Corfu and Paxos 2013

As in 2011 and 2012 I was invited back to Corfu by the Durrell School of Corfu to lead aspects of herpetology for Gerald Durrell’s Corfu 2013. However, this year I decided to stay on the island for a little longer once the field course had finished. In the company of Swedish ex-pats Bosse and Marie Stille (Bosse being a crazy herper like me and Marie a Botanist) we decided to spend several days on the island of Paxos, just south of Corfu. Indy, a young male husky also joined us for the majority of our time in the field. Many thanks to Bo and Marie for allowing me to stay with them at their home.

In total, I spent 14 days exploring Corfu, 7 of these for the Durrell School in the company of Dr David Shimwell, Dr Lee Durrell, Colin Stevenson, David Bellamy, Rosemary Bellamy and Alex and Dave Ashcroft. This allowed me to learn many aspects of other areas of flora, fauna and culture of the island that I am less accustomed to, and in turn I could introduce them to many of my favourite reptiles and amphibians during our explorations.

The team: Rosemary Bellamy, Colin Stevenson, David Shimwell, Me, Dave Ashcroft, Lee Durrell and David Bellamy

The team: Rosemary Bellamy, Colin Stevenson, David Shimwell, Me, Dave Ashcroft, Lee Durrell and David Bellamy

Although I was able to find many species whilst conducting the guided walks on Corfu I had a number of nice finds searching in the evenings by myself or after Gerald Durrell week, when Bosse and I explored the island.

After one of the wettest winters on record the vegetation all over the island was very high indeed, often over at least a metre high. This was great for the flora and the insects but spotting and then catching reptiles, especially snakes became very difficult. At times we became frustrated chasing snakes in the tall vegetation and not being able to even see let alone catch them. This resulted in a rather small ratio of caught snakes compared to the number we saw (usually  5-10 a day). Nevertheless we found and photographed the majority of species found on Corfu.  We were especially pleased with finding an Aesculapian snake (Zamenis longissimus) a rare species on Corfu which I managed to snatch from the road on the last day before it was run over. Another highlight was finding five Nose-horned vipers (Vipera ammodytes), mostly out crawling at night. We saw some species in high numbers, for example over 40 Grass snakes (Natrix natrix persa) and over 30 Balkan whip snakes (Hierophis gemonensis). Although we didn’t count, we easily saw over 50 Glass lizards (Pseudopus apodus) which were more common than any of the snakes (excluding Natrix natrix around fresh water). Unfortunately road-killed snakes were a very common sight, often over 10 per day, some days over 20. But we did manage to save a couple.

All photos (C) Matt Wilson

Corfu

Balkan terrapin (Mauremys rivulata) found commonly at most fresh water sites we explored.

Balkan terrapin (Mauremys rivulata) found commonly at most fresh water sites we explored.

Juvenile Glass lizard (Pseudopus apodus)

Juvenile Glass lizard (Pseudopus apodus)

Bosse ready to pounce for a snake!

Bosse ready to pounce for a snake!

Marsh frog (Pelophylax ridibundus) could not stay off the roads at night.

Marsh frog (Pelophylax ridibundus) could not stay off the roads at night.

Our first snake was this huge 120cm Dahl's whip snake (Platyceps najadum) found under a large tin. A few days later we found an adult Four-lined snake (Elaphe quatuorlineata) under the same tin.

Our first snake was this huge 120cm Dahl’s whip snake (Platyceps najadum) found under a large tin. A few days later we found an adult Four-lined snake (Elaphe quatuorlineata) under the same tin.

I lost count of many of these I removed from the roads around wetland areas: Grass snake (Natrix natrix persa)

I lost count of many of these I removed from the roads around wetland areas: Grass snake (Natrix natrix persa)

This angry female Nose-horned viper (Vipera ammodytes) was the only viper that I caught during the daytime.

This angry female Nose-horned viper (Vipera ammodytes) was the only viper that I caught during the daytime.

Nose-horned viper (Vipera ammodytes)

Nose-horned viper (Vipera ammodytes)

Greek slow worm (Anguis graeca) was found commonly during my time on Corfu.

Greek slow worm (Anguis graeca) was found commonly during my time on Corfu.

Orchids abound at higher altitudes.

Orchids abound at higher altitudes.

And more..

And more..

Orchid heaven

Orchid heaven

More floral delights

More floral delights

Carpeted limestone

Carpeted limestone

A more normal sized Dahl's whip snake (Platyceps najadum)

A more normal sized Dahl’s whip snake (Platyceps najadum)

One of five Worm snake (Typhlops vermicularis) we found.

One of five Worm snake (Typhlops vermicularis) we found.

One evening I found this juvenile Nose-horned viper (Vipera ammodytes) under a stone.

One evening I found this juvenile Nose-horned viper (Vipera ammodytes) under a stone.

Juvenile Nose-horned viper (Vipera ammodytes)

Juvenile Nose-horned viper (Vipera ammodytes)

One of the few, not so shy Balkan green lizards (Lacerta trilineata)

One of the few, not so shy Balkan green lizards (Lacerta trilineata)

Four-lined snake (Elaphe quatuorlineata) rescued from someone's yard.

Four-lined snake (Elaphe quatuorlineata) rescued from someone’s yard.

Balkan wall lizard (Podarcis tauricus) on the beach

Balkan wall lizard (Podarcis tauricus) on the beach

Another Four-lined snake (Elaphe quatuorlineata)

Another Four-lined snake (Elaphe quatuorlineata)

Doing what he does/doesn't do best: Glass lizard (Pseudopus apodus)

Doing what he does/doesn’t do best: Glass lizard (Pseudopus apodus)

Only a few Jabas this time

Only a few Jabas this time

Smooth newt (Lissotrion vulgaris graeca) catch during Gerald Durrell week

Smooth newt (Lissotrion vulgaris graeca) catch during Gerald Durrell week

Marsh frog (Pelophylax ridibundus) catch

Marsh frog (Pelophylax ridibundus) catch

Great place for a picnic

Great place for a picnic

This shy European pond terrapin (Emys orbicularis) proved popular with the younger participants of Gerald Durrell week

This shy European pond terrapin (Emys orbicularis) proved popular with the younger participants of Gerald Durrell week

Must be something in the air

Must be something in the air

Turkish gecko (Hemidactylus turcicus)

Turkish gecko (Hemidactylus turcicus)

Snake-eyed skink (Ablepharus kitaibelli)

Snake-eyed skink (Ablepharus kitaibelli)

Shy, big male

Shy, big male

Balkan whip snake (Hierophis gemonensis)

Balkan whip snake (Hierophis gemonensis)

Same

Same

Old Perithia

Old Perithia

Old Perithia with Theo, one of the participants who is also the Godson of Theodore Stephanides.

Old Perithia with Theo, one of the participants who is also the godson of Theodore Stephanides as Matt in the background wonders just how much more walking we will have to do.

I enjoyed a privileged week at the Villa Alexina

I enjoyed a privileged week at the Villa Alexina

San Stephanos

San Stephanos

My favourite walk: right next to the sea I saw a large Montpellier snake (Malpolon insignitus) climbing a tall rock, sadly I slipped as I made a grab for him and broke my 3euro sunglasses...

My favourite walk: right next to the sea I saw a large Montpellier snake (Malpolon insignitus) climbing a tall rock, sadly I slipped as I made a grab for him and broke my 3euro sunglasses…

Albania isn't far...

Albania isn’t far…

Nice place to stop for dinner

Nice place to stop for dinner

I found this baby Balkan whip snake (Hierophis gemonensis) under a stone. Mummy and Daddy both escaped me on the same walk.

I found this baby Balkan whip snake (Hierophis gemonensis) under a stone. Mummy and Daddy both escaped me on the same walk.

Two-tailed pasha

Two-tailed pasha

A pile of terrapins

A pile of terrapins

The Dr and one of his subjects

The Dr and one of his subjects

Hermann's tortoise (Testudo hermanni)

Hermann’s tortoise (Testudo hermanni)

Bellamy and I find a mutual interest

Bellamy and I find a mutual interest

While in Corfu town I dropped by to see a friend.

While in Corfu town I dropped by to see a friend.

Jackdaws over the fire area

Jackdaws over the fire area

Mesobuthus gibbosus

Mesobuthus gibbosus

Swallowtail

Swallowtail

They're everywhere...

They’re everywhere…

See?

See?

Bosse and I have no time for tarmac

Bosse and I have no time for tarmac

Rocks fall..

Rocks fall..

Tarmac appears in odd places. Then disappears. As does the road, down the side of the valley.

Tarmac appears in odd places. Then disappears. As does the road, down the side of the valley.

Garden of the gods

Garden of the gods

As close to god are you're going to reach on this island

As close to god are you’re going to reach on this island

For me abandoned villages are far more interesting than ones with people in them

For me abandoned villages are far more interesting than ones with people in them

Paleokastritsa

Paleokastritsa

Male Dalmation algyroides (Algyroides nigropunctatus)

Male Dalmation algyroides (Algyroides nigropunctatus)

European pond terrapin (Emys orbicularis)

European pond terrapin (Emys orbicularis)

Female Nose-horned viper (Vipera ammodytes)

Female Nose-horned viper (Vipera ammodytes)

Same

Same

Tail less Four-lined snake (Elaphe quatuorlineata) found under a tin

Tail less Four-lined snake (Elaphe quatuorlineata) found under a tin

Common tree frog (Hyla arborea)

Common tree frog (Hyla arborea)

Male Nose-horned viper (Vipera ammodytes)

Male Nose-horned viper (Vipera ammodytes)

Same

Same

As I was flipping stones I was being watched..

As I was flipping stones I was being watched..

Baby green toad (Bufo viridis)

Baby green toad (Bufo viridis)

Balkan green lizard (Lacerta trilineata)

Balkan green lizard (Lacerta trilineata)

Just too late: a banded Caspian whip snake (Dolichophis caspius). Not common at all on Corfu.

Just too late: a banded Caspian whip snake (Dolichophis caspius). Not common at all on Corfu.

Bands of same adult snake, typical of around half of adults found on Corfu.

Bands of same adult snake, typical of around half of adults found on Corfu.

Montpellier snake (Malpolon insignitus)

Montpellier snake (Malpolon insignitus)

Aesculapian snake (Zamenis longissimus) rescued from the road on the final day.

Aesculapian snake (Zamenis longissimus) rescued from the road on the final day.

This Leopard snake (Zamenis situla) was found on a road at night. It behaved oddly when picked up and died soon afterwards. Despite not having any damage it must have been hit by a car.

This Leopard snake (Zamenis situla) was found on a road at night. It behaved oddly when picked up and died soon afterwards. Despite not having any damage it must have been hit by a car. I only found a sloughed skin of these species during the rest of the trip.

This 60cm pre-shed male Nose-horned viper (Vipera ammodytes) was the last snake we found and was found again at night.

This 60cm pre-shed male Nose-horned viper (Vipera ammodytes) was the last snake we found and was found again at night.

Same specimen

Same specimen

Paxos

We spent 3 nights on the small island of Paxos and was forced to spend a fourth night on the island after weather conditions were not suitable for our boat ride back to Corfu. Taking only twenty five minutes to drive from corner to corner we did not expect to find many species living here. Indeed we were correct but based on a small amount of literature we had some surprise findings. Like Corfu the island has a dense covering of olive groves whereas along the coast small areas of maquis still persist. Paxos seems to have a number of differences to Corfu geologically, and is generally a more rocky island. There are no natural fresh water sources on Paxos.

We found 5 species of reptile and no amphibians on the island during our stay. Two of these would appear to be new records. Dalmation algyroides (Algyroides nigropunctatus) was found everywhere, but never in large numbers and was the only lacertid present. An old record of Green lizard (Lacerta viridis) seems highly unlikely to us, as does a record for Starred agama (Laudakia stellio).  To our surprise we found a number of Kotschyi’s geckos (Mediodactylus kotschyi) under stones. This species is not found on Corfu. We also found a couple of Turkish geckos (Hemidactylus turcicus).  As for the snakes, 14 Balkan whip snakes (Hierophis gemonensis), half DOR, would indicate that this is a very common snake on Paxos. Twice we even encountered individuals being killed by feral cats, which are an even bigger problem on Paxos than on Corfu. The first species we saw on the island was a 120cm Aesculapian snake (Zamenis longissimus) crossing the road. Over the next few days we realized that they grow large on Paxos. We caught a female of 175cm and found a very fresh DOR male of 185cm. A further 120cm specimen was also found as a roadkill which would indicate the species is at least quite common on the island.

View from our apartment of the capital of Paxos: Gaios

View from our apartment of the capital of Paxos: Gaios

Indy have a break

Indy having a break

There are a number of pretty villages such as this on Paxos

There are a number of pretty villages such as this on Paxos

Aesculapian snake (Zamenis longissimus) (C) Matt Wilson

Aesculapian snake (Zamenis longissimus) (C) Matt Wilson

Aesculapian snake (Zamenis longissimus)

Aesculapian snake (Zamenis longissimus)

Same

Same

Greek hero!

Greek hero!

Rough seas meant we couldn't take our scheduled boat back to Corfu

Rough seas meant we couldn’t take our scheduled boat back to Corfu

Paxos

Paxos

Me with one of the finds of the trip

Me with one of the finds of the trip

Happy Swede!

Happy Swede!

Aesculapian snake (Zamenis longissimus) 175cm female

Aesculapian snake (Zamenis longissimus) 175cm female

Same

Same

Aesculapian snake (Zamenis longissimus) (C) Matt Wilson

Aesculapian snake (Zamenis longissimus) (C) Matt Wilson

Dalmation algyroides (Algyroides nigropunctatus)

Dalmation algyroides (Algyroides nigropunctatus)

Kotschyi's gecko (Mediodactylus kotschyi)

Kotschyi’s gecko (Mediodactylus kotschyi)

Balkan whip snake (Hierophis gemonensis) without a tail

Balkan whip snake (Hierophis gemonensis) without a tail

Species list:

C=Corfu   P=Paxos

1. Green toad (Bufo viridis) C

2. Common toad (Bufo bufo) C

3. Common tree frog (Hyla arborea) C

4/5. Epirus water frog/Marsh frog (Pelophylax epeirotica/ridibundus) C

6. Smooth newt (Lissotriton vulgaris graeca) C

7. European pond terrapin (Emys orbicularis) C

8. Balkan terrapin (Mauremys rivulata) C

9. Hermann’s tortoise (Testudo hermanni) C

10. Balkan wall lizard (Podarcis tauricus) C

11. Dalmation algyroides (Algyroides nigropunctatus) C P

12. Balkan green lizard (Lacerta trilineata) C

13. Turkish gecko (Hemidactylus turcicus) C P

14. Kotschyi’s gecko (Mediodactylus kotschyi) P

15. Snake-eyed skink (Ablepharus kitaibelli) C

16. Greek slow worm (Anguis graeca) C

17. Glass lizard (Pseudopus apodus) C

18. Balkan whip snake (Hierophis gemonensis) C P 25+ seen (half DOR)

19. Dahl’s whip snake (Platyceps najadum) C 8 seen (half DOR)

20. Caspian whip snake (Dolichophis caspius) C 1 DOR plus several possible sightings

21. Montpellier snake (Malpolon insignitus) C, over 30 (half DOR)

22. Grass snake (Natrix natrix) C, over 40 (some DOR)

23. Dice snake (Natrix tessellata) C, 4 seen, none caught

24. Four-lined snake (Elaphe quatuorlineata) C, 5 adults (+1 DOR)

25. Leopard snake (Zamenis situla) C, 1 DOR and 1 slough

26. Aesculapian snake (Zamenis longissimus) C P, 6 adults (3 DOR)

27. Nose-horned viper (Vipera ammodytes) C, 6 specimens (1 DOR)

28. Worm snake (Typhlops vermicularis) C, 5 specimens

8 comments on “Corfu and Paxos 2013

  1. Nice trip Chris and some very distinguished company, human as welas animal, I liked the toad shot, Is it Bufo b. spinozus the southern toad rather than the smaller Bufo bufo?
    dean

    Like

  2. Matt – A terrific blog and great to see that we share a passion for reptiles. I had the pleasure of travelling with Gerald & Lee Durrell aboard the MV Astor back in the mid-80s when they agreed to guest lecture on a cruise of the Indian Ocean. A few years later David Bellamy guest lectured on another cruise company I worked for called Orient Lines (Marco Polo). I can’t hold a candle to your photography but you might find the fauna section of my Flickr site interesting.
    Happy Herping
    Best Regards
    Nick Dobbs

    Like

  3. Hi Nick,
    Many thanks for the kind comments. Sounds like you have had some enjoyable travels. I’ll check out your Flickr, I only consider myself an amateur photographer so I don’t hold my own work in high regard!
    All the best,
    Matt

    Like

  4. Hi Matt. Please keep me posted if you are intending to re-visit Corfu again as part of a group field visit. I have been there a few times on business but alas not had the opportunity to go herping. I’ve a flat in Malta which I haven’t been to for a while but am thinking about going there for a week’s herping next Spring.

    Realised a long-standing ambition last month by getting an ARC license to survey British reptiles. Based in Dorset, I have the luxury of regularly seeing all 6 reptile species on my doorstep (+ 2 introductions – Western Green Lizard and Wall Lizard)

    Nick

    Like

    • Hi Nick,
      Malta has some nice species to look for, chameleons are especially common there I believe. I doubt I will be back in Corfu next year as I have some other trips already lined up. I envy you living in Dorset, where I live up north there are only very fragmented reptile populations.
      All the best,
      Matt

      Like

  5. Just thought I would like to congratulate you on these wonderful pics of a fantastic island, steeped in great flora and fauna….bravo!

    Like

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