bedriagae
16. Tyrrhenian Wall Lizard Podarcis tiliguerta
17. Barred Grass Snake Natrix helvetica cetti
18. Western Whip Snake Hierophis viridiflavus

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Last update: September 22, 2019 08:00:38