Tuesday, 24 April 2012

Field Trip to the Greek Islands of Rhodes and Symi.

When my regular herping companion Matt Wilson suggested a spring trip to the small Greek Island of Symi, I quickly agreed as it has Ottoman Vipers which were top of my European wish list. There are also a few other species I haven't seen before, plus many more which are always nice to see again. There are no direct flights to Symi so it is necessary to fly to Rhodes and then get a ferry. Matt went out a few days before me with top Greek herper Ilias Strachnis. I was due to get a ferry Sunday morning, however due to Easter celebrations there were no ferries running, so I had a day and night on Rhodes. At the end of the week I had a total of 15 species of reptiles, 1 amphibian and some nice bird observations.

Thanks to Nicholas and Adriana Shum who put us up on their farm on Symi and provided us with excellant evening meals.

All photos © Carl Corbidge no unauthorised usage

Day 1 Sunday 15th April 2012 sunny

I arrived at my hotel at 7am and as expected it was closed, so I hid my case and headed down a country lane. I quickly flipped an Ocellated Skink Chalcides ocellatus. It was still a little cool for any reptile activity but there was plenty of birdlife, including Woodchat Shrike Lanius senator , Sardinian Warbler Sylvia melanocephala, Red Throated Pipit Anthus cervinus and Night Heron Nycticorax nycticorax.

Sardinian Warbler not normally as confiding as this one.
Red Throated Pipit
Woodchat Shrike
Night Heron
At 8am I booked into my hotel and then headed out again, it was now a little warmer and I saw a few juvenile Balkan Green Lizards Lacerta trilineata diplochondrodes, this sub-species is only found on Rhodes, later I found an adult male, the most obvious difference was it had brown hind legs. 5 more large Ocellated Skinks were found along with 4 Oertzeni's Rock Lizards Analolacerta oertzeni, 30 Starred Agamas Laudakia stellio and 3 Green Toads Bufo viridis. There had obviously been a fall of migrant birds and I saw Collared Flycatcher Ficedula albicollis, Pied Flycatcher Ficedula hypoleuca, Spotted Flycatcher Musciapa striata, Wood Warbler Phylloscopus sibalatrix, Subalpine Warbler Sylvia cantillans, Hoopoe Upupa epops, Hooded Crow Corvus corone cornix and Little Egret Egretta garzetta.

Above and Below Starred Agamas

Oertzeni's Rock Lizard no rocks so a tree will do!
Above and Below Ocellated Skinks

Juvenile Balkan Green Lizard
Male Balkan Green Lizard
Male Balkan Green Lizard
Green Toad
Male Collared Flycatcher
Female Collared Flycatcher
Habitat behind my hotel
Spotted Flycatcher
Subalpine Warbler
View from Rhodes across to Turkey
Hooded Crow
Wood Warbler
Monday 16th Sunny

I set off for the morning ferry to Symi, whilst waiting for the ferry I try to get some shots of Crag Martins Ptyonoprogne rupestris, on the ferry crossing I saw a couple of Yelkouan Shearwaters Puffinus yelkouan.
Above and Below Crag Martin

Yelkouan Shearwater
I met Matt and Ilias at the port with the knowledge they had caught 3 snakes an adult Black Whip Snake Dolichophis jugularis, Dwarf Snake Eirenis modestus and a nice sub-adult male Ottoman Viper Montivipera xanthina. After snake photography and release we carried on searching, Spur thighed Tortoise Testudo graeca, Snake Eyed Lizard Ophisops elegans were quickly added. At another site Ilias found an Island first in the form of 2 Worm Snakes Typhlops vermicularis, another Dwarf Snake was found, I found an Anatolian Worm Lizard Blanus strauchi. Under a wooden board the very rare Golden/Levant Skink Mabuya aurata escaped my grasp (more to follow on this). Both Turkish Gecko Hemidactylus turcicus and Kotchy's Gecko Cyrtopodion kotschyi were added to the growing list. Ilias had a talk to do on Rhodes and so we had to say goodbye to him at the end of the day.

Preparing for Viper Photography
Above and below sub-adult male Ottoman Viper

Adult Black Whip Snake
Matt prefers to get some shots of the back of Ilias's head rather than the whip snake!
First Dwarf Snake
Second Dwarf Snake
Second Dwarf Snake
Kotchy's Gecko
Turkish Gecko
Snake Eyed Lizard

Tuesday 17th April Sunny
Despite the weather being good and extensive searching we didn't have much success. We had the usual list of lizards and tortoise, a juvenile Black Whip Snake escaped both mine and Matts grasp. One thing about skinks is they are often quite faithful to their refuge site, thus prepared to catch the little fellow we flipped the Golden Skinks board and it promptly escaped again into nearby scrub. In one of the man made ponds on the island (which was full after all the rain) there were around 10 Green toads although there wasn't much evidence of breeding. We noticed some Kestrels further down the road which turned out to be Lesser Kestrels Falco naumanni, there were up to 10 of these superb little falcons catching insects and with patience we got some decent shots.
 Above male and below female Green Toads

 Toad Habitat
 Above female and below male Lesser Kestrel

 Oertzeni's Rock Lizards

Spur Thighed Tortoise keeping out of the sun.

Wednesday 18th April Cloud rain and a little sun.
The weather took a turn for the worse with strong winds rain and cloud on the mountain. In one break in the cloud I caught another adult whip snake a little browner than the other one and with a yellowish underside whearas the previous one had a pinkish belly. We didn't really add much else, the rain came down, and the afternoon was spent in an internet cafe  drinking beer and looking at the rain.

 Above photos Large Whip Snake
 Wild Flower Meadow
Symi Harbour

Thursday 19th April Cloud/Sun
The lack of snakes and the weather was starting to get frustrating nothing was to change today, no snakes again. I added Snake Eyed Skink Ablepharus kitaibelii (no pics) plus the usual list of lizards. We saw some nice birds though including European Bee-eater Merops apiaster even better a Blue-cheeked Bee-eater Merops persicus a species that breeds in the middle east, Alpine Swift Apus melba.
 Starred Agama
 Alpine Swift

 Above Blue Cheeked and Below European Bee-eater

 Kotchy's Gecko
Juvenile Spur thighed Tortoise

Friday 20th April Mostly Sunny
We tried a new area today down a track through the woods and into some cultivated fields. In the middle there was a pond with breeding Green Toads with tadpoles and some strings of spawn visible. We saw 2 adult Black Whip Snakes (which escaped) but managed to catch a juvenile but still no more vipers or coin snakes. On the way back we saw a displaying pair of Woodchat Shrikes and several Blue Rock Thrush Monticola solitarius.

 Juvenile Black Whip Snake

 Above Male Blue Rock Thrush and Below Female

 Pair of Woodchat Shrikes
 Myself and Matt at the Whipsnake Wall
 Snake Eyed Lizard
Pair of Oertzeni's Rock Lizards

Saturday 21st April Mainly Cloudy
The weather turned once again but there seemed to be some sun in the area we visited the day before so headed off over the mountain yet again. Further down the track there was only one area in the sun so we gave it a whirl. A Black Eared Wheatear Oenanthe hispanica drew me round the corner and we saw an even better looking field. Matt went one way and found some Green Toads. Then I spotted a large 1 metre male Ottoman Viper a couple of feet out from the wall. I only had one glove on so I shouted Matt who had 3 gloves on and we caught the beast. It eventually settled and we fired away with the cameras, this was the nicest snake I have found to date. We let him go back into the wall and feeling satisfied we headed back over the mountain on our trusty scooter. On the mountain top we saw some Cretzchmar's Buntings Emberiza caesia. Determined to get a photo of a  Golden Skink we lifted the board again, disaster it was dead on a piece of wood underneath probably crushed by a goat walking over the board. At one final site a juvenile whip snake was poking its head out of the wall and then we had to prepare to catch the ferry.

 Black Eared Wheatear
 Above and Below a 1 metre Ottoman Viper

 Me pleased as punch with our find
 Matt attempts to teach the viper how to perform a Goose-step

 Above Female and below Male Cretzchmar's Bunting

All in all we had a very good trip and the last viper made up for not finding a Coin Marked Snake which we were probably still a little early for.

SPECIES LIST (R= Rhodes S = Symi)


Green Toad Bufo viridis (R S)
Spur Thighed Tortoise Testudo Graeca (S)
Starred Agama Laudakia stellio (R S)
Turkish Gecko Hemidactylus turcicus (S)
Kotchy's Gecko Cyrtopodion kotschyi (S)
Balkan Green Lizards Lacerta trilineata diplochondrodes (R)
Oertzeni's Rock Lizards Analolacerta oertzeni (R S)
Snake Eyed Lizard Ophisops elegans (S)
Ocellated Skink Chalcides ocellatus (S)
Golden/Levant Skink Mabuya aurata (S) Lifer
Snake Eyed Skink Ablepharus kitaibelii (S)
Anatolian Worm Lizard Blanus strauchi (S) Lifer
Worm Snake Typhlops vermicularis (S) Lifer
Dwarf Snake Eirenis modestus (S) Lifer
Black Whip Snake Dolichophis jugularis (S) Lifer
Ottoman Viper Montivipera xanthina (S) Lifer


Night Heron Nycticorax nycticorax (R)
Little Egret Egretta gazetta (R)
Yelkouan Shearwater Puffinus yelkouan (S) Lifer
Eagle spp possibly Short Toed or Imperial (S)
Lesser Kestrel Falco naumanni (S) Lifer
Red Legged Partridge Alectoris rufa (S)
Yellow Legged Gull Larus cachinnans (S)
Collared Dove Streptopelia decaoto (R S)
Turtle Dove Streptomelia turtur (S)
Little Owl Athene noctua (S)
Scops Owl Otus scops (S)
Swift Apus apus (S)
Alpine Swift Apus melba (R S)
Hoopoe Upupa epops (R)
European Bee-eater Merops apiaster (S)
Blue-cheeked Bee-eater Merops persicus (S) Lifer
Crag Martin Ptyonoprogne rupestris (R)
House Martin Delichon urbica (S)
Barn Swallow Hirundo rustica (R S)
Red-rumped Swallow Hirundo daurica (S)
Red Throated Pipit Anthus cervinus (R S)
White Wagtail Motacilla alba (S)
Nightingale Luscinia megarhynchos (S)
Black Eared Wheatear Oenanthe hispanica (S)
Winchat Saxicola rubetra (R S)
Blue Rock Thrush Monticola solitarius (S)
Blackbird Turdus merula (R S)
Blackcap Sylvia atricapilla (S)
Sardinian Warbler Sylvia melanocephala (R S)
Subalpine Warbler Sylvia cantillans (R)
Wood Warbler Phy;osscopus sibalatrix (R S)
Spotted Flycatcher Musciapa striata (R)
Pied Flycatcher Ficedula hypoleuca (R)
Collared Flycatcher Ficedula albicollis (R)
Woodchat Shrike Lanius senator (R S)
Raven Corvus corax (S)
Hooded Crow Corvus corone cornix (R S)
Golden Oriole Oriolus oriolus (S) Lifer
House Sparrow Passer domesticus (R S)
Chaffinch Fringilla coelebs (S)
Greenfinch Carduelis chloris (R)
Serin Serinus serinus (S)
Cretzchmars Bunting Emberiza caesia (S) Lifer


  1. Lovely shots, awesome pictures and awesome photography. :)

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    1. Thankyou very much I had a great time and was pretty pleased with the photos I got.

  2. Hello, I'm here doing research and found these...lovely!