RAUK - Archived Forum - Crete April 2009

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Crete April 2009:

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kevinb
Senior Member
Joined: 18 Mar 2009
No. of posts: 61


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Posted: 20 Apr 2009

Hi,
 just spent a great week herping in Crete with my girlfriend and Matt Wilson from euroherp.com. Suzanne and I arrived at lunchtime Friday 10th April but Matt was not due until 1am the following morning so we sorted out our hire car, dropped the bags at the hotel and went for a drive to a  town called Elounda. At the end of the bay is a good site for Ocellated skinks Chalcides ocellatus

We turned over a few stones and found 4 skinks

We then walked over the hill to a bay and saw a few Balkan Green lizards Lacerta trilineata including one of 26 cm

We stopped for a meal in town and then headed back to the hotel, there was still some time to spare before collecting Matt from the Airport so we had a look around the walls of the building with a torch for Geckos.Behind some pipes at the rear of the building we found 2 Moorish Geckos Tarentola mauritanica

The next day we took Matt to Elounda and found a few Green lizards and Skinks to photograph, this was not difficult as we found the Balkan green lizard to be the most numerous reptile on the island.Next stop was a pond just outside Agios Nicolias where I had previously seen Stripe necked terrapins Mauremys rivulata, the pond was now fenced off and held several very loud geese so we continued on our journey up and up and up to the Lasithi plateau high in the hills. There is a large irrigation lake here and while I have found nothing in the water, the surrounding area is good for reptiles and amphibians.At the overflow of the lake we found a pair of Green toads Pseudepidalia viridis in amplexus and a pair of Tree frogs Hyla arborea



The tree frogs were tucked up behind some plastic and were very dark due to the cold weather that day, a few minutes later we had a hail storm and had to run for cover. When this had stopped we flipped a few stones and found some more toads

I flipped a stone and found one of these !!!

Needless to say ,I did not touch it
On the way back through town we stopped at a pond and found lots of toad tadpoles and some fresh Green toad spawn

During the evening it rained for a while, which was actually something we had been looking forward to and so we got into the car and went for a little cruise to see what we could find. There were Green toads everywhere and a few Tree frogs also on the road


 



We made a few recordings of Tree frogs calling and then headed back to the hotel finding a few Green toads on the lawn and the 2 Geckos on the building
On Sunday we drove down the hill into Hersonissos to visit John McLaren at his small Aquarium where he keeps a selection of Cretes herps. He is doing a great job with limited resources and introduces many local youngsters to reptiles and hopefully they will grow up with a better understanding and not beat every snake to death or believe that skinks are deadly poisonous. This was brought home to me one night after having an intelligent talk about Dart frogs with the hotel barman "So Kevin, which are the frogs that drink milk from cows" I started laughing and told him that they don't. "Oh yes they do, we have caught them doing it "
 John at the Aquarium gave us some tips of places to visit and the first stop was a series of ponds at Gouves. Here we saw 20 Balkan Terrapins and several Skinks, across the small river I flipped some plastic to reveal a Balkan whip snake Heirophis gemonensis
A bit bitey to start with but it soon settled down for pictures

 




after this we stopped at a small harbour in Sissi where we saw 2 Dice snakes Natrix tessellata swimming in the sea but could get no photos so we headed east to Sitia to look for Cretan frogs Pelophylax cretensis. Wading up the river we heard several frogs calling but only managed to see one which quickly disappeared, I managed to catch a large Balkan terrapin

That was about it for the day really except for a few Green lizards here and there a a couple of toads on the lawn at night
Monday we left early on a 2 hour drive to Lake Kourna, when we arrived the wind was blowing very strongly and conditions were not good for herping. We found several Green lizards but our real target for today was Erhards wall lizard podarcis cretensis (formerly erhardii).We walked to the other end of the lake  and the wind dropped and the temperature went up several degres, there was an old pontoon in the lake which the local terrapin population was making good use of.We then came across an old pump house with a leaking pipe which produced a permanent puddle although only a few inches deep. Matt recognised this view from a Balkan herp website and remembered that Cretan frogs had been found here. Sure enough, we soon found a few juvenile frogs,a young Terrapin,a tree frog tadpole and spawn

Behind this pump house was a small quarry where I soon spotted a few wall lizards, the object of todays trip


Walking around the lake we saw a couple more wall lizards , lots of Green lizards, a few terrapins and an adult Cretan frog

 
W also saw and missed another Dice snake much to Matts dismay as this was the one species he was desperate to get pictures of. We moved on further west to Lake Agia near Chania which contains Bull frogs  Lithobates catasbeiana. a quite attractive lake with lots of rushes from where we could hear many Bull frogs booming across the lake with that strange call they have.Next to the lake are some small pools and it was here that we got to see some Bull frogs in the shallows

 There are many Tree frogs here and even during the day you can here many of them calling and it was great to sit on a bench in the sunshine having lunch just listening to the Bull frogs and Tree frogs calling.

Travelling back we made a few stops at random streams etc but this just produced the usual terrapins, green lizards etc. There are only 14 native species on Crete so a determined effort must be made once the easy ones are accounted for
Tuesday
Today we headed for a lake in the south of the island, en route we stopped at a roadside pond but all we could find were thousands of Green toad tadpoles. We arrived at the lake which looked very promising but  all we found there were 2 terrapins, several Green lizards and a skink. We did manage to find 2 Cretan frogs in a small pool below some steps
.
We drove back to Gouves finding terrapins and skinks and then along to Sissi hoping to find a Dice snake but with no success.A walk near the Malia marshes produced just a few skinks and Green lizards

Walking down to the hotel I found a young Moorish gecko on the drive  and another on a wall when we went out for our evening meal.
Wednesday 15th
We started the day with another visit to John at the Aquarium and he kindly let us borrow a couple of Leopard snakes Zamenis situla and a Cat snake  Telescopus fallax. We took these across the road into an olive grove to photograph.On his advice we then visited Nana beach as Dice snakes had been seen in the rock pools there, once again we drew a blank.Using some info from Google earth we headed inland  to a location with a pond, we drove up some dirt tracks and reached our destination,only to find when we got out of the car that we had a huge puncture. Suzanne and I changed the wheel while Matt went off searching some of the olive groves. Once we had done this I walked around the pond and as I passed a pile of small branches I noticed a snakes coil disappearing into it. I thought it was a Balkan whip snake and so called for Suzanne to come and keep an eye on the other side to prevent escape. We also sent matt a text to come back. I carefully removed the long grass and plants from around the pile to stop it sneaking out unnoticed and then slowly removed the branches, I got to the bottom and all that showed was a Green lizard. I was puzzled and felt the ground looking for a rodent hole  that it could have slipped into when Suzanne noticed some movement in the small patch that was left, I reached in just as Matt arrived and I pulled out a 117 cm Dice snake, Matt was very happy


While we had been doing this Matt had seen a Balkan whip snake diasappear into a wall so we knew that we were in a good area.We carried in searching and Mat shouted for assistance,he had seen another Balkan whip snake go into a wall and had pulled a few stones away trying to find it .He thought it was hiding under a large stone so I removed a few smaller ones to get to it and then revealed the snake hiding under a smaller stone.

This was also a bit bitey but soon calmed down




We then headed for our next destination, some ponds on the edge of a nearby town. When we arrived we found that the roads have been altered and so this confused us about which direction to take, we decided to head back to the hotel but as we climbed the hill we looked down and saw water.Well this is what we came on holiday for !
We climbed down and spread out finding just Green lizards but as I turned a bend I found another Balkan whip snake on the path so I quickly grabbed that and caught up with Matt, it measured at 177 cm, the same as the Dice snake.
Matt holding 3rd Balkan whip


Thursday 16th
The first job for today was to try and get the tyre fixed, so we took it into town but it was beyond repair and so had to buy a new one! As they changed it we noticed that the hub cap was missing and as it was a hire car we returned to yesterdays pond site to try and find it.Suzanne did not want to risk another puncture and so stopped at a safe place and walked up the track to look for it. While she was gone I flipped a stone on the roadside to reveal a squashed skink and Green toad, a car must have gone over it to pass another vehicle. I casually flipped the next one to find the "Holy Grail" of euro herping, a LEOPARD SNAKE.


We took some photos and released it back into the wall
Leaving this place we headed back up to the Lasithi plateau and only found lots of Green toad tadpoles.It was 4 degrees c cooler here and so we headed back to the Leopard snake location. We split up to cover more ground and Suzanne and I checked out some old olive groves, I, with my herp experience was flipping selected stones whereas she was turning everything. Suddenly she cries out "Kev , it's a snake" I ran over to find her holding another Leopard snake, we moved out onto some short grass and then released it after some pictures. It was more red than the one I had found.




A great end to a great holiday, Matt came back and had found some toads, Green lizards and a dead small Dice snake under a stone. We had found 11 of 14 native species only missing the Turkish gecko Hemidactylus turcicus,Kotschys gecko Cyrtodactylus kotschyi and the Cat snake Telescopus fallax.
The score for the week was as follows
Tree frog...............4
Green toad............19
Cretan frog...........14
Leopard snake........2
Balkan whip snake...3
Dice snake.............4 (1 dead)
Green lizard.........110+
Ocellated skink......24
Erhards wall lizard..10
Moorish gecko........4
Blkan terrapin........70+
Bull frog................11
Kotschys gecko.......0
Cat snake...............0
Turkish gecko .........0
And finally a cat snake from the Aquarium

kevinb39929.5958449074
tim hamlett
Senior Member
Joined: 17 Dec 2006
No. of posts: 572


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Posted: 20 Apr 2009

what a trip!!!

really enjoyed seeing the pics and reading the stories.

cheers

tim


Suzi
Senior Member
Joined: 06 Apr 2005
No. of posts: 860


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Posted: 20 Apr 2009
Wonderful report and lovely pix. I've been to Crete four times - starting in 1979. Every place we ever stayed in had geckos running around the walls.
Suz
dave fixx
Senior Member
Joined: 13 Mar 2007
No. of posts: 319


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Posted: 20 Apr 2009
That was 10 mins well spent looking through all that ,cheers Kevin,great report and pics.
Dave Williams
davewilliamsphotography.co.uk
Paul Ford
Senior Member
Joined: 06 Sep 2006
No. of posts: 124


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Posted: 21 Apr 2009

Hi Kev,

Glad you had a good week and thanks for posting this up - a very enjoyable read.

If only I could talk my missus into a weeks herping holiday....

Paul


Ophiuchus
Member
Joined: 04 Jan 2007
No. of posts: 44


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Posted: 26 Apr 2009
Great read, and fabtastic photos, the leapord snake looks awesome.
re those balkan green lizards the same as the green lizards that have been intoduced in this country?  they certainly look similar


Ophiuchus *~*the serpent bearer*~*
kevinb
Senior Member
Joined: 18 Mar 2009
No. of posts: 61


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Posted: 26 Apr 2009
I may be wrong but I think the UK Green lizards are Lacerta bilineata whereas the Greek ones are Lacerta trilineata, very similar to look at.
herpetologic2
Senior Member
Joined: 15 Jun 2004
No. of posts: 1369


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Posted: 27 Apr 2009
Kevin I think you are correct there The UK introduced
species look similar to Jersey Greens aswell

J
Vice Chair of ARG UK - self employed consultant -
visit ARG UK & Alresford Wildlife
David Bird
Forum Specialist
Joined: 17 Feb 2003
No. of posts: 515


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Posted: 28 Apr 2009
The U.K. introductions do seem to be the Western Green Lizard Lacerta bilineata whereas in Greece there are The Balkan Green Lizard Lacerta trilineata as well as the Eastern Green Lizard Lacerta viridis which lives in shadier damp habitats. A recent paper has however found some populations in parts of the Balkans that do seem to have been derived from Lacerta bilineataso more work is needed on these. The Islands and Turkey do have some odd looking animals unlike the western Balkans.
British Herpetological Society Librarian and member of B.H.S Conservation Committee. Self employed Herpetological Consultant and Field Worker.

- Crete April 2009

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