Herpetofauna of Europe : peloponnese - greece (october 2006)
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Herpetological trip to the Peloponnese (southern Greece)
23rd – 30th of October 2006

All pictures (c) of Jeroen Speybroeck.

Always more than worthy of a visit, I went back to the Peloponnese; this time with my HYLA friends. The herping result was better than during the 2004 trip. After a very wet spring and a stormy three weeks of autumn, the area and we were both blessed with a week of excellent weather. As we slept each night at our Chrani appartment, at the western part of the Messinian Gulf, we were somewhat limited to the southwestern parts of the peninsula. Most amphibians and reptiles known to live in that area were observed. Thirty-four species of amphibians (7) and reptiles (27) were observed. We were six people: Jan, Peter, Anniek, Gijs, Tekla and myself.
We enjoyed meeting Benny Trapp and learning a lot about the local herpetofauna. Thanks, Benny!


overview of prospected sites

23rd of October - sleepy heads and first chameleons

Our flight from Amsterdam was at a very unpleasant time of the night, resulting in zero hours of sleep when starting our first day of searching. First species was Balkan Wall Lizard (Podarcis tauricus) at the Kalamata airport. A bus took us to Chrani and our stay location. Waiting for the guy from the car rental company, we ran around in the village and found Peloponnese Wall Lizard (Podarcis peloponnesiacus), Hermann’s Tortoise (Testudo hermanni), Balkan Green Lizard (Lacerta trilineata), Grass Snake (Natrix natrix) and Common Toad (Bufo bufo). As soon as we got the car, we went to meet Benny and to see African Chameleon (Chamaeleo africanus) and found Turkish Gecko (Hemidactylus turcicus), Greek Marsh Frog (Pelophylax kurtmuelleri), Common Toad and European Pond Terrapin (Emys orbicularis) as well. Also heard Common Tree Frog (Hyla arborea). Benny showed us the huge Cat Snake (Telescopus fallax) he had caught shortly before our arrival. After that, we visited a ruin where Leopard Snake (Zamenis situla) is known to live, but found Eastern Montpellier Snake (Malpolon insignitus), Balkan Whip Snake (Hierophis gemonensis) and Snake-eyed Skink (Ablepharus kitaibelii).


Hermann’s Tortoise (Testudo hermanni)

Grass Snake (Natrix natrix)

African Chameleon (Chamaeleo africanus)

African Chameleon (Chamaeleo africanus)

female finishing off her nest

finished nest

24th of October – northern Taygetos

We went to a monastery in the mountains above Kalamata. Peloponnese Wall Lizard, Balkan Green Lizard, Greek Rock Lizard (Hellenolacerta graeca), Peloponnese Slow Worm (Anguis cephallonica), Greek Algyroides (Algyroides moreoticus) and a juvenile Leopard Snake were found. Also, like on nearly all prospected sites during our trip, heard Tree Frog calling again. Afterwards, we explored two olive groves and found a DOR Limbless Skink (Ophiomorus punctatissimus), Peloponnese Wall Lizard, Balkan Green Lizard, Turkish Gecko etc.


Greek Algyroides (Algyroides moreoticus)

Greek Rock Lizard (Hellenolacerta graeca)

juvenile Balkan Green Lizard (Lacerta trilineata)

Peloponnese Slow Worm (Anguis cephallonica)

first Leopard Snake (Zamenis situla)

habitat near the monastery

Peloponnese Wall Lizard (Podarcis peloponnesiacus)

25th of October – back to SW

We explored some places hinted by Benny. At a ruin, we found Eastern Montpellier Snake, Peloponnese Wall Lizard and Marginated Tortoise (Testudo marginata). In a moist meadow we found Snake-eyed Skink (which we found in fact nearly at every site where we searched), Balkan Green Lizard and Greek Stream Frog (Rana graeca). Balkan Terrapin (Mauremys rivulata) at a nearby waterfall. On our way trying to find this waterfall, we found another juvenile Leopard Snake. At a known viper site, we found an adult Leopard Snake, many Marginated Tortoises and a juvenile Glass Lizard (Pseudopus apodus). After dark, not only Turkish Gecko but also Kotschy’s Gecko (Mediodactylus kotschyi) this time.


Greek Stream Frog (Rana graeca)

Leopard Snake (Zamenis situla) n° 2

… was found underneath the rusty barrel

Leopard Snake (Zamenis situla) n° 3

Leopard Snake (Zamenis situla) n° 3

juvenile Glass Lizard (Pseudopus apodus)

26th of October – Mani

We drove to the northern Mani, driving past Kardamyli and exploring some olive groves. The first one was a success: Kotschy’s Gecko, Snake-eyed Skink, Limbless Skink, Nose-horned Viper (Vipera ammodytes), Glass Lizard, Sand Boa (Eryx jaculus), Marginated Tortoise and Turkish Gecko. Trying to find Four-lined Snake (Elaphe quatuorlineata) along the first few hundreds of meters of the gorge starting at Kardamyli, we found Greek Algyroides, Peloponnese Wall Lizard, Limbless Skink, Snake-eyed Skink, Marginated Tortoise and a juvenile Cat Snake. On our way back, another olive grove with Balkan Green Lizard and Nose-horned Viper. Driving after dark, we found our first Dice Snake (Natrix tessellata) dying on the road.


herp photography with Jan, Gijs, Peter and half of Tekla

Limbless Skink (Ophiomorus punctatissimus)

Sand Boa (Eryx jaculus)

Sand Boa (Eryx jaculus)

juvenile Sand Boa (Eryx jaculus)

Glass Lizard (Pseudopus apodus)

Marginated Tortoise (Testudo marginata) - weissingeri-phenotype

juvenile Cat Snake (Telescopus fallax)

juvenile Cat Snake (Telescopus fallax)

at the Cat Snake’s habitat – Gijs, Tekla, Peter, Jan and Anniek

Nose-horned Viper (Vipera ammodytes)

found in a small ruin along the road – Tawny Owl (Strix aluco)

27th of October – back to SW (2)

Another ruin visit with three Balkan Whip Snake juveniles. Benny handed us a Four-lined Snake his people caught and we took some shots of it near the so-called Leopard Snake ruin. The ruin fulfilled its duty as we found a juvenile Leopard Snake here this time. We explored some caves with bats and fat dormouse (Glis glis). Outside the caves also Balkan Whip Snake, Greek Algyroides, Peloponnese Slow Worm and Snake-eyed Skink. Then we were off to some marshland with Balkan Terrapin and Greek Marsh Frog. A small ruin in the area had yet another Leopard Snake and a nice adult of Balkan Whip Snake.


juvenile Balkan Whip Snake (Hierophis gemonensis)

playing with Four-lined Snake – Anniek, Gijs, Tekla, Peter and Jan

Four-lined Snake (Elaphe quatuorlineata)

Four-lined Snake (Elaphe quatuorlineata)

Leopard Snake (Zamenis situla) n° 4

bats inside the caves

Fat Dormouse (Glis glis)

Fat Dormouse (Glis glis)

habitat next to the caves

snake habitat in the marshes

adult Balkan Whip Snake (Hierophis gemonensis)

Leopard Snake (Zamenis situla) n° 5

28th of October – Kaiafa Lake

We spent this day around the Kaiafa Lake and found several species. In the lake itself and its surrounding vegetation, we found Epirus Water Frog (Pelophylax epeiroticus), Greek Marsh Frog, Common Tree Frog, Balkan Terrapin, Grass Snake, Dice Snake, Balkan Green Lizard and Agile Frog (Rana dalmatina). Near the railroad, we found Balkan Green Lizard, Agile Frog, both water snakes, Common Newt (Lissotriton vulgaris) and possibly the most southern Slow Worm (Anguis fragilis) ever recorded (at sea level!). Furthermore, Peloponnese Wall Lizard, Greek Algyroides, Snake-eyed Skink, Greek Rock Lizard and Limbless Skink. The latter is also out of its known range, looking at the map in Arnold’s (2002) field guide. We met here with Benny for the last time; he also saw Balkan Wall Lizard on the shores of the lake. Looking for a final search stop for that day, Peter and I could see a subadult Four-lined Snake on the road but by the time we could get to it, it had disappeared inside the dense vegetation.


Epirus Water Frog (Pelophylax epeiroticus)

blinking Greek Marsh Frog (Pelophylax kurtmuelleri)

Common Tree Frog (Hyla arborea)

search the tree frog …

railroad habitat west of Lake Kaiafa

novel discovery - Slow Worm (Anguis fragilis)

Dice Snake (Natrix tessellata)

melanistic Grass Snake (Natrix natrix) shortly before moulting

Common Newt (Lissotriton vulgaris)

29th of October – Mani (2)

East once more on this final day. First stop at an olive grove without snakes but with the usual suspects – Limbless Skink, Kotschy’s Gecko, Balkan Green Lizard and Snake-eyed Skink. Stopping at our climb towards Kariovouni, we found Greek Rock Lizard, Peloponnese Wall Lizard, Greek Algyroides and Peter sadly missed a Dahl’s Whip Snake (Platyceps najadum). Only Greek Rock Lizard and Greek Algyroides during a short stop at Kariovouni. Just before returning to Kardamyli, a dying Eastern Montpellier Snake was found on the road. Final stop past Kardamyli with Peloponnese Slow Worm and Nose-horned Viper.


blooming Cyclamen at Kariovouni

praying mantis – still happy together for now

30th of October – back home

Before getting on the plane, we found Balkan Wall Lizard again at the airport but also Balkan Terrapin, Turkish Gecko and Dice Snake plus a calling Tree Frog.


shy Balkan Wall Lizard (Podarcis tauricus)

List of the observed species

1. Common Newt (Lissotriton vulgaris) – only at Lake Kaiafa
2. Common Toad (Bufo bufo)
3. Common Tree Frog (Hyla arborea) – heard about everywhere during the day
4. Greek Marsh Frog (Pelophylax kurtmuelleri)
5. Epirus Water Frog (Pelophylax epeiroticus) – only at Lake Kaiafa
6. Balkan Stream Frog (Rana graeca)
7. Agile Frog (Rana dalmatina) – only at Lake Kaiafa
8. Hermann's Tortoise (Testudo hermanni) – seen only near to the sea
9. Marginated Tortoise (Testudo marginata)
10. European Pond Terrapin (Emys orbicularis)
11. Balkan Terrapin (Mauremys rivulata)
12. African Chameleon (Chamaeleo africanus)
13. Turkish Gecko (Hemidactylus turcicus)
14. Kotschy's Gecko (Mediodactylus kotschyi)
15. Greek Algyroides (Algyroides moreoticus)
16. Balkan Green Lizard (Lacerta trilineata)
17. Greek Rock Lizard (Hellenolacerta graeca)
18. Balkan Wall Lizard (Podarcis tauricus) – only at Kalamata airport
19. Peloponnese Wall Lizard (Podarcis peloponnesiacus)
20. Snake-eyed Skink (Ablepharus kitaibelii) – about everywhere
21. Limbless Skink (Ophiomorus punctatissimus) – not that rare
22. Peloponnese Slow Worm (Anguis cephallonica) – more than 10 individuals
23. Slow Worm (Anguis fragilis) – southward expansion of known range
24. Glass Lizard (Pseudopus apodus)
25. Sand Boa (Eryx jaculus) – 2 animals
26. Balkan Whip Snake (Hierophis gemonensis)
27. Dahl's Whip Snake (Platyceps najadum)
28. Four-lined Snake (Elaphe quatuorlineata)
29. Leopard Snake (Zamenis situla) – five animals
30. Grass Snake (Natrix natrix)
31. Dice Snake (Natrix tessellata)
32. Eastern Montpellier Snake (Malpolon insignitus)
33. Cat Snake (Telescopus fallax)
34. Nose-horned Viper (Vipera ammodytes)

What we missed …

Much to our surprise we did not find Green Toad (Bufo viridis). The rains may have facilitated our findings of Peloponnese Slow Worm but were apparently not to the liking of the not observed Worm Snake (Typhlops vermicularis); too long too cold and wet? The valley at Kariovouni seemed good for Aesculapian Snake (Zamenis longissimus) but we did not stay there very long.
Other not observed species of the herpetofauna of the Peloponnese are most likely not present in the area we prospected and/or limited to higher altitude sites which we didn’t visit: Fire Salamander (Salamandra salamandra), Alpine Newt (Ichthyosaura alpestris), Ocellated Skink (Chalcides ocellatus), Eastern Spadefoot (Pelobates syriacus), Erhard's Wall Lizard (Podarcis erhardii), Common Wall Lizard (Podarcis muralis), Moorish Gecko (Tarentola mauritanica) and Smooth Snake (Coronella austriaca). For Loggerhead Sea Turtle (Caretta caretta) our timing was bad.

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