Herpetofauna of Europe : lycia - sw turkey (january 2022)
Herpetofauna of Europe European Amphibians & Reptiles

Herpetological trip to southwestern Turkey
January 1st – 8th 2022

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

As I only joined the team on their 7th day, this somewhat-rough-and-surely-dirty report covers only the final part of a longer trip. For his report of the entire trip, please check out the report on Bobby Bok's excellent website.

As my lovely travel companion got covid, everyone’s favourite virus got in the way of a trip to southern Spain. Luckily, I was allowed to join a team of dear herping buddies in the salamander walhalla of southwestern Turkey. Winter trips to this region are above all a hunt for the diverse and attractive Lyciasalamandra species. With my friends hopping from subspecies to subspecies in an eastward direction, I was able to catch up with them from the vicinity of Finike. I did the Turkish salamander tour before, and as photographing them can be a cumbersome enterprise, I didn’t bother too much with it and went for the more mindful option of sun on my face and the workout of flipping hundreds of stones. Towards the end of the trip, as we met some attractive taxa I had not seen before, my photographer urge kicked in just a bit. Overall low photo effort might show this report to be a lighter edition than the previous one from late 2018, although it includes some additional taxa. To compensate, I stole some of the photos of Loïc to spice this one up a bit - thanks to him!

Larger group size, more rain and warmer temperatures than three years ago are likely factors to explain the overall better results of this trip. The mix of sun and rain, great food and dear friends made this a blissful escape from our own distinctly more sad winter season back home.

main sites of observation & accommodation

January 1st

I arrived late in the evening in Antalya and drove to meet the team, already in their Finike beds, well after midnight.

luggage shredders?

January 2nd

Always cool to wake up in a place you haven’t seen by daytime yet.

hobbit stay

old and new cuddly friends

After a luscious breakfast, we drove towards the snowy inland peaks, searching and finding Lyciasalamandra luschani finikensis at least as readily as three years ago.

Lyciasalamandra luschani finikensis

Lyciasalamandra luschani finikensis - © Loïc van Doorn

Next up, we stopped at an impressive cave which is home to a colony of quarrelling fruit bats. A Dahl’s Whip Snake Platyceps najadum got away when we were heading back to the car.

© Loïc van Doorn

King Bok

After that, a short stop at a seemingly random roadside clearing delivered a subspecies that was new to me – the underwhelming Lyciasalamandra billae arikani.

Lyciasalamandra billae arikani - © Loïc van Doorn

We were hoping to walk into the Olympos ruins from Cirali beach, but that proved to be tough, as the water level in the small estuary was rather high. So, we decided to keep that for until the next morning and explored the beach area for a bit, finding Ophisops elegans, Bufotes viridis, Laudakia stellio, Phoenicolacerta laevis and Testudo graeca. In the late afternoon, we went to admire the Chimaira fireworks, stuck around until after dark and had a wonderful evening.

© Rick Middelbos

But that was not the end of it yet, as we finished with a successful nocturnal chameleon hunt.

January 3rd

Chilly morning. First it was back to the beach for some daytime chameleon admiration.

Mediterranean Chameleon Chamaeleo chamaeleon - © Loïc van Doorn

Then, we spent a good part of the day exploring the Olympos ruins, finding Pelophylax bedriagae, Anatololacerta finikensis, Lacerta pamphylica and Ablepharus anatolicus.

At the end of the afternoon, we hit the 2018 spot for Lyciasalamandra billae yehudahi and found two after a while.

Lyciasalamandra billae yehudahi - © Loïc van Doorn

January 4th

One of the more appealing salamander sites was on the menu for this morning – the wonderful Göynük Canyon. Team Belgium found five Lyciasalamandra billae irfani, none of which as attractive as the ones I had seen three years earlier.

Lyciasalamandra billae irfani - © Loïc van Doorn

defensive pose

Next up was Lyciasalamandra antalyana antalyana. Again a site revisit for me, though we did much better than last time, finding about 20 animals.

Lyciasalamandra antalyana antalyana

Lyciasalamandra antalyana antalyana

The final hours of daylight were spent in a colder high-up site on a seemingly futile attempt to find Lyciasalamandra billae eikeae. Upon giving up on that endeavour, we treated ourselves to a snowy sunset uphill.

© Loïc van Doorn

After dinner, another revisit with better success than last time, as we found about 30 active (without rain) Lyciasalamandra billae billae.

Lyciasalamandra billae billae - © Loïc van Doorn

Loïc, Rick and I tried some of the more southern spots for Lyciasalamandra antalyana gocmeni, but found only cold wind and dry slopes. Nevertheless, a diverse and fruitful day.

January 5th

Now we all had gocmeni on our minds, as we started with another known site for these. Partially destroyed, but overall looking very fast asleep salamanderwise, so no luck. So let’s head out towards the east, to the Side ruins. Stopping at a brackish inlet, we did not manage to find Trionyx triunguis, but saw a Mauremys rivulata.

gocmeni getting tough

no big weird turtle today

By the time we made it to the ruins, rain spoiled our reptile appetite, so we switched to exploring a trash-filled sandy dune area in preparation of a nocturnal revisit later that same day.

rainy ruins

(some) herpers' heaven

After dark, we first had dinner and then drove up to the Lyciasalamandra atifi (without clear subspecies attribution, but most likely best referred to as the nominal subspecies atifi) spot I had visited before. Rain and temps above 10°C, so we knew we were going to be treated to a party. We easily spotted at least 100 salamanders.

Lyciasalamandra atifi atifi

Lyciasalamandra atifi atifi

After this delight, it was back to the lowland sands. Still raining, with apart from water frogs and green toads also three Eastern Spadefoot Toads Pelobates syriacus.

Green Toad Bufotes viridis

Eastern Spadefoot Toad Pelobates syriacus

Eastern Spadefoot Toad Pelobates syriacus

January 6th

Visiting another wonderful ruined city, we struck gold on what was the most desired gem of them all for me, as we flipped no less than 12 Lyciasalamandra antalyana gocmeni. What a joy! We stayed in the ruins until just a little bit after closing time, but were still able to get out just before dark.

Lyciasalamandra antalyana gocmeni - female

Lyciasalamandra antalyana gocmeni - female

Lyciasalamandra antalyana gocmeni - male

As the Dutch-German delegation of the team went for billae-antalyana hybrids, team Belgium moved towards the northernmost cluster of known gocmeni sites. We were not disappointed, as an additional 46 salamanders were found on and next to the road. Remembering the significant effort it took to find a single juvenile during the previous trip, I was over the moon with this unexpected salamander feast.

Lyciasalamandra antalyana gocmeni

Lyciasalamandra antalyana gocmeni

Lyciasalamandra antalyana gocmeni

January 7th

Last full day. The others still had some reptile hunger, as I drove back up to eikeae land by myself. I had gotten some additional site intel and while I didn’t hold high hopes, I was keen on finding out if this taxon was truly off limits around this time of year. I could tell that the previous night had not been too cold, as I started flipping stones. It took less than a few tens of stones before I managed to find a beautiful adult female. Such luck! Or wasn’t it? I soldiered on to find a second one, hopefully a male, but settled for the one, as it became time to meet up with the gang at a site for yet another taxon I had not seen before - Lyciasalamandra atifi godmanni.

Lyciasalamandra billae eikeae - © Loïc van Doorn

Lyciasalamandra billae eikeae

A scenic inland drive to an area with a lovely river canyon had me arriving earlier than the others. I quickly managed to find several salamanders.

Lyciasalamandra atifi godmanni

After reuniting with the team, we split up again, as team Belgium made a rocket run for a third atifi subspecies, while the others enjoyed the beautiful godmanni area. Loïc and I were hoping to get back in time to have dinner with everyone, as this was our final night, so we were happily surprised that our first site for Lyciasalamandra atifi bayrami delivered immediately.

Lyciasalamandra atifi bayrami

Lyciasalamandra atifi bayrami

January 8th

A drowsy morning, which had the rest of the team taking off very early and me sleeping in for a bit, before flying back to Brussels and diving into the arms of the one to whom Spain still was owed.

Species list

My Lyciasalamandra overview

Site content and pictures (c) of Jeroen Speybroeck, unless specified otherwise.
This site is hosted by HYLA without any further strict affiliation.

Hosted by InterHost Solutions

Last update: January 28, 2022 11:21:06