Herpetofauna of Europe : eurotour 2010 (july-august 2010)
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Herpetofauna of Europe European Amphibians & Reptiles

Herpetological Eurotour 2010
14th of July - 7th of August 2010

Unless specified otherwise, all pictures (c) of Jeroen Speybroeck.
Make sure you also check out Bobby's report - part 1, part 2 and part 3.

No time to digest a highly enjoyable herp-free trip to Scotland, because only 48h later, I took off for a supersize herping tour. A long list of exquisite herping spots were visited, resulting in a myriad of amazing observations and a long species list. Over 7700km were covered, herping in 7 different countries.

The trip can be split up into a few major episodes:
1) prologue - 4 days in Germany and Austria;
2) Slovenia - 6 days with a very large (30 pp.) Hyla team;
3) Croatia - about 1 day to Pag and back;
4) Northern Italy, incl. the special Salamandra atra subspecies and several days in Liguria;
5) Southern France and a little bit of NE Spanish lower areas;
6) Pyrenees.

Parts 2), 4) and 6) built up the backbone of the trip. Composition of the travel company changed several times, with Bobby Bok as a single constant.

We were able to compile a list of 65 species, of which 33 amphibians and 32 reptiles and amounting up to 33 species that were new to Bobby. My thanks go to Pierre-André Crochet, Edoardo Razzetti, Emanuele Biggi, François Bourgeot, Maarten Gilbert, Werner Mayer, Thomas Bader, … . We also very much enjoyed meeting with Jürgen Gebhart, Grisa Planinc, Tomaz Jagar, Erika Ostanek, and especially Rok and Teja Grzelj.


trip overview


July 14th - nocturnal departure and German stops along the way

Bobby and Sander came to sleep at my place the previous night. Haunted by sweaty heat and an army of mosquitoes, we decided to take off at about 3:00am. To break the long drive south into stages, we stopped at two quarries in the wider surroundings of Koblenz. The first was one of the few spots of isolated Green Toad (Bufo viridis) populations in Germany. Water levels and overall humidity were very low. We found a juvenile Green Toad together with a juvenile Natterjack (Bufo calamita) under a single stone. One more Natterjack baby, a Sand Lizard (Lacerta agilis) and a bunch of Smooth Newts (Lissotriton vulgaris) under yet another stone. The next quarry, I had visited before. This time, much drier, but still we managed to find Yellow-bellied Toad (Bombina variegata), Edible Frog (Pelophylax kl. esculentus), Alpine Newt (Ichthyosaura alpestris), Viviparous Lizard (Zootoca vivipara), Common Frog (Rana temporaria) and a dead Common Toad (Bufo bufo).
After the second, longer part of our drive, we arrived to stay at Johan De Smedt’s place, near the Austrian border, with our friends Jan and Lea joining in. Johan took us to an Adder (Vipera berus) spot, but no activity but some Slow Worms (Anguis fragilis).


short stop along the long road south - favourite habitat of anything yellow-bellied

Johan in his reptile house with the boys

happy hardcore team until the first days in Italy - me, Bobby, Sander

Lea, Bobby, Sander and Jan at Johan’s viper reserve; Bobby annoying a slow worm

July 15th - German salamanders and Austrian damselflies

In the morning, we met with Jürgen Gebhart and Benny Trapp near a mountain lake close to the Austrian border. Jürgen took us to a wooded slope with a high density of Alpine Salamander (Salamandra atra). After this brief encounter, we said goodbye to Jürgen and arranged to meet again with Benny during the forthcoming Italian chapter of our journey.
Apart from the herping targets, Jan and I had also set some dragonfly desiderata for this trip, among which two very special damselfly species found in Austria. The first, we found in a tiny calcareous lake/pond in the Lechtal - the Siberian Bluet (Coenagrion hylas), an ice age relict occupying only a tiny range within Europe. The second was found still along the northern edge of Austria, but quite a bit further east - the beautiful but very small Dwarf Damselfly (Nehalennia speciosa). At the visited dragonfly spots, we re-encountered some herp species, with Smooth Snake (Coronella austriaca) as a single addition to the list so far.


Alpine Salamander (Salamandra atra)

Alpine Salamander (Salamandra atra)

Sander, Bobby and Jürgen in salamander woods

beautiful Austrian mountain lake

man and lizard

Viviparous Lizard (Zootoca vivipara)

very rare: Siberian Bluet (Coenagrion hylas)

impossible to capture rightfully - fantastic habitat of Dwarf Damselfly

soooo small - Dwarf Damselfly (Nehalennia speciosa)

July 16th - Austrian horvathi

Driving further south, we visited a beautiful site for Horvath’s Rock Lizard (Iberolacerta horvathi). We enjoyed the curious and abundant little lizards along the mountain torrent, finding nothing much else expect a DOR Slow Worm.


Austrian habitat of Horvath’s Rock Lizard (Iberolacerta horvathi)

Horvath’s Rock Lizard (Iberolacerta horvathi)

quite approachable with some patience

Horvath’s Rock Lizard (Iberolacerta horvathi)

Lea and Jan, trying to lure a lizard out

even a big fat butterfly beats this photographer

July 17th - Austrian ammodytes and Slovenian dragonfly attempts

We took off early and made a short visit to an Austrian spot for Nose-horned Viper (Vipera ammodytes). Bobby caught a juvenile and also Common Wall Lizard (Podarcis muralis) and Smooth Snake were observed.
After entering Slovenia, we explored some forest brooks for the two dragonflies that we wanted to find in Slovenia - Balkan Emerald (Somatochlora meridionalis) and Balkan Goldenring (Cordulegaster heros). Quickly, the first was found to be common and abundant, but the Goldenring remained elusive for a few more days. An extra herp along the way was Agile Frog (Rana dalmatina).
By the evening, we met with the rest of the >30 person Hyla group at the Pivka Jama camp site near Postojna. Already, an Aesculapian Snake (Zamenis longissimus) and Common Wall Lizard had been found to be present on the camp site.


Bobby and Sander during viper photography

Nose-horned Viper (Vipera ammodytes)

Balkan Emerald (Somatochlora meridionalis)

July 18th - ‘human fish’ and Cerknica lake

A special day! We embarked on a guided tour into the karstic underground to admire tens of free-roaming Olms (Proteus anguinus) in a beautiful, large water cave. After this overwhelming experience, an easy-going strawl along the Cerknica lake, providing more ‘usual’ species, like Grass Snake (Natrix natrix), Marsh Frog (Pelophylax ridibundus), Edible Frog, Agile Frog, Common Toad, Slow Worm and Viviparous Lizard. Stopping to inspect a DOR marten, Bobby found a very big Smooth Snake.


slippery when wet

Sander and Bobby plotting on how to sink the boat

quiet darkness

about the same with some PS trickery

Bram taking pictures of special cave insects, while Sander contemplates on smashing them

fascinating creature! - Olm (Proteus anguinus)

Sander & Bobby with post-cave euphoria

Proteus in Postojna street

when on leave from the old people’s home, Peet Klak also likes to admire Proteus art

thanks to Rok and Teja, I obtained a little item that I had been wanting to have since 2002…

Wim and Geert stirring up Cerknica amphibian communities

always vigilant - Patrick

el chefé Wim De Los Clericos

naked man, big snake

large Smooth Snake (Coronella austriaca)

July 19th - teaming up with the Slovenians

Tomaz and Erika took us up a grassy slope with beautiful scenery, but not so many herps - Smooth Snake, Slow Worm and (presumably Western) Green Lizard (Lacerta bilineata). After that, Grisa also joined in, and we hiked towards a little church in the karstic woods, finding Common Frog, Agile Frog, Horvath’s Rock Lizard and larvae of Fire Salamander (Salamandra salamandra). By sunset, we met with Rok and Teja at a tiny quarry near Postojna, with Smooth Snake, Common Wall Lizard, sheds of Aesculapian Snake and two popular Nose-horned Vipers.


Erika and Katrien walking down, Tomaz and Bram watching a horse’s ass

Agile Frog (Rana dalmatina)

too few snakes, too many people

one of Rok’s babies - a female Nose-horned Viper (Vipera ammodytes)

same

mister P. likes vipers

July 20th - Sabotin and Panovec

Meeting up with Tomaz and Erika again, we explored the Sabotin ridge near the Italian border, finding Aesculapian Snake, Dalmatian Algyroides (Algyroides nigropunctatus) and in and near a beautiful pond also Italian Crested Newt (Triturus carnifex), Common Wall Lizard, Green Lizard, Yellow-bellied Toad, Western Whip Snake (Hierophis viridiflavus) and Nose-horned Viper.
Second highlight of the day was a visit to the beautiful Panovec woods near Nova Gorica, where we could quite easily find Italian Agile Frog (Rana latastei), Common Wall Lizard, Western Whip Snake and Yellow-bellied Toad. After that, most of the group went back to the camp site, while the dragonfly hunt continued and was finally rewarded with a beautiful Balkan Goldenring!
In the evening, Bobby, Sander, Bert and me met with Rok and Teja and visited a tree frog spot - we could only hear some Common Tree Frog (Hyla arborea) but also found Italian Crested Newt and Agile Frog in various lifestages.


Sabotin

tallest guy + smallest net = most carnifex

Italian Crested Newt (Triturus carnifex)

Italian Agile Frog (Rana latastei)

Italian Agile Frog (Rana latastei)

Yellow-bellied Toad (Bombina variegata)

aggressive bicycle tyre - Western Whip Snake (Hierophis viridiflavus)
Balkan Goldenring (Cordulegaster heros)

July 21th - SW Slovenia

First a beautiful karstic area near Miren, with numerous Dalmatian Wall Lizard (Podarcis melisellensis) - extremely shy in the summer heat. Also Green Lizard and Dalmatian Algyroides. Fleeing from the mid-day heat, we cooled ourselves along the Vipava river, where a (most likely) exogenous terrapin and a few Dice Snakes (Natrix tessellata) were found, next to Common Wall Lizard and Marsh Frog.
Searching for the cryptic Postojnian nightlife with Rok and Teja, it was already morning when we crawled into our sleeping bags.


Patrick disappearing into top reptile habitat

Dalmatian Wall Lizard (Podarcis melisellensis)

Bobby and Sander leaving on a tessellata hunt

Dice Snake (Natrix tessellata)

everybody loves Stafke!

July 22th - Croatian border

In the morning, we met with Tomaz and Erika again, to explore a steep cliff along the Dragonja river. Italian Wall Lizard (Podarcis siculus) was quite numerous here, but also Western Whip Snake, Slow Worm, Common Wall Lizard, Dalmatian Algyroides and Green Lizard were found. A snake skin, apparently belonging to Cat Snake (Telescopus fallax), was subsequently attributed to a juvenile Four-lined Snake (Elaphe quatuorlineata) by local experts. As soon as it got too hot, we went for a refreshing swim in the lovely Vanganelsko jezero. At this lake, Common Toad, Grass Snake and a Yellow-bellied Slider (Trachemys scripta scripta) were observed. After that, part of the team went back to the Dragonja river, finding a baby Common Tree Frog with tail and a European Pond Terrapin (Emys orbicularis).


Italian Wall Lizard (Podarcis siculus)

Bobby diving into Vanganelsko jezero

baby Grass Snake (Natrix natrix)

European Pond Terrapin (Emys orbicularis)

Bobby and Bert having mud therapy

July 23th - S Slovenia hills and on to Croatia

We met with Rok and Teja to explore a hilly subalpine habitat of woods and open shrub, where we were happy to find several Alpine Salamander and two Adders with intermediate features between subspecies berus and bosniensis.
After that, we sadly had to say goodbye to our Slovenian and Belgian friends, as Bobby, Sander and I continued south into Croatia. Doing some pre-exploration at dusk at a site near the Bosnian border, we already found what we were looking for - a nice Meadow Viper (Vipera ursinii)! After, we drove to the Croatian coast for a nice meal. We slept on the Adriatic shore.


adder mania

Adder (Vipera berus)

Adder (Vipera berus)

Rok and Teja

Rok and Teja

Teja and oversized fluo frog

suddenly, our attention was drawn towards a Yeti Tree Frog (Hyla hominis), expressing its distress call

Alpine Salamander (Salamandra atra)

sunset treat - Meadow Viper (Vipera ursinii)

Bobby admiring his first ursinii

Sander’s ursinii sunset

July 24th - Croatia and north to Italy

In the morning, Sander, Bobby and I did a little strawl in the beautiful Paklenica NP. After that, we headed for Pag and the Veliko Blato lake. Only herps were Italian Wall Lizard and Marsh Frog, but the exotic dragonflies Lindenia tetraphylla and Selysiothemis nigra were what drew me here. Jan and Lea arrived a little later and after seeing both dragonfly species, this became also the place where we said goodbye to them, leaving for Italy just the three of us. In the evening, we arrived in the humid woods and marshes of northeastern Italy. Trying to capture and photograph Italian Tree Frog (Hyla intermedia), we were practically devoured by hundreds of mosquitoes. After that, we camped in a wood with Italian Agile Frogs. In the tent, the fiesty insects could not harm us anymore.


Common Toad (Bufo bufo) cooling down in stream in Paklenica NP

Veliko Blato lake on Pag island

Dutch comedy act, known as “The Mosquito Jumpers from Venice”

Pool Frog (Pelophylax lessonae)

Italian Tree Frog (Hyla intermedia)

July 25th - lazy day and new people

While Bobby and Sander jumped into the sea at Bibione Pineda, I had a lazy day, dealing with my hogweed-inflamed legs, a little present from the ursinii place. Eating a little pasta, an Italian Wall Lizard crossing the flower beds reminded me of the job at hand!
In the afternoon, we met with 3 Dutch friends of Bobby and Sander - Jasper, Dieuwertje and Yaco, who were going to join us for the rest of the trip. After dark, we also picked up Wouter Beukema at a nearby airport. After that, we drove on towards the range of Salamandra atra aurorae. Arriving well after midnight, we camped near a shady and cold mountain pool with Alpine Newt and Common Frog.

July 26th - Salamandra atra aurorae

Wouter knows the area very well, so he led us straight to an excellent spot, where we found two beautiful golden salamanders, plus some Common Frog and Slow Worm. After a snack in a local inn, we drove on to our target for the next day.


breeding pond of Alpine Newt and Common Frog

Alpine Salamander (Salamandra atra aurorae)

Alpine Salamander (Salamandra atra aurorae)

Wouter and one of his beloved golden salamanders

Slow Worm (Anguis fragilis)

now where did I leave that longissimus?

July 27th - Salamandra atra pasubiensis

Taking off early, we started the steep but equally astonishing hike up Monte Pasubio. During the ascent, Wouter spotted a nice Asp Viper (Vipera aspis). Again, Wouter’s experience and knowledge were highly valuable, and within the tiny occupied range we found 7 salamanders.
After that, we continued towards our Ligurian targets, stopping along the way at a strange rock-with-church, where in some excavated rock ponds, we found huge Italian Crested Newts and a few Alpine Newt (ssp. apuanus) females. Then, a lovely dinner. The 3 Dutch friends, however, decided that our species marathon travelling speed was too much for them, as did Sander, reshaping the remaining team into a group of 3: Bobby, Wouter and me.


the mountain awaits us

Wouter knows the way: up, up, up!

Bobby pretending that the steep hike is a piece of cake

medical care became desirable, as the lack of salamanders lead Wouter to develop a dangerous hunchback

“and to imagine that we can even continue further uphill from here…”
beautiful!!! - Alpine Salamander (Salamandra atra pasubiensis)

Alpine Salamander (Salamandra atra pasubiensis)

only with Wouter not watching, Bobby dared to express his profound love for the pasubiensis

Bobby on the move towards the weirdest newt site

Wouter at the top of the newt rock

Wouter and Bobby during newt catching

enjoying the scenery

some crazy hermite lived up there

Bobby admiring the carnifex catch

Wouter making pics, Bobby talking to newts

July 28th - ambrosii and italicus

In La Spezia province, we met with Benny Trapp, who would join us for the rest of our Italian travels. We met at a cave with Ambrosi’s Cave Salamander (Speleomantes ambrosii). As usual, Common Wall Lizard and Common Toad nearby, as well as some Italian Stream Frog (Rana italica) hiding in the cave entrance.
The next stop as well as the subsequent night were some no-result searches for the elusive subspecies bianchii, but in between we enjoyed the visit to a deep hole with plenty of (albeit introgressed) Italian Cave Salamanders (Speleomantes italicus).
Exploring the terra typica area of bianchii at night, we found Italian Tree Frog, Alpine Newt, Slow Worm, Italian Stream Frog, Agile Frog, Common Toad and larvae of Fire Salamander. While heavy rain came down, Bobby and I were happy to be able to sleep inside an open house in construction.


Wouter and Bobby climbing into the darkness

Ambrosi’s Cave Salamander (Speleomantes ambrosii)

two young Italian Stream Frogs (Rana italica)

weird result of my attempt to take a (normal) picture of the italicus cave’s entrance
Italian Cave Salamander (Speleomantes italicus)

Italian Cave Salamander (Speleomantes italicus)

Wouter admiring Speleomantes

July 29th - pachypus time

After lack of success with bianchii, we gave up trying additional spots and decided to do some more rewarding stuff, by revisiting the beautiful spot with Italian Yellow-bellied Toad (Bombina variegata pachypus). Beautiful woods with beautiful streams, where we found many toadies, as well as Common Wall Lizard, Green Lizard, Italian Stream Frog and larvae of Fire Salamander and Northern Spectacled Salamander (Salamandrina perspicillata). After a lot of rain, Wouter, Bobby and I chose to spent one night in a bed rather than in a tent. Exploring the pachypus woods did, unfortunately, not deliver any adult salamanders.


Bobby at Bombina breeding site

how to cautiously approach a little toad

July 30th - Salamandrina brooks, strinatii and some surprises

First, some hinted small brooks, good for Salamandrina. Not too much water running inside them anymore. After quite a lot of search effort, no spectacleds, but a large female Fire Salamander and a subadult Strinati’s Cave Salamander (Speleomantes strinatii). Next, on to a top cave for strinatii. Stopping at a pass along the way, the preceeding nocturnal rains had apparently boosted reptile activity, as we could find many Italian Tree-toed Skink (Chalcides chalcides); an unexpected summer result! Wouter was quick enough to catch one. Then, on to the cave. Beautiful spot, with water running outside and inside, and many salamanders climbing the walls.
We decided to sleep near a W Ligurian quarry, to which Benny continued already, while Wouter, Bobby and I drove up above Genova city, to find a single Leaf-toed Gecko (Euleptes europaea) on an ancient tower. Also our first Moorish Gecko (Tarentola mauritanica) nearby, and in a watertank some Stripeless Tree Frogs (Hyla meridionalis), including some remarkably coloured individuals. Arriving at the quarry, Benny had already established the presence of Green Toad and Stripeless Tree Frog. It was already well after midnight, so only Wouter and I felt up for the rather steep descent into the quarry. Green Toads were still calling every now and then. Feeling exhausted and about to climb back up, Wouter spotted a small frog in a crevice next to a weighing bridge for trucks - a Parsley Frog (Pelodytes punctatus)! Very restricted and rare in Italy! Wouter did some crazy crawling underneath the rusty metal construction that had trapped the little frog, but succeeded in catching it, albeit his clothes and the rest of him were up for an industrial cleaning job afterwards.


Fire Salamander (Salamandra salamandra) - giant female

Bobby and Wouter in Chalcides heaven

Wouter’s got one!

Italian Tree-toed Skink (Chalcides chalcides)

two entrances/exits of a great little cave

Strinati’s Cave Salamander (Speleomantes strinatii)

Strinati’s Cave Salamander (Speleomantes strinatii)

Italian Stream Frog (Rana italica)

Italian Stream Frog (Rana italica), looking like montane temporaria

leaving the cave, with Malaka waiting faithfully

Bobby and Benny leaving the cave

European Leaf-toed Gecko (Euleptes europaea)

darkness impression of gecko habitat

Moorish Gecko (Tarentola mauritanica)

Stripeless Tree Frog (Hyla meridionalis) with remarkable mimicry

Stripeless Tree Frog (Hyla meridionalis)

Green Toad (Bufo viridis)

Wouter trying to come out of the Pelodytes trap

dirty but happy

Parsley Frog (Pelodytes punctatus)

July 31th - Cottian Alps

Trying to find a good search spot in western Liguria did not really work, plus it was verrry hot! So, we continued across the Po plain and up into the mountains, towards the French-Italian border area. Although it was a terribly crowded weekend in the mountains, Bobby and Wouter already found about 10 Lanza’s Alpine Salamander (Salamandra lanzai) during daytime, as well as several Common Frogs. Continuing to a nearby, different spot after dark, we stopped our counts at 75 individuals, thus possibly adding up to about 100 observed individuals. Incredible! We were very satisfied, as we went for a refreshing high altitude sleep.


habitat

OK, let’s see how to count these…

Lanza’s Alpine Salamander (Salamandra lanzai) in nighttime

Lanza’s Alpine Salamander (Salamandra lanzai) in daytime

a Benny in its natural habitat

Wouter

group picture of the Italian dream team

August 1st - Massif des Maures

Again, we had to say goodbye. This time, Wouter as well as Benny went on to their homes, reducing the herping team to just Bobby and me. With still several attractive targets in mind, we quickly drove west into France. Arriving in the afternoon, we explored a small brook with some reduced ponds. Quickly, some Viperine Snake (Natrix maura), Spanish Psammodromus (Psammodromus hispanicus) and Ocellated Lizard (Timon lepidus) could be added to our list. Of the latter, a huge male fled into a tree, but we missed it, as it jumped back out and retreated into a hole in the tree’s trunk. Also Marsh Frog and Stripeless Frog, as we went for a delightful swim in a beautiful little lake. We hoped to find some Hermann’s Tortoise (Testudo hermanni) nearby, but no luck. Nice meal in a festive little town, with numerous Moorish Geckoes on the walls after dark. An ugly pond full of exogenous fish, visited after dark, delivered some Viperine Snake and huge water frogs, apparently calling somewhat like perezi or maybe grafi.


good morning and goodbye to Mount Lanzai

Maures sunset scenery

our first Viperine Snake (Natrix maura)

Bobby chasing an Ocellated Lizard up in a cork oak

water frog spec.

reddish Viperine Snake (Natrix maura)

Bobby

August 2nd - further west into S France + NE Spanish lowland

In the wider surroundings of Montpellier we visited a spot where a pure population of Graf’s Hybrid Frog (Pelophylax kl. grafi) is known to live. Only small puddles remained, so only juveniles to be found (at least during daytime). Also some juveniles of what we at first incorrectly identified as Catalonian Wall Lizard (Podarcis liolepis), but was finally Common Wall Lizard. Next, a hinted spot, good for many species. While the habitat looked indeed fantastic, no herp observation whatsoever. Well, no tears: on to Catalonia.
At dusk, we arrived at a beautiful pond where we found Spanish Terrapin (Mauremys leprosa), many juvenile Stripeless Tree Frogs, Iberian Water Frog (Pelophylax perezi) and Viperine Snake. A nice thunderstorm came down, as we went for a pizza. Going back after dark, we found at the same spot also a toadlet-with-tail of Western Spadefoot (Pelobates cultripes). Exploring some more spots in the dark, we found Spanish Terrapin, Iberian Water Frog, Common Toad and Natterjack Toad.


Maures in the morning

Bobby at grafi puddle

baby Graf’s Hybrid Frog (Pelophylax kl. grafi)

Catalonian amphibian heaven

Iberian Water Frog (Pelophylax perezi)

Iberian Water Frog (Pelophylax perezi)

toad-with-tail: Western Spadefoot Toad (Pelobates cultripes)

Natterjack Toad (Bufo calamita)

Common Toad (Bufo bufo)

Spanish Terrapin (Mauremys leprosa)

August 3rd - from Catalonian lowland to aurelioi altitudes

First, we explored a brook valley with remaining ponds nearby. Spanish Terrapin etc. but also an anticipated addition to our list - Large Psammodromus (Psammodromus algirus). Hot, hot, hot, so we drove into the Pyrenees. East of Andorra and on the French side, we explored a spot for Lacerta agilis garzoni and a rich aspis population. Only a single male of the former was briefly seen, none of the latter.
By sunset, we arrived at the starting point of next day’s hike, finding already some DOR and larvae of Fire Salamander as well as some Common Frog.


Catalonian summer refuge for herps and herpetophiles

August 4th - Iberolacerta aurelioi

We started hiking early in the morning, arriving on the rock lizard slope right on time. Basking lizards were easily found, as well as a chance to observe some territorial behaviour and feeding. After we did feeding ourselves, we used the rest of the day to continue to Val d’Aran and our next target species, again camping right at the starting point of the subsequent hike. Some Common Midwife Toad (Alytes obstetricans) tadpoles in a pond adjacent to the stream.


Bobby approaching lizard site

Bobby climbing rock lizard rocks

Aurelio’s Rock Lizard (Iberolacerta aurelioi)

August 5th - Iberolacerta aranica, bonnali and first Iraty observations

Off early again. Weather not really on our side, this time: quite strong and cold wind and cloud-covered skies. While the wind stayed on, however, the sky fortunately opened up as we continued uphill. A small watertank along the path held our first Pyrenean Brook Newt (Calotriton asper). A pond near the start of the rock lizard zone had Fire Salamander larvae as well as some Palmate Newt (Lissotriton helveticus). Then, despite the wind, we were able to admire some basking Aran Rock Lizards (Iberolacerta aranica). We looked for aspis on our way back down, but no luck - temperature was fine, but too much wind.
Calculating road times when back down, we decided to try to make it to the next spot. After having crossed some crowded tourist resorts, we reached the rocky outcrops near Lac de Cap de Long. Apparently even now, it was still too hot for Pyrenean Rock Lizard (Iberolacerta bonnali) to start its evening basking. Some wall lizards were around, as I finally could spot a female bonnali in the tiniest basking spot. Any decent picture required catching, which also allowed us to investigate the Iberolacerta characteristics at closest range.
Our next and final target area was going to be the Iraty forest. I felt up for the drive and well after dark, we arrived at the area’s top brook for Pyrenean Stream Frog (Rana pyrenaica). Many amphibians were present: an adult and many larvae of Fire Salamander (ssp. fastuosa), Palmate Newt, a lot of Brook Newts including some amplexi, some Common Toad and many larvae of Pyrenean Stream Frog. We slept nearby.


Pyrenean Brook Newt (Calotriton asper)

brook newt was found in this tank

Bobby at mountain pond

Aran Rock Lizard (Iberolacerta aranica)

Bobby photographing rock lizard

scenery from aranica site

at lower altitudes, Common Wall Lizard (Podarcis muralis) everywhere

Bobby photographing our final rock lizard species

Pyrenean Rock Lizard (Iberolacerta bonnali)

brook newts in amplexus

Fire Salamander (Salamandra salamandra fastuosa)

Palmate Newt (Lissotriton helveticus)

August 6th - Iraty

Sleeping in the shade of the forest, the sun did not wake us, so we probably started off a little late. We found only a single Seoane’s Viper (Vipera seoanei) at the nearby well-known site. Back at the brook, Bobby wanted -of course- to find an adult stream frog. This turned out to be much harder that in 2004, but in the end, he finally managed to find a nice male!
We decided to end our glorious herp quest and drove already a bit north, staying near the Atlantic Coast.


Seoane’s Viper (Vipera seoanei)

portrait of Seoane’s Viper (Vipera seoanei)

“scientists puzzled: some creatures actually seem to like Speybroeck sweat”

Bobby, seconds away from finding his first ever adult Pyrenean Stream Frog
Daddy Stream Frog and the tadpoles

Pyrenean Stream Frog (Rana pyrenaica)

August 7th - drive, drive, drive, sleep

An exhausting 12h drive back to Belgium. Bobby continued further home to the Netherlands the next morning by train.

Epilogue

Exhausting, but certainly fantastic trip with good weather conditions, good food, exquisite sleeping locations and excellent company!
Of course, we did not find all species because (a) it was summer and locally abnormally hot and (b) we did not spend that much time looking for snakes. In contrast, some species came as an unexpected bonus. Conclusively, we are more than satisfied with the trip’s result!

List of the observed species

1. Fire Salamander (Salamandra salamandra)
2. Alpine Salamander (Salamandra atra) incl. aurorae and pasubiensis
3. Lanza’s Alpine Salamander (Salamandra lanzai)
4. Northern Spectacled Salamander (Salamandrina terdigitata) - larvae
5. Pyrenean Brook Newt (Calotriton asper)
6. Smooth Newt (Lissotriton vulgaris)
7. Palmate Newt (Lissotriton helveticus)
8. Alpine Newt (Ichthyosaura alpestris)
9. Italian Crested Newt (Triturus carnifex)
10. Ambrosi’s Cave Salamander (Speleomantes ambrosii)
11. Strinati’s Cave Salamander (Speleomantes strinatii)
12. Italian Cave Salamander (Speleomantes italicus)
13. Olm (Proteus anguinus)
14. Common Midwife Toad (Alytes obstetricans) - larvae
15. Yellow-bellied Toad (Bombina variegata) incl. pachypus
16. Western Spadefoot Toad (Pelobates cultripes) - toad-with-tail
17. Parsley Frog (Pelodytes punctatus)
18. Common Toad (Bufo bufo)
19. Green Toad (Bufo viridis)
20. Natterjack Toad (Bufo calamita)
21. Common Tree Frog (Hyla arborea)
22. Italian Tree Frog (Hyla intermedia)
23. Stripeless Tree Frog (Hyla meridionalis)
24. Pool Frog (Pelophylax lessonae)
25. Edible Frog (Pelophylax kl. esculentus)
26. Graf’s Hybrid Frog (Pelophylax kl. grafi)
27. Iberian Water Frog (Pelophylax perezi)
28. Marsh Frog (Pelophylax ridibundus)
29. Agile Frog (Rana dalmatina)
30. Italian Agile Frog (Rana latastei)
31. Italian Stream Frog (Rana italica)
32. Pyrenean Stream Frog (Rana pyrenaica)
33. Common Frog (Rana temporaria)
34. European Pond Terrapin (Emys orbicularis)
35. Spanish Terrapin (Mauremys leprosa)
36. Yellow-bellied Slider (Trachemys scripta scripta)
37. Moorish Gecko (Tarentola mauritanica)
38. Leaf-toed Gecko (Euleptes europaea)
39. Dalmatian Algyroides (Algyroides nigropunctatus)
40. Aran Rock Lizard (Iberolacerta aranica)
41. Aurelio’s Rock Lizard (Iberolacerta aurelioi)
42. Pyrenean Rock Lizard (Iberolacerta bonnali)
43. Horvath’s Rock Lizard (Iberolacerta horvathi)
44. Sand Lizard (Lacerta agilis)
45. Western Green Lizard (Lacerta bilineata)
46. Ocellated Lizard (Timon lepidus)
47. Common Wall Lizard (Podarcis muralis)
48. Dalmatian Wall Lizard (Podarcis melisellensis)
49. Italian Wall Lizard (Podarcis siculus)
50. Large Psammodromus (Psammodromus algirus)
51. Spanish Psammodromus (Psammodromus hispanicus)
52. Viviparous Lizard (Zootoca vivipara) incl. carniolica
53. Italian Tree-toed Skink (Chalcides chalcides)
54. Slow Worm (Anguis fragilis)
55. Grass Snake (Natrix natrix)
56. Viperine Snake (Natrix maura)
57. Dice Snake (Natrix tessellata)
58. Smooth Snake (Coronella austriaca)
59. Western Whip Snake (Hierophis viridiflavus)
60. Aesculapian Snake (Zamenis longissimus)
61. Nose-horned Viper (Vipera ammodytes)
62. Asp Viper (Vipera aspis)
63. Adder (Vipera berus)
64. Seoane’s Viper (Vipera seoanei)
65. Meadow Viper (Vipera ursinii)
+ a skin of a Four-lined Snake (Elaphe quatuorlineata)

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Last update: June 03, 2014 15:23:45