GREECE 2012

Greek Photo-Herp Trip
Thrace

 

Loutrós, Thrace Province
in the hills

Loutrós is a small agricultural town in eastern Thrace which served as a useful hub for exploratory herp trips into the hills to the north, west and east and down to the riverine floodplains in the south. We explored a variety of habitat types from densely wooded hillsides and rocky outcrops and hill-tops to marshlands, pools, ponds and dams. We covered a lot of ground... you have to if you want to find as diverse a selection of reptiles and amphibians as we set out to photograph.

Loutrós town in eastern Thrace,
a good base for upland and lowland searches
(click to enlarge any images)

We were literally spoiled for choice when it came to where to search for reptiles around Loutrós. We started out on the hill tops and gradually worked our way down into the valleys.

 

Loutrós is located on a wide river valley, the Aegean Sea on the left

 

Looking southeast from a high point above Loutrós, towards Turkey

 

A rocky hill top above Loutrós, home to Thracian scheltopusik, Pseudopus apodus thracius,
Balkan green lizards,
Lacerta trilineata trilineata, Eastern spur-thighed tortoise, Testudo graeca ibera, and European blindsnakes, Typhlops vermicularis to Ottoman vipers, Montivipera xanthina

The bare rocks and scrubby vegetation on the hill tops provided suitable habitat for Eastern spur-thighed tortoise (Testudo graeca ibera), Thracian scheltopusik (Pseudopus apodus thracius) and Balkan green lizards (Lacerta trilineata trilineata) and many different snakes, including European blindsnakes (Typhlops vermicularis), Caspian whipsnakes (Dolichophis caspius), European catsnakes (Telescopus fallax fallax) and Ottoman vipers (Montivipera xanthina).

A fascinating find by Wolfgang, a European blindsnake, Typhlops vermicularis
(photo: Øyvind Syrrist)

 

Amongst the invertebrates found on the rocky, wooded hillsides were a Brown bush cricket (Isophya or Poecilimon sp.) and a very alien, Cone-head mantis (Empusa fasciata).

 

Spot the sleeping tortoises
Eastern spur-thighed tortoise, Testudo graeca ibera

 

The victorious snake hunters with their quarrey

Our first Ottoman viper came from a location to the north of Loutrós, on a rocky-hillside near the river. Dave and I were together when it crossed our path and he just got his tongs to it as it poured itself into a crevice under a rock, it was a remarkable and lucky capture. We bagged the snake, GPSed the exact spot and came back down to the others, victorious. After extensive photography the snake was returned to the exact rock under which it was heading when captured.

Ottoman viper,
Montivipera xanthina

 

One of the commonest snakes encountered was the Caspian whipsnake (Dolichophis caspius), in the 4.5 days we saw at least 13 identifiable whipsnakes and managed to capture three.

The victorious snake hunters with their quarrey

The photograph on the right shows Axel Barlow confidently demonstrating the calm method of handling one of these flighty and bitey snakes without incident, followed a a sequence of photographs where Dave Nixon demonstrates a different method of whipsnake handling.

 

 
Caspian whipsnake,
Dolichophis caspius
 

 

You just know where this is going.....
Told you so!
and in close up!
(photos: Dave Richards)

 

A dammed stream high in the hills provided a suitable habitat for amphibians. Here we found numerous Common marsh frogs (Pelophylax ridibundus), as well as a European treefrog (Hyla arborea) and a newly metamorphosed Common smooth newt (Lissotriton vulgaris vulgaris). We wondered about Balkan grass snakes (Natrix natrix persa) but did not find any.

A pond created by a dammed stream above Loutrós, home to
Common marsh frogs
, Pelophylax ridibundus, Common smooth newt, Lissotriton vulgaris vulgaris,
and
European treefrog, Hyla arborea

Near the pond we also found several extremely busy Dung beetles (Scarabaeus sp.) rolling huge balls of dung to their burrows as food, and a large female Wolf spider (Lycosa singoriensis) in her burrow, guarding her cocoon. We also found a large False widow spider (Steatoda sp.) which closely remembles the highly venomous Black widow spider (Latrodectus mactans). All were too good to pass up without photography sessions.

Preparing to photograph an industrious
Dung beetle
, Scarabaeus sp.
(photo: Dave Nixon)
Mark photographing the
Dung beetle
, Scarabaeus sp.
while others look on
(photo: Axel Barlow)
Wolfgang joins in
(photo: Øyvind Syrrist)
Probagger to hand, just in case
(photo: Dave Richards)