Herpetofauna of Europe : romania (may 2007)
Herpetofauna of Europe European Amphibians & Reptiles

Herpetological trip to Romania
16th-28th of May 2007

All pictures (c) of Jeroen Speybroeck, except some scenery shots by Stefanie Delarue and an occasional other team member.

The herpetofauna of Romania is characterised by a nice mixture of southern, Balkan species, many central European ones and a number of endemic taxa. Especially Montandon’s Newt (Lissotriton montandoni), Steppe Runner (Eremias arguta), Danube Crested Newt (Triturus dobrogicus) and a number of Meadow Viper taxa (Vipera ursinii s.l.) were of interest to us during this trip. The eastern part of the country was visited, concentrating mainly on the coastal Dobrudga area (including the Danube river delta) and the Eastern Carpathians. Thirty-eight species of amphibians (19) and reptiles (19) were observed. Starting off from Belgium, we were seven people: Jan, Peter, Anniek, Gijs, Bram, Stefanie and myself. Maltese Leonard Zammit joined us during the first part of our trip. Highly instrumental to our success was help provided by our local companions Ioan Ghira and -especially- Alexandru Strugariu. Their knowledge on Romanian herps was extremely helpful and they proved to be very pleasant company. Thanks, guys! Dan Cogalniceanu, Zsolt Török, Iulian Gherghel and Tibor Sos are also thanked for specific help on search sites. Also thanks to an anonymous help for bringing us to the bear spot.

overview of prospected sites

16th-17th of May - Dobrudga

We flew from Amsterdam to Bucharest, arriving at 00:30am. Alex and Leonard were already waiting for us. After dealing with Bram’s lost luggage, we drove east towards the Black Sea and the Dobrudga region. First herp was Green Toad (Bufo viridis) at a petrol station, just north of Bucharest. We reached the ruins of Histria at dawn, where we met Ioan. Here we found Marsh Frog (Pelophylax ridibundus), Grass Snake (Natrix natrix), Dice Snake (Natrix tessellata), a dead Caspian Whip Snake (Dolichophis caspius), a severely dehydrated Common Spadefoot Toad (Pelobates fuscus), owl victim remains of Eastern Spadefoot Toad (Pelobates syriacus), Sand Lizard (Lacerta agilis), Balkan Wall Lizard (Podarcis tauricus), some European Pond Terrapin (Emys orbicularis) and Fire-Bellied Toad (Bombina bombina). A nearby site for Blotched Snake (Elaphe sauromates) did not deliver that species but some of the abovementioned species were encountered once more. After the cloudy morning, the first sunbeams urged us towards Babadag forest. In the woods, we found Green Lizard (Lacerta viridis), Nose-horned Viper (Vipera ammodytes), Aesculapian Snake (Zamenis longissimus), Snake-eyed Skink (Ablepharus kitaibelii), Spur-thighed Tortoise (Testudo graeca), Balkan Wall Lizard and Caspian Whip Snake. After that, we moved to our first stay in Murighiol. In the garden of the 'pensiune', net dipping delivered Marsh Frog, Edible Frog (Pelophylax kl. esculentus), Common Tree Frog (Hyla arborea) and remarkably small-bodied Smooth Newt (Lissotriton vulgaris). Gijs threw in his funnel trap, for an overnight attempt to catch more newts.

Histria ruins

juveniles of European Pond Terrapin (Emys orbicularis)

Balkan Wall Lizard (Podarcis tauricus)

Sand Lizard (Lacerta agilis)

pelicans passing by

Marsh Harrier on the hunt

Babadag forest

Nose-horned Viper (Vipera ammodytes)

Nose-horned Viper (Vipera ammodytes)

Nose-horned Viper (Vipera ammodytes)

Aesculapian Snake (Zamenis longissimus)

Stefanie assisting in photography of Aesculapian Snake (Zamenis longissimus)

Caspian Whip Snake (Dolichophis caspius)

female Green Lizard (Lacerta viridis)

18th of May – Murighiol, Bestepe and Danube delta

The funnel trap delivered: Danube Crested Newt (Triturus dobrogicus) was found. Ioan caught several more with his net. Next was the Bestepe hill, said to hold the last record of Sand Boa (Eryx jaculus), dating back to 1986. No boa found but Spur-thighed Tortoise, Balkan Wall Lizard, Snake-eyed Skink and Balkan Green Lizard (Lacerta trilineata). After a drink, we took a boat into the heart of the Danube delta. Shortly after our arrival at the delta village and a welcoming meal, we headed off into the area and found the Danube Meadow Viper (Vipera ursinii s.l.), a taxon of uncertain taxonomical position. Most specimens we caught (n = 7) had 21 rows of mid-dorsal scales, said to be typical of Steppe Viper (Vipera renardi). At night, we went for a walk and found the first Pool Frogs (Pelophylax lessonae) of the area, besides Common Spadefoot Toad, Tree Frog, Green Toad, Edible Frog, Marsh Frog, Fire-bellied Toad, Grass Snake, Smooth Newt and Dice Snake.

our Murighiol stay

amphibian habitat

male Danube Crested Newt (Triturus dobrogicus)

female Danube Crested Newt (Triturus dobrogicus)

male Smooth Newt (Lissotriton vulgaris)

female Smooth Newt (Lissotriton vulgaris)

Bestepe hill and Ioan, Peter, Bram, Leonard, Gijs, Stefanie and Jan

Spur-thighed Tortoise (Testudo graeca)

Balkan Green Lizard (Lacerta trilineata)

Snake-eyed Skink (Ablepharus kitaibelii)

arrival in Danube delta

viper habitat

Meadow Viper (Vipera ursinii s.l.)

Meadow Viper (Vipera ursinii s.l.)

our stay in the delta with Lavinia (our host), Leonard and Jan

a variety of Common Spadefoot Toads (Pelobates fuscus)

Common Spadefoot Toad (Pelobates fuscus)

Common Spadefoot Toad (Pelobates fuscus)

Grass Snake (Natrix natrix)

19th of May – Danube delta (2)

Next day in the delta with the same species. After walking towards the dunes along the Black Sea, we found a couple of tens of the hard to catch Steppe Runner (Eremias arguta).

dune habitat

Steppe Runner (Eremias arguta)

Steppe Runner (Eremias arguta)

Steppe Runner (Eremias arguta)

couple of Sand Lizard (Lacerta agilis)

pelicans again …

literally all sorts of animals to be found

Grass Snake attacking Marsh Frog

20th and 21st of May – Macin hills

First search after getting back off the boat, was near Tulcea. Green Lizard, Marsh Frog, Caspian Whip Snake and Grass Snake were found. After dropping off our luggage at our Macin stay, we explored a nearby ditch with a dead Danube Crested Newt, Green Toad and Grass Snake. Next to the hills behind Greci. Here we found Nose-horned Viper, Caspian Whip Snake, Snake-eyed Skink, Marsh Frog, Tree Frog, Balkan Wall Lizard, Green Lizard, Sand Lizard, Aesculapian Snake, Spur-thighed Tortoise and Agile Frog (Rana dalmatina). At night, we also found several Common Spadefoots, Green Toad, Fire-bellied Toad, an Eastern Spadefoot (new for the area) and otter (Lutra lutra). In between Macin and the Danube, mainly the same species plus Dice Snake. After this part of our trip, Leonard went back home.


the dangers of Romanian beer

tortoise & view over hills behind Greci

Agile Frog (Rana dalmatina)

Caspian Whip Snake (Dolichophis caspius)

Ioan and Peter with Caspian Whip Snake

male Green Lizard (Lacerta viridis)

local shepherd

Eastern Spadefoot Toad (Pelobates syriacus)

22th of May – towards Iasi

Two stops between Macin and Iasi, after which also Ioan left our group. The stops delivered Marsh Frog, Fire-bellied Toad, Green Lizard, Grass Snake and Tree Frog. Reaching Iasi, we found Sand Lizard and Moldavian Meadow Viper (Vipera ursinii moldavica) (n = 5) at the outskirts of the city.

Fire-bellied Toad (Bombina bombina)

group picture - Jan, Bram, Peter, Anniek, Alex, Stefanie, Ioan and Gijs - Leonard left the day before and I was behind the camera

junior team member overpowered by sleep, despite hectoliters of coca-cola

unique viper habitat

Moldavian Meadow Viper (Vipera ursinii moldavica)

Moldavian Meadow Viper (Vipera ursinii moldavica)

Moldavian Meadow Viper (Vipera ursinii moldavica)

Stefanie assisting Bram in viper photography

Sand Lizard (Lacerta agilis)

23th of May – Barnova woods

Alex lead us to the forest south of Iasi. Although it was hot, we found a nice number of species: Agile Frog, Common Toad (Bufo bufo), Yellow-bellied Toad (Bombina variegata), Marsh Frog, Grass Snake, Smooth Snake (Coronella austriaca), Adder (Vipera berus), Green Toad, Tree Frog and Grass Frog (Rana temporaria).

Common Toad (Bufo bufo)

Smooth Snake (Coronella austriaca)

Adder (Vipera berus)

Grass Frog (Rana temporaria)

24th and 25th of May – Piatra Neamt

We moved on, further east, towards the Carpathians. We visited some sites hinted by Iulian Gherghel. First Bicaz and the rocky outcrops at the dam of the nearby lake, where we found Common Wall Lizard (Podarcis muralis), Yellow-bellied Toad and a dead Slow Worm (Anguis fragilis). Next, we went into the woods south of Piatra Neamt. Exploring by day and night, we found Montandon’s Newt (Lissotriton montandoni), Yellow-bellied Toad, Sand Lizard (some with uniform red backs), Alpine Newt (Ichthyosaura alpestris), Fire Salamander (Salamandra salamandra - several active by day after nocturnal rain), Smooth Newt, Great or Northern Crested Newt (Triturus cristatus), Grass Snake, Common Toad, Edible Frog, Grass Frog and Tree Frog. After the (a little bit too hot) lowlands, this beautiful area was highly agreeable. Amphibian numbers were extremely high. Uncountably abundant was especially Yellow-bellied Toad.

Common Wall Lizard (Podarcis muralis)

hundreds of plastic bottles in the lake

Fire Salamander (Salamandra salamandra)

male Montandon’s Newt (Lissotriton montandoni)

female Montandon’s Newt (Lissotriton montandoni)

our stay near Piatra Neamt with …

… excellent breakfast

small ditch with four species of newts and at least 3 other species

male Great Crested Newt (Triturus cristatus)

greenish Yellow-bellied Toad (Bombina variegata)

Bombina eggs

calling male of Common Tree Frog (Hyla arborea)

portrait of red-backed male Sand Lizard (Lacerta agilis)

26th and 27th of May – on the way to and at Brasov

We moved south towards Brasov, the final main area to be visited. On the way, we stopped at a reserve in the oligotrophic marshland along the river Raul Negru. Here we found Agile Lizard, Pool Frog, Edible Frog and Moor Frog (Rana arvalis). Further south, along the railroad south of Brasov, we found Sand Lizard, Edible Frog, Yellow-bellied Toad, Grass Snake, Slow Worm (among which a blue spotted male) and Adder. At our stay near Poiana Brasov, we found Agile Frog, Common Toad, Alpine Newt, Smooth Newt, Yellow-bellied Toad, Tree Frog and the last species on the list - Viviparous Lizard (Zootoca vivipara). The next day, we found more or less the same species plus Smooth Snake, Fire Salamander and Grass Frog in the wider surroundings of Rasnov. Both nights in this area were partially spent just outside Brasov, admiring the bears, known to run through some of the city garbage every night.

reserve in Raul Negru valley

Moor Frog (Rana arvalis)

male Slow Worm (Anguis fragilis)

Adder (Vipera berus)

Adder (Vipera berus)

Viviparous Lizard (Zootoca vivipara)

view over Rasnov

Bram, Stefanie, Peter, Gijs, Anniek and Jan

Bram, Anniek and Stefanie walking down a Carpathian slope

bear footprint

female bear

baby bears running through garbage

female bear

kids admiring mommy’s acrobacy

mom and kid

28th of May – back home

Back to Bucharest. A really hot day with one stop along the road at Butimanu. Tons of Marsh Frog and tens of Grass Snake found.

List of the observed species

1. Fire Salamander (Salamandra salamandra) - there is mention of a subspecies carpathica
2. Northern Crested Newt (Triturus cristatus)
3. Danube Crested Newt (Triturus dobrogicus)
4. Alpine Newt (Ichthyosaura alpestris)
5. Smooth Newt (Lissotriton vulgaris)
6. Montandon’s Newt (Lissotriton montandoni)
7. Fire-bellied Toad (Bombina bombina)
8. Yellow-bellied Toad (Bombina variegata)
9. Common Spadefoot Toad (Pelobates fuscus)
10. Eastern Spadefoot Toad (Pelobates syriacus)
11. Common Toad (Bufo bufo)
12. Green Toad (Bufo viridis)
13. Common Tree Frog (Hyla arborea)
14. Marsh Frog (Pelophylax ridibundus)
15. Edible Frog (Pelophylax kl. esculentus)
16. Pool Frog (Pelophylax lessonae)
17. Grass Frog (Rana temporaria)
18. Agile Frog (Rana dalmatina)
19. Moor Frog (Rana arvalis)
20. European Pond Terrapin (Emys orbicularis)
21. Spur-thighed Tortoise (Testudo graeca)
22. Steppe Runner (Eremias arguta deserti)
23. Sand Lizard (Lacerta agilis) - those from Dobrudga have been assigned to the subspecies euxinica, other observed populations should be chersonensis (lowlands) and argus (Carpathians)
24. Eastern Green Lizard (Lacerta viridis)
25. Balkan Green Lizard (Lacerta trilineata)
26. Viviparous Lizard (Zootoca vivipara)
27. Common Wall Lizard (Podarcis muralis)
28. Balkan Wall Lizard (Podarcis tauricus)
29. Snake-eyed Skink (Ablepharus kitaibelii stepaneki)
30. Slow Worm (Anguis fragilis colchica)
31. Caspian Whip Snake (Dolichophis caspius)
32. Aesculapian Snake (Zamenis longissimus)
33. Grass Snake (Natrix natrix) - natrix- and persa-like animals
34. Dice Snake (Natrix tessellata)
35. Smooth Snake (Coronella austriaca)
36. Nose-horned Viper (Vipera ammodytes montandoni)
37. Adder (Vipera berus)
38. Meadow Viper s.l. (Vipera ursinii) - subspecies moldavica and the incertae sedis taxon from the Danube delta

What we missed …

We were unable to find the rare Blotched Snake (Elaphe sauromates), in spite of several specific searches. Two further Romanian herp species are not known to occur in the areas we visited: Meadow Lizard (Darevskia praticola) and Hermann’s Tortoise (Testudo hermanni). Sand Boa (Eryx jaculus) has not been mentioned from Romania since its last record from 1986.

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