Greek Photo-Herp Trip


April 27th to May 2nd 2012

Map of herping localities in Thrace, northeastern Province
note: the town names are centres of searches rather than precise localities to protect vulnerable populations
(click on map to enlarge)

All photographs copyright Mark O'Shea, unless otherwise indicated

A group of five herpetologists and photographers from the UK, and a videographer/filmmaker from Norway, decided to make a field trip to Greece, to find and photograph as many reptiles, amphibians as possible in 4.5 days, and also anything else that took our fancy (usually venomous invertebrates).

From the UK:
Wolfgang Wüster (Univ. Wales, Bangor)
Dave Nixon (Stoke-on-Trent, Staffordshire Moorlands)
Dave Richards (Univ. Nottingham)
Axel Barlow (Univ. Wales, Bangor)
Mark O'Shea (Shropshire)

From Norway:
Øyvind Syrrist

The UK contingent flew from Gatwick to Thessaloniki with easyJet, an early flight which meant an overnight near the airport, and met Øyvind at the Greek airport (he had arrived from Oslo a day earlier). From Thessaloniki we took a people-carrier and drove to Alessandroúpouli in the northeastern province of Thrace and checked into the Hotel Bel Air.

The primary target species for the trip was the Ottoman viper, Montivipera xanthina, with a secondary target species of the Southern nose-horn viper, Vipera ammodytes meridionalis, and if we proved successful on both scores we might head back towards Thessaloniki to look for the Bosnian adder, Vipera berus bosniensis. As with other herp photo-trips we were also interested in other reptiles and amphibians but it is good to set one or two special target species, and with us those have to be venomous species.

We planned to search over a very wide area between Alessandroúpoli and the Turkish border, aided in our search by information provided to us by Jeroen Speybroeck, Matt Wilson, and in the field, Benny Trapp. In deferrence to the concerns of these herpetologists, and in the knowledge that not every reptile enthusiast visiting Greece does so with the best intentions in mind, we have set out to disguise the precise localities where specimens of emotive species like M.xanthina were found. It is a shame this is necessary but this journal is not intended as a blue-print for those who would collect and take away these wonderful animals, whether for personal collections or commercial gain, either way we disapprove!
Real reptile lovers do not harm wild population, enough said.

The province of Thrace nestles up against the Turkish border on the east and lies between the Aegean Sea to the south, and Bulgaria to the north. It is the northeastern-most province in Greece. Thrace boasts an impressive herpetofauna, some 46 species including several whose mainland European distribution is limited to European Turkey and Greek Thrace, M. xanthina amongst them.

Our herp species count for the trip was high = 24, over 50% of the species known from the province, comprising seven species of amphibians and 17 species of reptiles.


Thrace 2012 herp-photo group
Montivipera xanthina habitat
(back row l-r) Øyvind Syrrist, Dave Richards, Dave Nixon, Axel Barlow
& Wolfgang Wüster,
(front row l-r) Benny Trapp (who we met in the field) & Mark O'Shea
(click on image to enlarge)


1. Alessandroúpoli & Mákri

2a. Loutrós - in the hills
2b. Loutrós - on the river floodplain

3. Dadia Forest

4. Amphibians:
a) Frogs & Toads recorded during the field trip
b) Newts & Salamanders recorded during the field trip

5. Reptiles:
a) Terrapins & Tortoises recorded during the field trip
b) Lizards recorded during the field trip
c) Snakes recorded during the field trip

6. Invertebrates:
a) Venomous inverts: Spiders & Centipedes
b) Nonvenomous inverts: Beetles & Bugs

7. It's all about getting the shot!
A photomontage of herp photographers

8. Filming the trip

Expedition Results - a full herp life-list of the herpetofauna from the trip.

Planning your own herp-photo trip to Greece
click here for field guides


The No.1 target species, an Ottoman viper, Montivipera xanthina
(photo: Øyvind Syrrist)


Photographing the target species,
Ottoman viper, Macrovipera xanthina,
(photo: Axel Barlow)