Monday, 8 August 2011

A Few Reptiles and Amphibians From Side Turkey

Together with my daughter Sasha, my sister Lisa, her other half Andy and his son Harrison, we had 10 days in the Antalya region of Turkey starting on 24th July 2011. We were based in Side which is near Manavgat. This was obviously a family holiday with intended beach/pool days and some day trips (the highlight of which was white water rafting). However I intended to do some herping in the morning and late afternoon. July isn't the ideal month, generally because it gets too hot for both herps and herper but I was hoping to see some new species. All the herping done was from the apartment either walking or taking a five minute taxi ride. I must thank fellow herper Dan Kane who has been to this area on several occasions and gave me information on the spots where he had some success, cheers Dan.

The weather all week was too hot, in the region of 40 celsius and not dropping much below 30 at night. By the end of the 10 days I had managed to scrape together 13 species, 2 amphibians, 3 chelonians, 7 lizards and 1 snake. I also saw some interesting birds, mammals and invertebrates.

I'm not going to do a day by day account but split the report into the two main areas I visited these being, the ruins and dunes near the old town and some farmland with a small stream running through behind the apartment.

Dunes and Ruins
Side is full of ancient Roman ruins, these stretch behind the beach from the old town. It was here I found the first herps of the trip. Starred Agamas Laudakia stellio were in evidence, skittish as ever perched on the rocks, trees and ruins. I flipped 2 Ocellated Skinks Chalcides ocellatus the first lifer of the trip. There were plenty of tortoise tracks in the sand but I only found one Spur Thighed Tortoise Testudo graeca that had found a piece of discarded water melon and was getting it's fill. I saw a couple of Striped Skinks Mabuya vittata another lifer, the second of which I flipped and managed to catch. On a high wall there was a shed snake skin which was probably from a Dahl's Whip Snake. At night in Side a local man offered camel rides and he kept these in the dunes, so I asked him if he saw many snakes and he had seen one the day before, however despite visits morning and evening I couldn't find any.

Ruins at Side © Carl Corbidge
Above baby Starred Agama and 2 different adults below © Carl Corbidge
Above and below 2 different Ocellated Skinks © Carl Corbidge
Above and Below Spur Thighed Tortoise © Carl Corbidge

Tortoise Habitat © Carl Corbidge
Shed of probable Dahl's Whip Snake © Carl Corbidge
Above and Below Striped Skink © Carl Corbidge

There were also a few birds in the dunes Spectacled Bulbuls Pycnonotus xanthopygos were fairly common and I also saw some Rufous Bush Robin Cercotrichus galactotes.
Above and Below Spectacled Bulbuls © Carl Corbidge
Above and Below Rufous Bush Robin © Carl Corbidge

One of the species I was keen to see was Loggerhead Turtles Caretta caretta which occur in the area. Andy likes to do a spot of sea fishing, so we headed off to a spot where he had seen turtles on a previous trip when fishing. The most I expected was some distant views, however a shout from Andy and he and Harrison had just seen one a few yards out, but vanished by the time I appeared. A five minute wait and I could see a distant head bobbing up and down every so often, so I decided to walk towards the direction it was swimming. My luck was in, as I then spotted another turtle down in the edge. 10 minutes later and there were 3 showing down to a few metres, the most obliging was a barnacle encrusted individual feeding on sea grass, I had an amazing wildlife experience for the next 30 minutes.

Above 3 Loggerhead no 1 © Carl Corbidge
Loggerhead head no 2 © Carl Corbidge
Loggerhead no 3 © Carl Corbidge
2 Loggerheads together © Carl Corbidge
Side Harbour © Carl Corbidge
Fields and Stream
This area turned out to be the most productive and produced the only snake of the trip. On my first morning visit to a part of the stream near my apartment I saw a couple of Balkan Terrapins Mauremys rivulata and managed to catch a Grass Snake Natrix natrix persa, this was of the striped variety and the yellow on the neck was very dark, I also found an adult Praying Mantis spp. A little bit further downstream in an area tipped off by Dan Kane I added a few extra species. I found two Green Toads Bufo viridis, Levant Water Frogs Pelophylax bedriagae a single Kotschy's Gecko Cyrtopodian kotschyi, the commonest lizard in this area was the Snake Eyed Lizard Ophisops elegans macrodactylus, one adult individual gave me a step by step demonstration on how to despatch a grasshopper. I also saw 5 Pamphylian Green Lizards Lacerta pamphylica , which have to be the most beautiful species in this group of lizards, these are endemic to the Antalya region of Turkey and tricky to photograph generally being a couple of feet off the ground partially obscured in vegetation. There were also more terrapins and fresh water crabs in the deeper pools and quite a few Wasp Spiders in the vegetation, these are very large and as the name suggests have a beautiful wasp like colouration. On an evening visit as the sun went down the edges of the fields were alive with lizards (but difficult to spot) I saw 5 Budak's Snake Eyed Skinks Ablepharus budaki (but couldn't get a photo) more Striped Skinks, I got my only shot of a female Pamphylian Green Lizard. With all this lizard activity I felt that this was the best chance of encountering a decent snake, but not even a sniff. One evening after a night out, Harrison spotted a hedgehog near the apartment, having recently read a book on mammals I had a suspicion it might be a different species so I went to get my camera. I'm glad I did as it was a White Breasted Hedgehog Erinaceus concolor, although it doesn't look a great deal different to the Western Hedgehog.

Praying Mantis spp © Carl Corbidge
Wasp Spider © Carl Corbidge
Above and below 2 different Balkan Terrapins © Carl Corbidge
Above 3 Grass Snake © Carl Corbidge
Freshwater Crab spp © Carl Corbidge
Above and below 2 different Green Toads © Carl Corbidge
Above 3 Kotschy's Gecko © Carl Corbidge
Above and Below 2 different Levant Water Frogs © Carl Corbidge
Above Female and Below Male Pamphylian Green Lizard © Carl Corbidge
Red Rumped Swallow © Carl Corbidge
Adult Snake Eyed Lizard (she's spotted something) © Carl Corbidge
Got It © Carl Corbidge
Down it Goes © Carl Corbidge
All Gone © Carl Corbidge
Above and Below Juvenile Snake Eyed Lizard © Carl Corbidge

Above Sub-adult and Below Adult Striped Skink © Carl Corbidge
White Breasted Hedgehog © Carl Corbidge

Final Species Tally

Reptiles and Amphibians
1) Green Toad Bufo viridis 2
2) Levant Water Frog Pelophylax bedriagae Common
3) Loggerhead Turtle Caretta caretta  3
4) Spur Thighed Tortoise Testudo graeca 1
5) Balkan Terrapin Mauremys rivulata 10+
6) Kotschy's Gecko Cyrtopodian kotschyi 1
7) Starred Agama Laudakia stellio Common
8) Pamphylian Green Lizard Lacerta pamphylica 7
9) Snake Eyed Lizard Ophisops elegans macrodactylus 20+
10) Budak's Snake Eyed Skink Ablepharus budaki 5
11) Ocellated Skink Chalcides ocellatus 2
12) Striped Skink Mabuya vittata 10
13) Grass Snake Natrix natrix persa 1


White Breasted Hedgehog Erinaceus concolor
Bat spp

Sparrowhawk Accipiter nisus 2
Little Owl Athene noctua 5
Crested Lark Galerida cristata Common
Red Rumped Swallow Hirundo daurica Common
Barn Swallow Hirundo rustica Common
House Martin Delichon urbica Common
Sand Martin Riparia riparia Common
Spectacled Bulbul Pycnonotus xanthopygos Common
Rufous Bush Robin Cercotrichas galactotes 10+

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