Loutrós, Thrace Province
on the riverine floodplain
The river running through Loutrós rises in northern Thrace but judging from the extensive flood-barriers in place, and the width of the river-bed, it is clear this relatively small stream can become a rushing torrent when there is heavy rain in the mountains.
We learn that the river valley was not only a good location for aquatic snakes, as would be expected, but also a good place to look for species not generally associated with water-courses, so we divided our time almost equally between the rocky hillsides and the river-banks, with short forays into the agricultural land on either side of the river.
Searching the low hills, dykes and field edges around Loutrós (photos: Øyvind Syrrist)
The river near Loutrós follows a multi-channel route through grassy islands
Common marsh frogs (Pelophylax ridibundus) abounded on the grassy islands and in the shallow channels between them, and at night the air resounded with the cacophony of their calls.
Garden dump, home to two Caspian whipsnakes, Dolichophis caspius
Ruined farmhouse, home to a small Balkan grass snake, Natrix natrix persa
In a road-side dump attached to a small garden we found two Caspian whipsnakes (Dolichophis caspius), a juvenile and a stump-tailed adult) sheltering under flat boards.
Examining the two Caspian whipsnakes, Dolichophis caspius (photo: Axel Barlow)
Walking back to the vehicle
(photo: Dave Nixon)
In the ruins of a farmhouse Øyvind and I found a juvenile Balkan grass snake (Natrix natrix persa) and believe there may have been even more snakes but the dangerous state of the building made further exploration too hazardous.
The road-bridge near Loutrós and a riverside track running along the edge of a dyke flood-barrier
Øyvind crossing the pools and weedbeds below the Loutrós foot-bridge which are home to Common marsh frogs, Pelophylax ridibundus, Balkan terrapins, Mauremys rivulata,
Greek pond terrapins, Emys orbicularis hellenica, Balkan grass snakes, Natrix natrix persa, andDice snakes, Natrix tessellata tessellata
The pools under the footbridge were excellent places to find Balkan grass snakes (Natrix natrix persa) and Dice snakes (Natrix tessellata tessellata).
Dave Nixon with a
Balkan grass snake, Natrix natrix persa (photo: Axel Barlow)
Dave Richards with a
Dice snake, Natrix tessellata tessellata (photo: Axel Barlow)
Extensive rocky dykes have been constructed to hold back the flood waters from the arable lands of the floodplain and these rocks create a natural man-made microhabitat for reptiles, in which they are protected from predation and capture by the thick wire-mesh holding the entire structure together, but this same protective mesh may be a death trap for turtles and tortoises, several bleached carapaces being found wedged between the rocks or washed into the mud at the dyke's feet.
On the rocks in the sunlight we found the Beautiful jumping spider (Philaeus chrysops), a stunning species, males being boldly patterened with red and black. Green bush crickets (Isophya or Poecilimon sp.) were present on the vegetation.
Mesh-covered rock walls form the basis of the flood-restraining dykes,
offer protection to resident snakes and lizards,
but tortoises and terrapins become trapped beneath the mesh.
Protected: an opaque Ottoman viper, Montivipera xanthina shelters safely under the mesh
photo: Axel Barlow
Potential death trap: Balkan terrapin, Mauremys rivulata alive and waiting to be rescued from the wire mesh, but others are no so lucky
(photo: Dave Richards)
Proven death trap: one of several tortoise and turtle carapaces
found trapped under the mesh or in the nearby stream beds