Last year, I was in the barren southern province of Murcia, which due to lack of annual rainfall and being one of the driest regions in the whole of Spain was loosing some of its amphibian reproductive sites. With a rare day of heavy rain in May 2008, I and local biologist Vicente Hernandez- Gil discovered a wonderful small pond which not all contained Natterjack Toads (Bufo calamita) but also Parsley Frogs (Pelodytes punctatus) and Western Spadefoot Toads (Pelobates cultripes)! Parsley Frogs are unknown from the drier parts of the province and were only thought to be distributed in the north-western regions. After my return to the UK, Vicente informed me that in September after some further rain the pond was alive with amphibian choruses, and this year he has found a further two amphibian species at the site, which is really great news in a province so straved of any freshwater. To see a short video of the Parsley Frogs see an uploaded video of Vicentes: http://herpetosmurcia.blogspot.com/2008/09/pelodytes-criando-en-charca-temporal.html
In 2006 I visited the Dodecanese island of Kos, here I found a number of Black Whip Snakes (Dolichophis jugularis), but to my surprise I also found some Large Whip Snake (Dolichophis caspius) including a real giant of 220cm! Both are large (over 200cm) diurnal snakes, that feed on large rodents and usually inhabit cultivated areas. These big whip snakes cause alot of confusion for Biologists as in the past animals found on islands such as Rhodos and Kalynmos were mistaken for a caspius when in reality they were female jugularis which had not developped the black colouration of the jugularis species. Both species have not however been found on an island together, until now! After I was able to discover both of them on Kos, it turns out a month earlier some Dutch Herpetologists led by Jaco Bruekers had also discovered populations of both species on this island. As a result after some collaboration they are publishing our interesting new findings, its nice to know that there are still many things to be learnt with regard to reptile distribution in general in Europe.
This time last year I was living in Spain seeing all kinds of reptile and amphibian species. This year, back at home in the North- West there are still a few herps to be found. Some recent nice weather allowed me, mostly in the company of my girlfriend, to photograph some emerging species close to home, such as Common Toads (Bufo bufo), Common Frogs (Rana temporaria), Smooth Newts (Triturus vulgaris), Viviparous Lizards (Zootoca vivipara) and Adders (Vipera berus). There may not be alot in the UK, but they still provide a nice distraction from uni exams 🙂 Getting out to my local sites in early spring is always a nice warm up for me before my trips abroad which usually start in April. But also this time, as I was not here last year, means that I can see how my local populations are doing in comparison to the last time I visited them in spring 2007.
Welcome to my blog, as a first posting I thought I would tell you of my final trip of 2008, which was on the Dodecanese island of Symi, Greece. I last visited this tiny, barren island in April 2007, where I lived on a rural farm with my South African friends Nicholas and Adriana Shum. It was really a great experience having an accommodation in an olive- grove which was alive with wildlife, especially reptiles and insects. I again stayed on the farm except this time I was there in August, with day temperatures of 40C! So unlike my previous trip, it was really hard going looking for herps during the day. Unlike my April trip when I was able to find some big Ottoman Vipers (Montivipera xanthina) and an even bigger and more beautiful Coin- Marked Snake (Hemorrhois nummifer) this time around no vipers could be found at all, however a further two big coin snakes were found active just before nightfall to avoid the unbearable heat. My main target for this trip was the Cat Snake (Telescopus fallax) a secretive, nocturnal species that is not often seen. I went out every night with my torch searching endlessly, in rocky terrain with old stone walls and disused buildings. On the last day of the trip whilst walking to the port at 6am, I saw an elderly Greek woman hitting a snake with her stick, it was a Cat Snake! The animal I had been searching for! I ran over and put a stop to her antics but sadly the little snake was already dead L a nicely patterned animal at around 60cm. I was very frustrated by this as I didn’t get my photographs of a living specimen, but I’ll be back for sure, as Symi is such a beautiful gem of an island, untouched by tourism. On the plus side I found a rare Golden Skink (Trachylepis auratus), which I could not find during my last trip and also a nice little Black Whip snake (Dolichophis jugularis) I found near my cabin. Last time around one of these snakes actually came into my room, in search of some shade from the blistering heat.