Friday, 4 July 2014

Field Herping Trip To The Cyclades Islands Greece

From June 14th to 28th, a team of Matt Wilson, Liam Russell and myself did a full on herping trip to the Greek Islands of Ios, Sikinos, Milos and Santorini. The weather was hot and sunny for the full 2 weeks, thus searches were suspended by 11am and resumed again once it had cooled down, this meant we could do some beach lounging and swimming in the hottest part of the day. We managed 7 species of snake, 6 species of lizard, 1 terrapin and 1 frog which is a full house of species, snake eyed skink was the only species not photographed (seen by Liam).

Ios 15th - 21st
A stressful flight from Manchester to Athens, we had 1 hour 15 mins to make a connection to Santorini and the first flight was late. Like a scene from the Fast Show we were running through Athens airport and made the connection by the skin of our teeth. Then straight onto the ferry to Ios ticking off Cory's and Mediterranean Shearwater . Quickly chucking our stuff in the apartment and straight out into the field. Kotchy's Gecko and Erhard's Wall Lizard were soon seen, then after a hour or so Matt caught an adult 4 Lined Snake which was a very dark individual at about 120-140cm. This was a surprise because it was very warm and these snakes normally avoid the hottest part of the day. Later that evening a male Blue Rock Thrush sang near the balcony of our apartment. Over the next few days we ticked off an array of species, we found a couple of the very scarce Green Lizard which had grey/blue flanks and found a very nice spring containing Water Frogs, both these could be a subspecies as very little work has been done on the herpetofauna of Ios. A total of 5 living and 1 DOR Sand Boas were found, Turkish Gecko. Birds included Eleonora's Falcon, Buzzard, Raven, Chukar and Woodchat Shrike and a few pairs of Black Eared Wheatear.

 Having now found God Matt prays for a safe ferry crossing.
 Apartment View

Rico The apartments resident dog
 Cory's Shearwater
Med (Youkuan) Shearwater
 Female Erhard's Wall Lizard
 If only Matt Wilson found it this easy.
 Selection of Males one Above and Below

 Nice dark 4 Lined Snake


New herping partner
 Turkish Gecko
 Ios Green Lizard Male and probable female below

 Green Lizard Habitat
Matt stalking a lizard
 Ios Water Frog
 3 different Sand Boas

 Black Eared Wheatear

 Male Blue Rock Thrush
 Chukar and Chicks

 Common Buzzard
 Crested Lark
 Little Owl
 Red Rumped Swallow
 Rock Dove
 Sardinian Warbler
 Damselfly spp
 Dragonfly spp
 Orb Spider
Scorpion spp
Sikinos 17th-18th
Just a short ferry crossing from Ios we spent one night on this sparsely habited Island which seemed the driest and hottest. Here there were lots of Kotchy's and Turkish Geckos plus Erhard's Wall Lizard. We also found a very nice male Nose Horned Viper, the snakes on these Islands are much smaller than those found in other parts of Greece and of a slighter build. There were a lot of Eleonora's Falcons with about 7 in the air at the same time.


 Male Snozzel Horn

Milos 21st to 27th
We spent 6 days on Milos and found all of our target species again with morning  and evening searches. First snake up was a lovely Leopard Snake spotted by Liam which he was really chuffed with as it was a new species for him, it was a real pain to photograph it just wouldn't stay still. Following on from this we found  my first new snake species of the trip, a well marked sub-adult Milos Viper and much easier to photograph. The next day we visited the only freshwater on the island (it did not look fresh). Here we saw a few Milos Green Lizards which were a bit shy for photography and a few new species of birds.
The Pond
 Striped Morph Leopard Snake

 Milos Viper

 Dragonfly Spp
 Little Egret
 Green Lizard
 Milos Water Frog

 Juvenile Night Heron
Pallid Swift
Matt said he knew of a good spot to photograph the usually shy Milos Wall Lizard which I've wanted to see ever since I first saw an illustration of them. Sure enough they were good value for money.

Female maybe gravid hence yellow throat


 Alpine Swift
 Juvenile Long Legged Buzzard
No Red Lights in these windows
Late in the day eagle eyed Liam spotted the 6th snake species of the trip a very nice cat Snake.

Kentish Plover
We had 2 further visits to the pond and on each occasion we saw Milos Grass Snake but they were all out in the water other than a brief sighting on the bank which Liam made a dash for but it vanished. We saw at least 4 snakes of various colour morphs. Liam made a valiant attempt at a catch from a jetty and ended up in the water. In the evening I spotted another larger viper which had a more fiery nature doing a S shape as often seen in rattlers. We also added Balkan Terrapin and more Milos Water frogs the biggest I've ever seen.
 Balkan Terrapin
 Dragonfly spp
Hornet with a normal sized wasp for comparison
 Milos Grass Snake



 Matt and Liam discuss Liam's next dive.
 Milos Green Lizards

Viper Photography

 2nd Bigger Viper

We saw quite a few of these White Breasted Hedgehogs I removed some giant ticks from a few.

 Giant water frogs
 View across the bay

 The Team on the hunt for Mythos
The last night was spent on Santorini just in case of last minute ferry problems. Not so many species on here but we did find a good spot for Erhard's Wall Lizard and a few Turkish Geckos.

The Gecko finally got away less his tail.
Species Lists
I = Ios, S = Sikinos, M = Milos T = Santorini (Thira)
Balkan Terrapin only 1 M
Green Lizard 2 I c10 M
Erhard's Wall Lizard Common I, S, T (lifer)
Milos Wall Lizard Fairly Common M (lifer
Turkish Gecko Common I and S Uncommon M and T
Kotchy's Gecko Common I, S, M
Snake Eyed Skink 1 M
4 Lined Snake 1 I (1 dead)
Leopard Snake 1 M
Milos Grass Snake 4 maybe 6 M
Sand Boa 5 plus 1 DOR I
Nose Horned Viper 1 S
Milos Viper 2 M (lifer)
Cat Snake 1 M
Water Frog approx. 10 on I and M
Rabbit 3 I
White Breasted Hedgehog small numbers I and M
Cory's Shearwater few ferry crossing (lifer)
Mediterranean (Yelkouan) Shearwater few ferry crossing
Shag 2 M
Night Heron 1 M
Little Egret 2 M
Mallard 3 M
Long Legged Buzzard 1 M
Common Buzzard Few I
Kestrel Few I, S, M, T
Eleonora's Falcon 7 S few I and M
Chukar 8 I
Pheasant 1 M
Collared Pratincole 1 M
Greenshank 1 M
Kentish Plover 3 M
Yellow Legged Gull Fairly Common
Rock Dove 15 I
Collared Dove fairly common
Turtle Dove several I
Little Owl Few I and M
Scops Owl Several M
Swift  few I
Pallid Swift few M
Alpine Swift 1 M
Crested Lark Common
Red Rumped Swallow 10 I
Barn Swallow 2 I
White Wagtail Few
Grey Wagtail 1 I
Black Eared Wheatear several pairs I
Blue Rock Thrush 2 I
Sardinian Warbler fairly common
Eastern Olivaceous Warbler 10 M
Woodchat Shrike Pair I
Raven small  numbers I and M
House Sparrow Common
Spanish Sparrow Several M
Linnet Few I
Goldfinch Few I
Cretszchmar's Bunting Pair I

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