Herpetofauna of Europe : eurotour iii (april 2019)
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Herpetofauna of Europe European Amphibians & Reptiles

Herpetological trip to NE France (and the rest of Europe)
April 17th-27th 2019

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

Loïc and I set out to spend the extended Easter weekend in the Lorraine region in the northeast of France. My main amphibian goals were to see some Green Toads close to Belgium and perhaps (with the right amount of luck) some Common Spadefoot Toad. Both species are (very) rare in France, so we didn’t exactly know what to expect. Our main reptile wish was to find some Asp Vipers, which we considered to be a more readily achievable goal. What follows is the tale of how things got slightly out of hand. How our initial plan gradually turned into a big tour of many European countries and into a herping dream.


overview of prospected sites

FRANCE

Wednesday April 17th – some rare French amphibians

In contrast to the later to come improvised part of the trip, I had made proper preparations on where to look for Green Toad. The first quarry we visited was a straight hit, with abundant toads calling and mating. The barren pioneer ponds occupied by the toads were not the only waterbodies present – a shallow marsh held rich amphibian life as well, with numerous Fire-Bellied Toad, Marsh Frog, Great Crested Newt, Palmate Newt, Smooth Newt, Alpine Newt, Common Frog, and a single calling Common Tree Frog. The Fire-bellied Toads surprised us, as we knew only of a site 35 km away that held this introduced species. Their chorus combined with that of the Green Toad felt oddly out of place in northern France.


Green Toad Bufotes viridis


a few tadpoles


Fire-bellied Toad Bombina bombina


Fire-bellied Toad Bombina bombina - (c) Loïc van Doorn


Marsh Frog Pelophylax ridibundus


Great Crested Newt Triturus cristatus - (c) Loïc van Doorn

Next stop was a seemingly good place in the small range of French Common Spadefoot Toads. Much to our delight, we found 11 individuals, most of which subadults emerging from the soil of some small plowed fields. Great to see this species which is extremely rare in our own country.


Common Spadefoot Toad Pelobates fuscus


Common Spadefoot Toad Pelobates fuscus


Common Spadefoot Toad Pelobates fuscus

Thursday April 18th – no asps

We woke up early and started to check out several snake spots we had visited before. Probably the early morning chill sharply turned into too hot conditions, but in any case no Asp Viper to be found. We did find Slow Worm, Common Midwife Toad, Alpine Newt, Sand Lizard, Common Wall Lizard and a couple of Western Whip Snakes that were too fast to be interviewed. But we felt spring had not really started here so we decided to drive south to the Brenne area, hoping for more viper luck there. We arrived in Brenne by the time it got dark and had a productive amphibian search, with Common Tree Frog, Agile Frog, Marbled Newt, Palmate Newt, Spiny Toad, Parsley Frog, Natterjack Toad, Edible Frog, and larvae of Fire Salamander.


Slow Worm Anguis fragilis


Sand Lizard Lacerta agilis


view from Lorraine habitat - (c) Loïc van Doorn


Common Tree Frog Hyla arborea


Agile Frog Rana dalmatina


Agile Frog Rana dalmatina


Marbled Newt Triturus marmoratus


Marbled Newt Triturus marmoratus


Spiny Toad Bufo spinosus


Parsley Frog Pelodytes punctatus


Natterjack Toad Epidalea calamita

Friday 19th - Brenne

Daytime Brenne herping. Western Green Lizard, Barred Grass Snake, Viperine Snake, European Pond Terrapin and numerous Western Whip Snakes to be found, but it took until the famous Aesculapian Snake railroad (without that species this time) to get our hands on a juvenile Asp Viper. I would say it luckily was a pretty one, but they all are.


Western Green Lizard Lacerta bilineata


Edible Frog Pelophylax kl. esculentus


Barred Grass Snake Natrix helvetica


Barred Grass Snake Natrix helvetica


Viperine Snake Natrix maura


Viperine Snake Natrix maura - (c) Loïc van Doorn


Western Whip Snake Hierophis viridiflavus


Western Whip Snake Hierophis viridiflavus


Loïc and water snake habitat


nap view


flipped a metal sheet for Zamenis but got another Hierophis


Asp Viper Vipera aspis


Asp Viper Vipera aspis


habitat

After dark, tried and failed to find aquatic Marbled Newt, but did end up in a huge tree frog concert and got a hold of a European Pond Terrapin.


European Pond Terrapin Emys orbicularis


European Pond Terrapin Emys orbicularis


European Pond Terrapin Emys orbicularis


Common Tree Frog Hyla arborea

Saturday April 20th – from C France to the Atlantic

Brenne also proved tough for vipers. Not sure why, actually. Herping buddy Wouter Beukema had brought to my attention that there’s Western Spadefoot Toad on Île-de-Ré and that this is “not so far from Brenne”. As the timing was perfect, we decided to go for that. But first a few other targets. As there are few chances of finding one of my favourite European snakes, Aesculapian Snake, in and near Brenne, I dug up some more likely options for this species further north, in the wider surroundings of Tours. A railroad at the confluence of two rivers seemed promising. Soon, we had two Viperine Snakes and a little later Loïc managed to dig up a beautiful subadult Aesculapian from the railroad embankment.


Aesculapian Snake Zamenis longissimus


Aesculapian Snake Zamenis longissimus

On our way west to the Atlantic Coast, we ‘accidentally’ drove through the area infested with African Clawed Frog. A few random ponds didn’t deliver, so I decided we would go ask the friendly farmers I visited back in 2007 if the frogs were still there and if we could check out their pond again. Unfortunately for the local biodiversity, the frogs are still there in full force.


catching a monster


African Clawed Frog Xenopus laevis


African Clawed Frog Xenopus laevis

By the end of the day we reached Île-de-Ré. Water frogs and Stripeless Tree Frogs were heard calling straightaway. A passing thunderstorm only offered a few drops of rain, but nevertheless our dune hike quickly delivered several Western Spadefoot Toads. After this, we moved on to sleep on Île d’Oléron.


Western Spadefoot Toad Pelobates cultripes - (c) Loïc van Doorn


Western Spadefoot Toad Pelobates cultripes


Western Spadefoot Toad Pelobates cultripes


Western Spadefoot Toad Pelobates cultripes


Stripeless Tree Frog Hyla meridionalis


Stripeless Tree Frog Hyla meridionalis

Sunday April 21st – south into Spain

Morning hike through the dunes for Southern Smooth Snake and Ocellated Lizard didn’t deliver any herps, as it was clouded and cold.


Île d’Oléron dunes

Wouter, yes him again, told me there was a spot for Iberian Tree Frog nearby. While driving towards it, we established that we both had time to extend our weekend trip to more than that, so we turned the car around and headed south towards the Spanish border. In the late afternoon, we arrived at a famous French site for Seoane’s Viper. Cold and too late in the day, with poor prospects for the days ahead here, so after a quick Fire Salamander and Pyrenean Brook Newt, we continued towards (hopefully) better conditions in Spain.


tasty fastuosa


Fire Salamander Salamandra salamandra fastuosa - (c) Loïc van Doorn


salamander enthusiast

SPAIN

After dark we explored one of the northernmost sites of Sharp-ribbed Newt. The pond was completely dry, but numerous amphibians were out, seemingly waiting for better times – Sharp-ribbed Newt, Marbled Newt, Parsley Frog, Iberian Tree Frog, Iberian Water Frog and Western Spadefoot Toad. We continued a little bit further to spend the night close to a spot for Lataste’s Viper.


Parsley Frog Pelodytes (punctatus) hespericus


Western Spadefoot Toad Pelobates cultripes - male


Western Spadefoot Toad Pelobates cultripes - female


Western Spadefoot Toad Pelobates cultripes - female


female Iberian Tree Frog Hyla molleri


Sharp-ribbed Newt Pleurodeles waltl


Sharp-ribbed Newt Pleurodeles waltl


Marbled Newt Triturus marmoratus juveniles

Monday April 22nd – viper reward and salamander madness

Foggy morning, so we had to bite our nails to see if we could get hold of a Lataste’s Viper. Instead of waiting, we explored a couple of nearby sites, finding Western Three-toed Skink as an addition to our list. Back to the viper site when it just started to get a tiny bit warmer. A lot of skinks were out, so should be warm enough? Indeed – Loïc caught a viper beauty!


habitat


Western Three-toed Skink Chalcides striatus - (c) Loïc van Doorn


Lataste’s Viper Vipera latastei


Lataste’s Viper Vipera latastei

We continued north, through the hybrid zone and into Seoane’s Viper country. The sunny spells were too short and the wind too strong, so no luck with my nemesis viper species, but managed to flip a pretty midwife toad near a famous water tank.


Common Midwife Toad Alytes obstetricans


Common Midwife Toad Alytes obstetricans


coastal habitat


Western Green Lizard Lacerta bilineata

Further west we went into Asturias, getting ready for a night with salamanders. We were not disappointed – many Fire Salamander, Golden-striped Salamander (hundreds of those at a site that was new to me), some Common Frog, an Iberian Stream Frog, Alpine Newt, Smooth Newt, Bosca’s Newt, larvae of Iberian Painted Frog and many Spiny Toads on the road.


salamander habitat


Fire Salamander Salamandra salamandra bernardezi


Fire Salamander Salamandra salamandra bernardezi


Fire Salamander Salamandra salamandra bernardezi


Fire Salamander Salamandra salamandra bernardezi


Bosca’s Newt Lissotriton boscai


Iberian Stream Frog Rana iberica


Golden-striped Salamander Chioglossa lusitanica - (c) Loïc van Doorn


Golden-striped Salamander Chioglossa lusitanica


Golden-striped Salamander Chioglossa lusitanica


Spiny Toad Bufo spinosus - (c) Loïc van Doorn


male and female Palmate Newt Lissotriton helveticus


Common Frog Rana temporaria


Fire Salamander Salamandra salamandra bernardezi


Fire Salamander Salamandra salamandra bernardezi


Fire Salamander Salamandra salamandra bernardezi


Alpine Newt Ichthyosaura alpestris


Common Frog Rana temporaria

Tuesday April 23th – picking cherries in northeastern Spain

I have a special thing with Pyrenean Stream Frog, so we just had to include that species. Along the way to one of the best sites for this species, we stopped at a lowland site with Natterjack Toad, Catalonian Wall Lizard and Ocellated Lizard.


habitat


Ocellated Lizard Timon lepidus


Ocellated Lizard Timon lepidus

Then up into the mountains again. Raining constantly, so the brooks had turned into crazy torrents, but we quickly managed to find Common Frog, Pyrenean Brook Newt and Pyrenean Stream Frog before drowning.


Pyrenean Stream Frog Rana pyrenaica


Pyrenean Brook Newt Calotriton asper

Further east, Loïc wanted to try for Banded Newt, a species that was introduced to a specific area some years ago. Chatting with different people, we got that people tried to get rid of them but did not manage to do so. Let’s check it out. A lot of curvy turns before we reached the plateau. The ground zero pond and surrounding stones held Palmate Newt, Parsley Frog, Common Midwife Toad, Iberian Water Frog and Catalonian Wall Lizard. A closeby larger pond, however, held many Banded Newts, as well as Western Spadefoot Toad.


a skinny Catalonian Wall Lizard Podarcis liolepis


eggs of Western Spadefoot Toad Pelobates cultripes - (c) Loïc van Doorn


Banded Newt Ommatotriton ophryticus x nesterovi - male - (c) Loïc van Doorn


Banded Newt Ommatotriton ophryticus x nesterovi - male


Banded Newt Ommatotriton ophryticus x nesterovi - female

It got later and later and later when we drove into dense mist on Montseny. Luckily, guardian angel Wouter sent me the coordinates of a top brook. Water is hard to find underneath a thick layer of beech leaves, but nevertheless it didn’t take us too long to find a Montseny Brook Newt. More dead than alive, we went to sleep on the hill.


Montseny Brook Newt Calotriton arnoldi


Montseny Brook Newt Calotriton arnoldi


Fire Salamander Salamandra salamandra terrestris

Wednesday April 24th – a leap into Italy

Waking up, we decided to add Italy and Slovenia to our adventures. First, I was hoping to see a Painted Frog in northeastern Spain, because I had failed to find this species in that area before. Lucky again, as Loïc flipped one from underneath a Natterjack Toad. Also Moorish Gecko and Spanish Terrapin could be added to the list, plus some Viperine Snake and the odd Ocellated Lizard.


as flipped – Natterjack Toad Epidalea calamita and Painted Frog Discoglossus pictus - (c) Loïc van Doorn


Painted Frog Discoglossus pictus


terrapin habitat


Spanish Terrapin Mauremys leprosa


habitat

ITALY

We were very tired from the previous night, but in slow, careful laps, we managed to reach the Italian salamander heaven by nightfall. After a tasty pizza (what else?), we went into the woods and found Strinati’s Cave Salamander, Northern Spectacled Salamander, Common Toad, Italian Stream Frog and Fire Salamander. A next spot delivered the additional Ambrosi’s Cave Salamander.


Strinati’s Cave Salamander Speleomantes strinatii


Northern Spectacled Salamander Salamandrina perspicillata - (c) Loïc van Doorn


Northern Spectacled Salamander Salamandrina perspicillata


Italian Stream Frog Rana italica


Ambrosi’s Cave Salamander Speleomantes ambrosii


Ambrosi’s Cave Salamander Speleomantes ambrosii


Ambrosi’s Cave Salamander Speleomantes ambrosii - (c) Loïc van Doorn


Pelophylax ridibundus kurtmuelleri

Thursday April 25th – a final Italian frog and onto Slovenia

After a comatose night, we crossed northern Italy to the east. Before crossing the border with Slovenia, it took Loïc only minutes out of the car to catch a lovely chocolate-colored Italian Agile Frog.


habitat


Italian Agile Frog Rana latastei


Italian Agile Frog Rana latastei

SLOVENIA

Revisited a pond for Italian Crested Newt. Despite two big fat fish, they were still around, as were Smooth Newt and Yellow-bellied Toad.


habitat


Italian Crested Newt Triturus carnifex


Yellow-bellied Toad Bombina variegata

Some viper failure and then we went to a special little cave.


Olm Proteus anguinus


Olm Proteus anguinus

At night, we tried for Alpine Salamander. Alpine Newt and Common Toad were in full migration mode, but the salamanders were not to be found.


Alpine Newt Ichthyosaura alpestris - (c) Loïc van Doorn

Friday April 26th – southeastern Slovenia and eastern Austria

The famous Stena rock near the Slovenian coast delivered Dalmatian Algyroides and Italian Wall Lizard after a while. Higher up, on the karstic plateau, a very short but sweet weather window allowed for a very pale Nose-horned Viper. After this, we tried for Alpine Salamander in the Sneznik snow, but no luck once more.


a moment of weakness


Eastern Green Lizard Lacerta viridis - subadult female


Italian Wall Lizard Podarcis siculus


Dalmatian Algyroides Algyroides nigropunctatus


Dalmatian Algyroides Algyroides nigropunctatus


habitat


habitat


Nose-horned Viper Vipera ammodytes


Nose-horned Viper Vipera ammodytes


Nose-horned Viper Vipera ammodytes - (c) Loïc van Doorn

Hard to leave again without fairly easy endemic targets like Horvath’s Rock Lizard and Dalmatian Wall Lizard, but we were running out of time. It had been too long since I saw Danube Crested Newt and I never got to see any decent-sized crests on them, so we decided to add an Austrian site before the long drive back to Belgium. First, a successful stop near Ljubljana for Moor Frog, looking quite different from the ones closer to home.


habitat


Moor Frog Rana arvalis


? Moor Frog Rana arvalis ?

AUSTRIA

Well after dark, we arrived near the Danube. First site was dry and dirty but held some Fire-bellied Toad and Marsh Frog. Google showed us a promising marsh, which was an absolute delight to wade through. Sheltered by the reed beds from the strong and cold winds, we found an abundant newt population, along with the same two frog/toad species as well as Common Tree Frog.


Danube Crested Newt Triturus dobrogicus


Danube Crested Newt Triturus dobrogicus


Danube Crested Newt Triturus dobrogicus

Saturday April 27th - the long way back

GERMANY

We wanted to go looking for some Adder or Alpine Salamander in the homeland of Laura Bok, but we had 18h of driving on our plate to get back home. So we left it at a late afternoon Dice Snake flipping session.


habitat


Dice Snake Natrix tessellata


Dice Snake Natrix tessellata

BELGIUM

After dark, we entered our home country. Before going to bed, we visited some frog sites, adding American Bull Frog, Levant Water Frog and Pool Frog as our final observations.


eggs of Common Tree Frog Hyla arborea


Pool Frog Pelophylax lessonae

Species list

1. Fire Salamander Salamandra salamandra (terrestris, fastuosa, bernardezi, gigliolii)
2. Golden-striped Salamander Chioglossa lusitanica
3. Banded Newt Ommatriton ophryticus x nesterovi
4. Great Crested Newt Triturus cristatus
5. Italian Crested Newt Triturus carnifex
6. Danube Crested Newt Triturus dobrogicus
7. Marbled Newt Triturus marmoratus
8. Palmate Newt Lissotriton helveticus
9. Smooth Newt Lissotriton vulgaris
10. Bosca’s Newt Lissotriton boscai
11. Alpine Newt Ichthyosaura alpestris
12. Pyrenean Brook Newt Calotriton asper
13. Montseny Brook Newt Calotriton arnoldi
14. Sharp-ribbed Newt Pleurodeles waltl
15. Strinati’s Cave Salamander Speleomantes strinatii
16. Ambrosi’s Cave Salamander Speleomantes ambrosii
17. Northern Spectacled Salamander Salamandrina perspicillata
18. Olm Proteus anguinus
19. African Clawed Frog Xenopus laevis
20. Fire-bellied Toad Bombina bombina
21. Yellow-bellied Toad Bombina variegata
22. Common Midwife Toad Alytes obstetricans
23. Iberian Painted Frog Discoglossus galganoi - larvae
24. Painted Frog Discoglossus pictus
25. Parsley Frog Pelodytes punctatus (incl. P. hespericus)
26. Common Spadefoot Toad Pelobates fuscus
27. Western Spadefoot Toad Pelobates cultripes
28. Green Toad Bufotes viridis
29. Spiny Toad Bufo spinosus
30. Common Toad Bufo bufo
31. Natterjack Toad Epidalea calamita
32. Common Tree Frog Hyla arborea
33. Stripeless Tree Frog Hyla meridionalis
34. Iberian Tree Frog Hyla molleri
35. Common Frog Rana temporaria
36. Agile Frog Rana dalmatina
37. Iberian Stream Frog Rana iberica
38. Italian Stream Frog Rana italica
39. Pyrenean Stream Frog Rana pyrenaica
40. Italian Agile Frog Rana latastei
41. Moor Frog Rana arvalis
42. Marsh Frog Pelophylax ridibundus (incl. P. kurtmuelleri)
43. Edible Frog Pelophylax kl. esculentus
44. Iberian Water Frog Pelophylax perezi
45. Pool Frog Pelophylax lessonae
46. Levant Water Frog Pelophylax bedriagae
47. American Bull Frog Lithobates catesbeianus
48. European Pond Terrapin Emys orbicularis
49. Spanish Terrapin Mauremys leprosa
50. Slow Worm Anguis fragilis
51. Sand Lizard Lacerta agilis
52. Western Green Lizard Lacerta bilineata
53. Eastern Green Lizard Lacerta viridis
54. Ocellated Lizard Timon lepidus
55. Common Wall Lizard Podarcis muralis
56. Catalonian Wall Lizard Podarcis liolepis
57. Italian Wall Lizard Podarcis siculus
58. Dalmatian Algyroides Algyroides nigropunctatus
59. Western Three-toed Skink Chalcides striatus
60. Moorish Gecko Tarentola mauritanica
61. Western Whip Snake Hierophis viridiflavus
62. Aesculapian Snake Zamenis longissimus
63. Barred Grass Snake Natrix helvetica
64. Viperine Snake Natrix maura
65. Dice Snake Natrix tessellata
66. Asp Viper Vipera aspis
67. Lataste’s Viper Vipera latastei
68. Nose-horned Viper Vipera ammodytes

Species we searched for, spending from minutes for most to several hours for a few, but did not find: Alpine Salamander Salamandra atra, Large Psammodromus Psammodromus algirus, Spanish Psammodromus Psammodromus hispanicus, Dalmatian Wall Lizard Podarcis melisellensis, Horvath’s Rock Lizard Iberolacerta horvathi, Viviparous Lizard Zootoca vivipara, Southern Smooth Snake Coronella girondica, Smooth Snake Coronella austriaca, Iberian Grass Snake Natrix astreptophora and Seoane’s Viper Vipera seoanei.

Species we could have tried to find but decided not to, because of time constraints (including requirement of additional detours) and likeliness of success (including seasonality): Lanza’s Salamander Salamandra lanzai, Italian Cave Salamander Speleomantes italicus, Italian Tree Frog Hyla (intermedia) perrini, Graf’s Hybrid Frog Pelophylax kl. grafi, Hermann’s Tortoise Testudo hermanni, Red-eared Slider Trachemys scripta elegans, European Leaf-toed Gecko Euleptes europaea, Edwards’s Psammodromus Psammodromus edwarsianus, Italian Three-toed Skink Chalcides chalcides, Italian Slow Worm Anguis veronensis, Ladder Snake Zamenis scalaris, Western Montpellier Snake Malpolon monspessulanus, Adder Vipera berus and Meadow Viper Vipera ursinii.

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Last update: May 13, 2019 20:49:02