Herpetofauna of Europe : menorca - balearics, spain (october 2010)
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Herpetological trip to Menorca (Balearics, Spain)
24th - 31st of October 2010

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

In July 2005, we only could find a DOR ‘Algerian’ False Smooth Snake (Macroprotodon cucullatus) in the excessive summer heat of Mallorca. Therefore, the desire for another try was shaped. Rather wanting to see a different island, we decided to do a trip to the neighbouring Menorca. In 2005, a one day trip by ferry from Mallorca allowed us but to see the extreme west of the island on foot.
The Belgian core team (Jan (B), Gijs (B/NL), Peter (B), Anniek (B) and me (B)) was reinforced by Leonard (MT) and Bobby (NL - has been many times to Menorca before) and Matt Wilson (UK) joined us for the first time.
Menorca is relatively small and flat, so it was easy to explore most parts of the island during our stay. In contrast to our expectations, this island turned out to be very beautiful, with astonishing bays and canyons and predominant small-scale agriculture, mixed with intact open pine woods with rich undergrowth and some interesting wetlands.
Menorca and its satellite islets are inhabited by about 13 species of amphibians (2) and reptiles (11). The majority of these originate from anthropogenous introductions, dating back from ancient times to more recent days. During our trip, we were able to observe all 13 species, albeit some of them were less cooperative on the photographic side.
Werner Mayer and Andrew Merrick provided a couple of hints, for which we thank them. Of course, also Bobby’s prior Menorcan travels provided him and us with valuable intel.


overview of prospected sites and travelled routes - routes thanks to Gijs



overview of observations; (living) snake specimens counted; annoted checklist at the end of the page

October 24th - sleepless night and finding over half of the list

Jan and I drove from Antwerp to Amsterdam in the middle of the night, to catch a very early Schiphol flight. We met first with Bobby at his place and then with the Limburg section in the airport. After two hours of air travel, we arrived on a sunny but chilly morning on Mahon airport. Lenny arrived shortly after, after which we drove already to the hotel at Cala Galdana to drop our luggage. A very first observation was an Italian Wall Lizard (Podarcis siculus) next to the hotel. Driving back to the airport to pick up Matt, we did a first search site not too far from our hotel. Again wall lizard, but of course also Moorish Gecko (Tarentola mauritanica) and surprisingly abundant Hermann’s Tortoises (Testudo hermanni). After picking Matt up, a second search very close to the airport at a dumpsite. Not the prettiest place, but next to the same three species of our first site, Gijs quite quickly found a Ladder Snake (Rhinechis scalaris). Strikingly, this individual already had the adult pattern at a size where they often still have the ‘juvenile ladder’ on the mainland. Soon after that, Gijs surprised us again with our first (baby) Algerian False Smooth Snake (Macroprotodon cucullatus). We were very happy to find our ‘most wanted’ so soon. Furthermore, Peter also caught a darkish adult Algerian False Smooth Snake. Great !
Next, we drove to the marshes at Son Bou. Only minutes after leaving the car, the first Stripeless Tree Frog (Hyla meridionalis) was found. Also quite some Italian Wall Lizards running across the dune sands and some tortoises here and there. Beautiful place. After a drink near the beach, we felt like going back to the hotel, being tired and hungry. Flipping a street tile, Peter disclosed a first (juvenile) Turkish Gecko (Hemidactylus turcicus). After a decent meal at our everyday restaurant across the street, Matt, Bobby and me starting from our hotel went out on foot into the Barranc d’Algendar in the dark. Moorish Gecko and some tree frogs, but no toad to be seen.


day 1

find the Bobby in the maquis

lovely garbage dump with Matt, Peter, Bobby and Jan

funny garbage

Algerian False Smooth Snake (Macroprotodon cucullatus)

Algerian False Smooth Snake (Macroprotodon cucullatus)

Algerian False Smooth Snake (Macroprotodon cucullatus)

Algerian False Smooth Snake (Macroprotodon cucullatus)

Algerian False Smooth Snake (Macroprotodon cucullatus)

Ladder Snake (Rhinechis scalaris)

Matt, Jan, Lenny and Gijs during tree frog admiration

Anniek at Son Bou dunes

Stripeless Tree Frog (Hyla meridionalis) - even adults often with broad dark lateral stripe

Stripeless Tree Frog (Hyla meridionalis)

Moorish Gecko (Tarentola mauritanica)

October 25th - Lithica and Binimel-la

Clouded and very windy day, with an associated drop of temperature and occasional rain. We didn’t let the weather dampen our spirits, so we went to the Lithica quarry. A very strange and amazing place: a big hole, cut out of the stone underground, in which a botanical garden on several floors has been established. Perfect reptile habitat, albeit visited in bad weather. No worries: a lot of species can be found by some enthousiastic turnover of stones. Moorish Gecko, a baby Turkish Gecko, two more Algerian False Smooth Snakes, and after setting Gijs loose, a handful of Moroccan Rock Lizards (Scelarcis perspicillata) and an adult Green Toad (Bufo (viridis) balearicus).
A number of water reservoirs near Ferreries, spotted from satellite view maps, turned out to be a smelly sewage treatment facility, with nothing more than Moorish Gecko.
Weather was deteriorating, as we arrived at a bridge over the Torrent des Mercadal. Matt found our first Viperine Snake (Natrix maura), dark coloured like all other specimens we came across.
Nearby was the beautiful brackish creek and beach of Binimel-la. Probably an interesting herping site, but too much cold wind, so no observations here.
Hoping to be able to arrange a boat to get to Illa d’En Colom, we fled into a bar at Es Grau in heavy rain and hailstones. No luck - this place was as deserted as many of the visited seaside resort villages.
A silly visit after dark in extreme winds to the barranc at Cala Galdana was not really productive.


day 2

snake photography with Gijs, me, Matt and Jan - © Bobby Bok

Algerian False Smooth Snake (Macroprotodon cucullatus)

Peter at Lithica

Anniek beats Peter at first reaching the centre of the labyrinth

toad photography - Anniek, Matt, Peter and Gijs

Green Toad (Bufo viridis)

Moroccan Rock Lizard (Scelarcis perspicillata)

young Moroccan Rock Lizard (Scelarcis perspicillata) with handicapped leg

Binimel-la

shooting the scenery - Peter, Bobby and Gijs

brackish pool just behind the beach

cold boys - Matt and Peter (Gijs in the back)

Herr Bok

Bobby peddling through the reeds at Binimel-la

Matt found something

Viperine Snake (Natrix maura)

October 26th - canyon and cave, pinewood and wetland

We drove to Sant Tomas, from where we hiked into the Barranc de Binigaus towards the Cova d’En Colom. Before entering the canyon, we had a good view at two of the special lizard islands - Esculls de Codrell. During the hike, Moorish Gecko and an adult Algerian False Smooth Snake with some odd lumps in its body.
A random roadside cold stop with only Moorish Gecko, was followed by a more sunny sunset visit to Sa Roca pinewoods. A dead baby tortoise, some Moorish Gecko and in a small concrete watershed, 3 adult Turkish Geckoes.
Another quick visit to the Torrent, followed by the surroundings of a nearby wetland with several tree frogs and a Viperine Snake.


day 3

Esculls de Codrell

false smoothie photoshoot with Matt, Jan, Gijs, Bobby, Leonard

Algerian False Smooth Snake (Macroprotodon cucullatus)

Algerian False Smooth Snake (Macroprotodon cucullatus)

Jan shoots Macroprotodon - © Matt Wilson

Peter at cave entrance

inside the cave

bat photography with Bobby, Jan, Gijs and Anniek

bat sp.

Bobby in cave

Turkish Gecko (Hemidactylus turcicus)

wetland with Cattle Egrets

Lenny, Anniek and Jan walking along the wetland

Matt, about to find his and our second Viperine Snake

Bobby and Peter

Bobby and Natrix

Viperine Snake (Natrix maura)

October 27th - Vall d’Algaiarens, Ciutadella and another Torrent visit

Sunny weather on this day. Bobby’s experience with the very tame European Pond Terrapins (Emys orbicularis) made us curious, so we drove to the beautiful beach and creek of Vall d’Algaiarens. Unfortunately, the place seemed to have been taken over by tens of Red-eared Sliders (Trachemys scripta elegans) and very probably also some other invasive species. Nevertheless, an incredibly beautiful place. Some Italian Wall Lizard and tortoises running and walking around, a few Moorish Gecko and Bobby spotted another nice Ladder Snake.
Driving towards Ciutadella, we found a DOR juvenile Ladder Snake. In the city itself, Bobby lead us to a site with several Moroccan Rock Lizards. After a meal, at a late sunset back to the Torrent, where we found another Algerian False Smooth Snake, Viperine Snake, two shy European Pond Terrapins and another DOR juvenile Ladder Snake.


day 4

Algaiarens beach with some herp hunters

Gijs and Peter on the lookout for terrapins

Bobby and Gijs during snake photography

Ladder Snake (Rhinechis scalaris)

Ladder Snake (Rhinechis scalaris)

Matt with snake

Hermann’s Tortoise (Testudo hermanni)

Hermann’s Tortoise (Testudo hermanni) hates photography
Jan and Bobby at urban rock lizard site

Moroccan Rock Lizard (Scelarcis perspicillata)

Moroccan Rock Lizard (Scelarcis perspicillata) with closed spectacled eyelid

Anniek at Ciutadella

Peter and Anniek at sunset near the Torrent

Viperine Snake (Natrix maura)

October 28th - finding a boat

We wanted to arrange a visit to one of the islets inhabited by Lilford’s Wall Lizard (Podarcis lilfordi), so we went towards the extreme southeastern tip of the island, Punta Prima, where Bobby had been able to find a ride to Illa del Aire in 2007, inhabited by the black nominate subspecies of the lizard species. After asking around without any luck, we decided it might be better to find a boat in Mahon’s big harbour. Again, it turned out surprisingly hard to find a helpful boatsman. Some short searches with Italian Wall Lizard, plus one with also both gecko species and tortoises.
Finally, some friendly people were found after all in Port d’Addaia. Boatsman Martin promised to take us to Illa Gran d’Addaia on the next morning! At long last, success in sight, after a wasted day with beautiful weather. While we were ignorant about what might live on the very nearby Illa de Ses Mones, Martin proposed to already bring us there for half an hour before sunset. We were surprised to already find Lilford’s Wall Lizard on this islet, so close to the Menorcan shore.


day 5

Hermann’s Tortoise (Testudo hermanni)

Bobby and tortoise

Shag - © Jan Van der Voort

Port d’Addaia bay as seen from Illa de Ses Mones

Bobby

Bobby and Peter macho

Bobby and Peter silly

Lilford’s Wall Lizard (Podarcis lilfordi)

waiting for the boat back - Peter, Jan, Gijs, Matt, Bobby and Lenny

Peter and Bobby

Anniek and Jan

back on the boat with Bobby, Martin, Lenny, Matt, Jan and anonymous boatsman

Peter and Anniek on the boat

happy people after the first short boattrip

happy people after the first short boattrip

October 29th - Illa Gran d’Addaia, Cala Tirant, and -yes- back to the Torrent

This lovely day started with a short, agreeable boattrip to Illa Gran d’Addaia. While not as colourful as in spring, the lizards were absolutely everywhere. Not only on the few rocks and logs, but also basking on top of the herbaceous vegetation. Reaching the island early enough, the lizards were still quite slow-moving and rather easy to approach. While not as tame on some other islets, they were also interested in fruit. Although we spent minimal time looking for it, also three individuals of a disputed, endemic, and allegedly rare subspecies of Turkish gecko - ssp. spinalis were found here.
After a nice meal in the harbour, we drove to yet another beautiful dune area with a brackish creek - Cala Tirant. Many terrapins here (species???), but all extremely shy and hard to approach. The obvious Italian Wall Lizards ran across the sand and we could add three more Algerian False Smooth Snakes to our list.
Once more, we ended the day at the Torrent. Many calling tree frogs seemed to predict that the weather was about to change. We found Moorish Gecko and again a terrapin plus a DOR one. Peter upheld his snakehunters ranking, finding another Algerian False Smooth Snake, a Viperine Snake and two Ladder Snakes.


day 6

ready to go - © Gijs Damen

Illa Petit d’Addaia at the left, Illa Gran d’Addaia at the right, and tiny islets in front

arrival - © Gijs Damen

Martin grabs his dog out of the water

Illa Gran d’Addaia with some smaller islet in front

on Illa Gran d’Addaia

on Illa Gran d’Addaia

Bobby on Illa Gran d’Addaia

Matt and Peter on Illa Gran d’Addaia

Anniek and Peter on top of the island

Lilford’s Wall Lizard (Podarcis lilfordi)

Lilford’s Wall Lizard (Podarcis lilfordi)

Lilford’s Wall Lizard (Podarcis lilfordi)

Lilford’s Wall Lizard (Podarcis lilfordi)

lizard conversation

tasty apple - © Gijs Damen

Gijs spotted this more colourful one - © Gijs Damen

Turkish Gecko (Hemidactylus turcicus) - the debatable subspecies spinalis

Peter descending from the island plateau

reckless Lenny … - © Peter Engelen

back comes the boat

boatdog wants to jump off to catch annoying seabirds

Bobby and Peter at the Cala Tirant dunes

most yellow Algerian - © Matt Wilson

a typical Menorcan autumn Italian Wall Lizard (Podarcis siculus) - shy as hell
same story with the terrapins …

Torrent des Mercadal

tourist picture

roadside photography at dusk

Herr Bok cooking a snake, Mister Wilson annoyed for not having found it, and Gijs just being happy to be in the picture

no comment

Ladder Snake (Rhinechis scalaris)

Bobby with dead Barn Owl

Barry Potter: (angry) ‘Now which one of you guys killed my pet!?’
Bobby and Matt at Ciutadella bar

Matt ‘picolo Casanova’ Wilson

Matt and Bobby searching desperately for an open bar

Herr Bok aka naughty boy

April 30th - Cap d’Artrutx and higher Barranc d’Algendar

Cloudy and colder again. First, we dropped off Lenny at the airport, after which we drove all across the island to Cap d’Artrutx. Despite the wind and the clouds, still a few Moroccan Rock Lizards were observed.
After a nearby lousy restaurant, we finished our trip with yet another beautiful area - the more upper part of Barranc d’Algendar. Of course Moorish Gecko, but Jan found a final big Ladder Snake and Peter a final baby Algerian False Smooth Snake. Trying an unsuccesful shortcut to reach our hotel, we stopped a last time without finding anything.


day 7

arrival at Cap

Peter at Cap

Peter at Cap

Anniek at Cap

silly lizard searchers - part 1

silly lizard searchers - part 2

Moroccan Rock Lizard (Scelarcis perspicillata)

the god of European snakehunting at work - © Matt Wilson

lush Barranc d’Algendar

Ladder Snake (Rhinechis scalaris)

? ? ?

let me out !

at Ladder Snake spot

off she goes... - (c) Matt Wilson


Algendar hike

Bobby at Algendar

rural sight at Algendar

the boys admiring the last Macroprotodon

Algerian False Smooth Snake (Macroprotodon cucullatus)

October 31th - home

While the street of our hotel had turned into a torrential stream, we left Menorca.


Peter tries to make it to the car... - (c) Bobby Bok


Bobby tries to catch an extra snake species just before leaving

Epilogue

Menorca is beautiful and quiet in autumn. Our most wanted snake was the most found one too (11!). Together with an easy-going tempo, short drives, a complete list, evening fun and great company, it turned into a very pleasant trip.


me, Bobby, Matt, Gijs, Leonard, Peter, Jan and Anniek

List of the observed species

1. Stripeless Tree Frog (Hyla meridionalis) - abundant
2. Green Toad (Bufo (viridis) balearicus) - only one
3. Hermann’s Tortoise (Testudo hermanni) - abundant
4. European Pond Terrapin (Emys orbicularis) - shy and probably suffering from competition with alien species
5. Red-eared Slider (Trachemys scripta elegans) and probably at least 1 other species - abundant at 1 or 2 sites
6. Moorish Gecko (Tarentola mauritanica) - abundant but not all over the place like earlier in the year
7. Turkish Gecko (Hemidactylus turcicus) - incl. ssp. spinalis; found at several sites
8. Italian Wall Lizard (Podarcis siculus) - same as with 6.
9. Lilford’s Wall Lizard (Podarcis lilfordi) - incert. sed. ssp. & addayae
10. Moroccan Rock Lizard (Scelarcis perspicillata) - seen at 3 western sites; genus name attribution debated + species name might change if species gets split
11. Algerian False Smooth Snake (Macroprotodon cucullatus) - position of nominotypical specimen in the phylogenetic tree of Carranza et al. (2004) can only lead to rejection of the use of the name mauritanicus at least(!) at species level and for now
12. Ladder Snake (Rhinechis scalaris)
13. Viperine Snake (Natrix maura)

What we missed …

We found all Menorcan amphibian and reptile species, although some were remarkably uncooperative for photos.

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Last update: June 03, 2014 15:25:20