Sunday, 22 May 2011

Back To Snake Island, Corfu May 2011

On the 6th of May I headed off for 10 days intensive herping on the Island of Corfu along with Matt Wilson and Andy Gray. I had previously been there in October 2009 on a non herping trip (still managed 14 species) so I was keen to go back in the spring. Not surprisingly we did a little better this time around and managed to chalk up 30 species, 11 snakes, 9 lizards, 3 chelonians and 7 amphibians. We only missed 3 native species, Worm snake, Aesculapian snake and Macedonian Newt.
Matt had been invited to help do some guiding with the Durrell school organised by Dave and Alex Ashcroft. The aim of the course is to take the guests on walks in the areas of Corfu which were visited by Gerald Durrell during his childhood on Corfu. Myself and Matt were allowed to stay at the school during our stay so a big thankyou to Dave and Alex for this. Andy didn't want such a full on herping trip so stayed in Barbati, allowing him to do his own thing on some days. Our aim was to see as much as possible in the week before Matt started the guiding so the pace was hectic.
I won't be naming any specific sites, collecting of certain species still occurs on Corfu and I don't want to give any clues to these idiots.

Day 1 Saturday 7th May Sunny 25C
We arrived late got ripped off for 25 euros for late hire car pick up and another 80 euros for a tank of fuel. We were up early the next morning, walking through Corfu Town the sky was full of Alpine Swifts Apus melba and Common Swifts Apus apus. We headed to an area in the south, first species up was predictably Dalmation Algyroides Algyroides nigropunctatus the most numerous lizard on the island. We quickly added Balkan Green Lizard Lacerta trilineata, Marsh/Epirus Frog Pelophylax spp, Hermann's Tortoise Testudo hermanni and a juvenile Greek Slow Worm Anguis graeca which has now been given full species status. Next came one of the rarest/hardest to see snakes on the island a beautiful 50cm Sand Boa Eryx jaculus, initially Matt and myself thought "it's dead" because it was out on the sand in broad daylight, however it was very much alive and constituted our biggest stroke of luck of the trip. Further into the dunes we had 2 more tortoise, an Eastern Montpellier Snake Malpolon insignitis escaped and we caught 2 large Glass Lizards Pseudopus apodus. Moving on to a ruin another 4 Glass Lizards, 1 dor and one live Montpellier snake plus the Algyroides.

Alpine Swifts Apus melba © C Corbidge

Male Dalmation Algyroides Algyroides nigropunctatus © C Corbidge
Juvenile Greek Slow Worm Anguis graeca © C Corbidge
Hermann's Tortoise Testudo hermanni © C Corbidge
A battle scarred Glass Lizard Pseudopus apodus © C Corbidge
The second prettier one © C Corbidge
Male Balkan Green Lizard Lacerta trilineata © C Corbidge
Above 5 photos Sand Boa Eryx jaculus © C Corbidge

Sand Boa Video
Matt and the Boa © C Corbidge
Habitat © C Corbidge
After an excellant morning we picked Andy up and had a look around some sites in the north. At the first stop we had 2 Dahl's Whip Snakes Platiceps najadum, (1 caught), a juvenile Montpellier snake (escaped) and a few Balkan Green Lizards.
Above Dahl's Whip Snake Platyceps najadum © C Corbidge
Female Balkan Green Lizard Lacerta trilineata © C Corbidge
Woodchat Shrike Lanius senator © C Corbidge

Moving on up to another site further up the mountain we had a second stroke of luck, Andy flipped a stone on the top of a wall and discovered a Cat Snake Telescopus fallax, of which there are only a handful of records for Corfu. Matt narrowly missed catching a large Montpellier Snake and we rescued a Grass Snake Natrix natrix persa from a well. We found another 3 slow worms also, these look identical to those in the UK, the only difference I noted was they tended to have pale spots around the face.

Cat Snake photography © C Corbidge
Above Cat Snake Telescopus fallax © C Corbidge
Above 2 different Greek Slow Worms © C Corbidge
Anybody down there? © C Corbidge
Yes me I'm stuck! © C Corbidge
Grass Snake Natrix natrix persa © C Corbidge

Day 2 Sunny 25C
In the morning we had 3 Hermann's Tortoise including a fairly small one, Snake Eyed Skink Ablepharus kitabelli, Balkan Green Lizard and Glass Lizard. We then picked Andy up, and went up in the mountains again, there was a recently dor large male Montpellier Snake. We then had a juvenile Montpellier Snake and a juvenile Four Lined Snake Elaphe quatuorlineata, 2 more Greek Slow Worms and a single Turkish Gecko Hemidactylus turcicus.

Juvenile Hermann's Tortoise Testudo hermanni © C Corbidge
Turkish Gecko Hemidactylus turcicus © C Corbidge
Juvenile Montpellier Snake Malpolon insignitus © C Corbidge
Above and below juvenile Four Lined Snake Elaphe quatuorlineata © C Corbidge

In the evening we had a night drive, we heard Common Tree Frog Hyla arborea, but couldn't see them and lots of water frogs.

Day 3 Cloudy and Rain at times.
This was perhaps our least successful day, we added Common Toad Bufo bufo spinosus, a brief view of the second smaller green lizard of the island, Eastern Green Lizard Lacerta viridis, Snake Eyed Skink, 10 Turkish Geckos 10 Smooth Newts, Lissotriton vulgaris and 3 slow worms and the usual Algyroides.
Large female Common Toad Bufo bufo spinosus © C Corbidge
Smooth Newt Lissotriton vulgaris female above male below © C Corbidge
Male Dalmation Algyroides Algyroides nigropunctatus © C Corbidge

Day 4 Sunny/Cloud.
We had a little trouble finding a lagoon which when we finally did was a little disapointing. We had 3 Tortoise, a Dahl's Whip Snake, 3 Glass Lizards, 1 Montpellier, 2 juvenile Agile Frogs Rana dalmatina.
Above and below Agile Frog Rana dalmatina © C Corbidge

Moving on to a riparian habitat, we had European Terrapin Emys orbicularis, Balkan Terrapin Mauremys rivulata, 3 Grass Snakes and lots of water frog spp. Then over a 30 minute period we started with a Melanistic Dice Snake Natrix tessalata followed by 3 more normal coloured snakes all in the same small spot. Further through the valley Matt had his most frustrating moment of the trip as he managed to get his finger tips to a Caspian Whip Snake Dolichophis caspius but it slipped away into a wall, this was the snake which was top of his wish list. 2 Balkan Wall Lizards Podarcis taurica on the road edge added another species.
European Terrapin Emys orbicularis © C Corbidge
Balkan Terrapin Mauremys rivulata © C Corbidge
Marsh/Epirus Frog Pelophylax spp © C Corbidge
Above and below Melanistic Dice Snake Natrix tessalata © C Corbidge
Above and below 2 different Dice Snakes Natrix tessalata © C Corbidge

Habitat © C Corbidge
Above and below Balkan Wall Lizard Podarcis taurica © C Corbidge

Day 5 Cloudy AM Sunny PM
Today we were joined by Bella who had visted Corfu wanting to see some of the places and wildlife written about in the books of Gerald Durrell. We headed to a spot previously visited on Monday when the weather wasn't so good. We kicked off with a Slow Worm, 5 Balkan Green Lizards, Glass Lizard, Common Toad and Algyroides. Just has we had called it a day at that site, I spotted a large snake which turned out to be an adult Four Lined Snake which was approximately 2 metres the biggest snake i've caught to date.
Above and below Balkan Green Lizard Lacerta trilineata © C Corbidge
Adult Four Lined Snake Elaphe quatuorlineata © C Corbidge
Bella and Me with the big Four Line © C Corbidge

Moving on after lunch we visited a couple areas of ruins. We missed yet another Montpellier Snake, Matt caught a small Balkan Whip Snake Hierophis gemonensis and Andy caught a smallish female Nose Horned Viper Vipera ammodytes.

Above and Below Balkan Whip Snake Hierophis gemonesis © C Corbidge
Above and Below Female Nose Horned Viper Vipera ammodytes © C Corbidge

Viper Video
There was a little bit of rain in the evening so myself and Matt did a night drive looking for amphibians. We had 20 Common Toad, 1 Common Tree Frog, 20 Agile Frog, 10 Smooth Newt, lots of Water Frog spp, 2 Scops Owls Otus scops apparently picking off amphibians on the road and most surprisingly 2 Grass Snakes.

Adult Agile Frog Rana dalmatina © C Corbidge

 Day 6 Sunny 26C
We started the day with a 150cm Four Lined Snake, a Balkan Whip Snake escaped my grasp. Our intention for the afternoon was to explore the offshore Island of Vidos, but unfortunately the boat was not running. Instead we had a look around the southern end of Corfu town, we ticked off the Starred Agamas Laudakia stellio. At a drying up pool numerous newly metamorphised Green Toads Bufo viridis were making their way out of the sun. With a little rain in the evening we went to the site with the Green Toads hoping the rain would bring out an adult, luckily we found one male calling and heard another.
 Adult Four Lined Snake Elaphe quatuorlineata © C Corbidge

Starred Agama Laudakia stellio Adult above Juv Below © C Corbidge
Juvenile Green Toad Bufo viridis © C Corbidge
Adult Male Green Toad Bufo viridis © C Corbidge

Day 7 Sunny 28C
Today we headed up high to some old ruins, on the road up we had an adult Balkan Whip Snake, we failed to catch another large Montpellier Snake with another dor, Glass lizard, Balkan Green lizard and Algyroides made up the days tally.
Adult Balkan Whip Snake Hierophis gemonesis © C Corbidge

Day 8 Sunny 28C
We decided to try again for Eastern Green Lizard as we hadn't managed to photograph one yet (and i didn't see the one Matt had seen). This time our luck was in and a male showed well, this lizard only seems to be present in one small area in the north perhaps outcompeted by the larger Balkan Green elsewhere. We had another juvenile Four Lined Snake, failed to catch 2 Balkan Whip Snakes, an old Hermann's Tortoise, 2 Glass Lizards.
Above 3 photos Eastern Green Lizard Lacerta Viridis © C Corbidge
Juvenile Four Lined Snake Elaphe quatuorlineata © C Corbidge
Above Red Rumped Swallow Hirundo daurica Barn Swallow Hirundo rustica © C Corbidge

Day 9 Sunny 28C
Unfortunately the first snake of the day was a small female viper that looked like some moron had deliberately killed it with injuries to its head and tail. Next up was the snake top of my wish list a lovely Leopard Snake Zamenis situla which was the last new species of the trip and what a way to finish. On another road a recent vehicle casualty a lovely marked male viper. We rescued a tortoise off the road as it was stuck at the base of a wall. Another possible Balkan Whip Snake and the ubiquitus Balkan Green Lizards.

Above 3 photos Leopard Snake Zamenis situla © C Corbidge

Habitat © C Corbidge
Dave gloved up and ready for a big snake © C Corbidge

Male Viper dor © C Corbidge
Swallowtail © C Corbidge

Last Day Rain/Cloud
The weather took a turn for the worse again so only a single Glass Lizard, Balkan Greens a Turkish Gecko, I managed to sneak a photo of a Black Eared Wheatear Oenanthe hispanica.

All in all I couldn't have asked for a better week of herping, Corfu is a great Island and a place I will be returning to in the near future.
Final Totals
Smooth Newt Lissotriton vulgaris 20+
Epirus Frog Pelophylax epeirotica numerous
Marsh Frog Pelophylax ridibunda numerous
Agile Frog Rana dalmatina 20+
Common Tree Frog Hyla arborea Heard 1 dor
Common Toad Bufo bufo 20+
Green Toad Bufo viridis 2 adults 100+ juv
Hermann's Tortoise Testudo hermanni 11
European Terrapin Emys orbicularis 10+
Balkan Terrapin Mauremys rivulata 1
Starred Agama Laudakia stellio 10+
Turkish Gecko Hemidactylus turcicus 10+
Balkan Green Lizard Lacerta trilineata numerous
Eastern Green Lizard Lacerta viridis 2
Dalmation Algyroides Algyroides nigropunctatus numerous
Balkan Wall Lizard Podarcis taurica 2
Snake Eyed Skink Ablepharus kitabelli 3
Greek Slow Worm Anguis graeca 10
Glass Lizard Pseudopus apodus 10+
Eastern Montpellier Snake Malpolon insignitus 10+
Balkan Whip Snake Hierophis gemonensis 7
Dahl's Whip Snake Platyceps najadum 3
Caspian Whip Snake Dolichophis caspius 1
Dice Snake Natrix tessalata 4
Grass Snake Natrix natrix persa 7
Leopard Snake Zamenis situla 1
Cat Snake Telescopus fallax 1
Four Lined Snake Elaphe quatuorlineata 4
Sand Boa Eryx jaculus 1
Nose Horned Viper Vipera ammodytes 1


  1. What an absolutely fascinating post. I got back from Corfu yesterday. I saw loads of snakes but had no idea of what they were or if they were dangerous. Would it be possible for you to send me a link where I could find a list of the species on the island (and which ones are poisonous) Thanks very much. calmond9 (at) aol dot com. PS my highlights were Honey Buzzard, Rose Coloured Starling, Quail and a VERY close roosting scops owl.

  2. A great post with a huge amount of info and photographs of most that Corfu has to offer the Herpotlogist . I'm off to Corfu tomorrow for a family holiday but i will certainly be spending time looking for some reptiles in the Sidari area . Its not the best time to go, especially as the weather forecast is 97 for the next 4 days but hopefully i can find a few interesting species .
    I will post any finds if anyone is interested .

  3. I love the fantastic Corf├╣ herpetofauna