Greek Photo-Herp Trip


Dadia Forest, Thrace Province

An hour or so's drive north of Loutrós is the Dadia Forest which is supposedly a better location for Southern nose-horn viper (Vipera ammodytes meridionalis) because it is devoid of Ottoman vipers (Montivipera xanthina). We made a day trip of it.

The first herps sighted were a pair of Northeastern green lizards (Lacerta viridis meridionalis) in the bushes near the road and as the day wore on we found many of them, in the bushes and on the rocks, both sexes and juveniles being in evidence.


A pair of
Northeastern green lizards
, Lacerta viridis meridionalis,
the first herps sighted at the location
(photo: Axel Barlow)


A sloping hill in the Dadia Forest, open rocky areas on the crest, trees in the background and a stream on the left
Very little is active in the open, other than
Eastern Hermann's tortoises
, Eurotestudo hermanni boettgeri
The only way is up!
Mark contemplating the best place to search for
Nosehorn vipers, Vipera ammodytes
(photos: Øyvind Syrrist)


The commonest reptiles encountered were Eastern Hermann's tortoises (Eurotestudo hermanni boettgeri) and Thracian scheltopusiks (Pseudopus apodus thracius) - everywhere!

An adult male
Thracian scheltopusik
, Pseudopus apodus thracius,
moving noisly through the vegetation and rocks


Øyvind and I pursued one male Northeastern green lizard until it ran up a tree. The lizard was probably very surprised when I followed it up the tree and caught it in the branches, bringing if down for Øyvind to film a piece to camera.

Øyvind and Mark filming a PTC (piece to camera) with a male
Northeastern green lizard, Lacerta viridis meridionalis
The Piece to Camera with the Northeastern green lizard, Lacerta viridis meridionalis
(photo: Øyvind Syrrist)


Our hope was to find the nose-horn viper but we did not capture any snakes at this location, despite sighting several. A number of snakes avoiding capture were identified as either Caspian whipsnakes (Dolichophis caspius) or Eastern Montpellier snakes (Malpolon insignitus fuscus) and still others escaped before even identification could be achieved. A single Southern nose-horn viper (Vipera ammodytes meridionalis) was seen pouring itself into a rocky wall but pursuit would have meant serious wall demolition and that was not ethical. It was clear that others had been here before employing less eco-friendly methods, we found may rocky areas with all rocks left overturned. It does not take long to roll rocks back into place, other animals live underneath them (lizards, frogs, invertebrates) and selfish rock-rolling can be destructive to many small lives. It may be okay to "leave no rock unturned" in the search, provided you remember to "turn the rocks back again" before you leave.


Shady rock piles provide numerous opportunities for snakes
On the summit, but no snakes in evidence
(photo: Øyvind Syrrist)


Between the six of us we must have covered some ground in our search for vipers, returning to the central point hoping one of the others had been victorious. As the day wore on it became very hot so a lunchbreak under a shady tree was essential before we could turn out attention to photographing some of the lizards and amphibians captured, before returning them to their places of capture.

The team relaxes in the middle of the day
Wolfgang and Dave photographing lizards in the Cubelite


A shallow and shady creek provided us with two species of amphibians: the Balkan yellow-bellied toad (Bombina variegata scabra) and newly metamorphosed Fire salamanders (Salamandra salamandra salamandra). The rocks on either side also provided opportunities to stalk and photograph Northeastern green lizards (Lacerta viridis meridionalis).


Pools in the small creek was were we found a
Balkan yellow-bellied toad
Bombina variegata scabra, and newly metamorphosed
Fire salamanders
, Salamandra s. salamandra
Mark pondering the stream habitat
and watching newly metamorphosed
Fire salamanders, Salamandra s. salamandra
(photo: Dave Nixon)
Basking male Northeastern green lizard, Lacerta viridis meridionalis


We started the drive back to the coast without having found a single snake all day. Or plan was to meet up with Benny Trapp, the German herpetologist and Euro-herp specialist, we had encountered a day or so earlier, and go to dinner with him near the Turkish border.

Our plans were a little delayed when we encountered a juvenile Aesculapian snake (Zamensis longissimus longissimus) on the road and spent an age photographing it, before releasing it off the road.

Eventually we met with Benny in Féres, had dinner and then went night herping on the river running through Loutrós - "old herpers never sleep, they just look like they ought to!" The secret? Red Bull!