CROATIA 2013

Croatian Photo-Herp Trip
Zagreb & Istria

 

Novigrad, Istria County

Early in the morning Neven collected me from the Palace Hotel and we set off to meet Ivo Peranić, Dušan Jelić and Dušan's two colleagues for the 2-3 hour drive to Istria. This was the expedition to obtain additional specimens of the Olm (Proteus anguinus) for the research project led by Dušan Jelić, funded in part by ZSL and hosted by the Zagreb Zoo. The Olm is a truly unique and unusual amphibian that inhabits total darkness in freezing cold subterranean flooded caverns.

The drive took us through Zagreb, Karlovac and Primorge-Gorski Kotar Counties to reach Istria. The main town in Gorski Kotar is Rijeka, a major port on the Adriatic and here we stopped for a break. Unfortunately it started raining very heavily and despite our hopes that the rain would diminish when we crossed the mountains into Istria, it remained wet all day. Not ideal snake hunting weather, which was what Neven, Ivo and I would be doing while Dušan and his colleagues were diving for the Olm.

Eventually we reached the town of Novigrad and the Baredine Caves complex.

 

The Baredine Caves ticket office
Tourists gathering to enter the caves
The Baredine Caves map
Steps down into the tourist caves
Homage to the Olm, Proteus anguinus

While Dušan and his colleagues set out for the cave where they were to dive, Neven, Ivo and I visited the more 'touristy' Baredine Caves and joined the tour. We were allowed to remain at the bottom for a while to photograph three olms which had been relocated to a pool in the cavern as a tourist attraction (see here).

At the bottom of the accessible Baredine Caves

 

Above ground we set out to search for snakes but although the rain had stopped the ground and vegetation was extremely wet and there was very little debris around the area, most of which comprised vineyards, for us to turn over for sheltering snakes.

We searched the roadways, we searched the vineyards, it was very very wet
Photos: Neven Vrbanic

In the end Ivo and I caught one snake, a melanistic Western whipsnake (Hierophis viridiflavus) which was ensconced under the flooring of a road-side shelter. This snake provided some humorous moment when it came to photograph, I think it bit all three of us before it was finished.

The roadside shelter where we caught the
Western whipsnake
, Hierophis viridiflavus

 

Settling the Western whipsnake, Hierophis viridiflavus for photography was not easy...
Photos: Neven Vrbanic
because they bite!
Photo: Neven Vrbanic

 

 

Ivo with the
Western whipsnake
, Hierophis viridiflavus
Neven concentrating on taking a group shot which he admitted was one of his best ever images
click on this image to see the results

 

 

Eventually Neven got the shot! The triumphant and very wet team with the
Western whipsnake, Hierophis viridiflavus

The whipsnake was then released back under the floor of the shelter.

Ivo releasing the
Western whipsnake
, Hierophis viridiflavus