Having spent a lot of time in Greece, I am very familiar with the Little owl (Athene noctua) which is very common there and have spent many an afternoon watching them on the Greek islands. They are probably the easiest owl to watch largely thanks to their habits of sitting out during the daytime, especially when the weather is warm. However, I see them far less in England although it is now quite a common species after its introduction here over 150 years ago. Today, I went to a local spot where a pair nest in a dry stone wall each year. The male was there sat on his wall enjoying some sunshine although I didn’t see any sign of the female.
Although I haven’t had a lot of time to dedicate to Herpetology so far in 2014 I have a couple of small-scale projects which will take me back to Greece in the coming months.
Corfu: unfortunately due to scheduling conflicts I won’t be able to conduct my usual work with the Durrell School of Corfu this year but I will be visiting the island in late May to continue my own research on my favourite island together with Bosse and Marie Stille.
Cyclades islands and northern Greek mainland: in June I will return to the Cyclades for an extended visit across a number of different islands including: Santorini, Ios, Sikinos and Milos and possibly others. This will predominantly focus on research of the isolated and differing populations of vipers which occur on these islands together with Carl Corbidge and Stephen Roussos. Stephen has been conducting scientific research on the island populations of Nose-horned vipers (Vipera ammodytes) for a number of years now for his PHD. Following on from this I will travel to the Greek mainland where I will assist Ilias Strachinis with his herpetofauna research, particularly focusing on isolated populations of the Bosnian adder (Vipera berus bosniensis).
The late spring and early summer looks set to be an exciting one, filled with vipers!
It’s all in the title really. Today, I saw five familiar male Adders (Vipera berus) in warm, calm weather but although sunny in most places it was cloudy at the site. On Saturday, I ventured out with Carl and in quite windy and cloudy weather we saw 12 males. Much needed weekend in the field!
Last night, after a wet and mild day, amphibians were moving in quite large numbers close to the pond in my village. Usually, the newts arrive first, then the frogs and then the toads. Last night all three species were moving towards the pond, with bucket and torch in hand I moved over 50 Common frogs (Rana temporaria), 6 Common toads (Bufo bufo) and 5 Palmate newts (Lissotriton helveticus). Many hibernate in a drystone wall and have to negotiate a country lane to reach the breeding site, which sometimes results in mass casualties. There were only a few frogs killed by cars this evening, sadly one amplexus pair had to be euthanised after they were hit by a car. I’ve been visiting this pond every year for most of my life, and in all that time I have never seen a Common toad there or in any of the surrounding areas of my village. Last Summer I found a toad not far away and then last night I found 6 males. Perhaps toads from surrounding areas are establishing new sites further a field as it is quite bizarre that I’ve always regarded this species as absent from my village with breeding sites being found a couple of miles down the road.