After an endless winter break it was finally time for the official 2017 season opening. The destination: the Greek islands of Rhodos and Kastellorizo which we had already visited in 2011. The team: our British colleagues Paul Lambourne, Alison Guest and Trevor Willis plus Peter (Birgit had to work, unfortunately). The main goal of this trip were the local Lacertids, of course. However, the non-European team members were particularly interested in the Salamanders of Kastellorizo – strange people, those Brits… Thanks to Thomas Bader for herpetological tips.
Journey from Düsseldorf to Rhodos via Athens – there are no direct flights in spring. Arrival at Rhodos Airport: 10:30 pm.
The British colleagues were not expected until 29.3. – Thus, a complete day remained for lizarding! On Rhodos, three Lacertid lizards occur: Ophisops elegans, Lacerta trilineata and Anatololacerta pelasgiana. Now, the winter break was officially finished with an extensive photo session with this species. A perfect lizard day!
A sunny morning: Time for another lizard photo session in the Lindos area – and a nice surprise: Trachylepis aurata. This rather shy skink could be photographed sunbasking. Afterwards it was time to pick up the British colleagues at the airport. They arrived at 11:30 am. After everyone had shed some tears of happiness we started making plans: In the afternoon, our transfer flight to Kastellorizo was scheduled – two hours left for herping on Rhodos. We decided to visit a known habitat for Blanus strauchi, one of the species on Paul’s tick list. Soon, we found an adult specimen… quite lucky. Afterwards, we headed back to the airport. From there, an Olympic Air propeller aircraft brought us to Kastellorizo airport (besides of us, there was only one additional passenger). On the island, the local cab brought us to our accommodation where we dropped our luggage and when immediately started herping. In the village of Kastellorizo, there are some overgrown areas with ruins: perfect herping spots! On the top of Paul’s wishlist was Lyciasalamandra luschani – A wish which could be easily fulfilled, as the whole island is full of those critters. Paul was blissfully happy… Turning stones also delivered some Ablepharus anatolicus as well as Xerotyphlops vermicularis, Blanus strauchi and Ophiomorus kardesi. It’s amazing that on such a small island three reptile species occur which live underground. A successful day, which was wrapped-up in a romantic Greek tavern in the harbor.
The weather was sunny and we started searching for snakes. Anyhow, turning stones didn’t deliver – but luckily we had Alison in our team: she found an adult Eirenis modestus. Apart from numerous snake eyed skinks we spotted some Anatololacerta sp. at the village. This was extremely interesting: So far, there are no records of Anatololacerta on Kastellorizo in literature. But during our stay in 2011, we already came across a single specimen. This time, we found 3 specimens. Hence, there seems to be a stable population of these lizards on Kastellorizo. A moment of scientific glory! Amazing. Furthermore, it would be interesting to know whether these lizards are Anatololacerta pelasgiana pelasgiana like on Rhodos or if the belong to the Turkish (sub-)species budaki. However, parts of the team started to complain: they wanted to continue searching for snakes – such ignoramuses… So we started a long hike to the barren center of the island to search for snakes. Even in this dry and karstified landscape we found Lyciasalamandra luschani everywhere. Besides of a juvenile Eirenis modestus, which unfortunately disappeared in a rock crevice, we also found some Bufotes viridis. But no more snake records, unfortunately…
The day started with rolling thunder and afterwards it rained during the whole morning – mandering weather! Well equipped with cameras and umbrellas, Trevor and Peter went out bravely into the pouring rain (while Paul preferred to enjoy his beauty sleep). The salamanders were everywhere: on the road, in the grass and even on walls. These amphibians climb remarkably well, they even clamber on solid cement walls. In the afternoon, the sun came out. But now, we already had to go to the airport. Our flight back to Rhodos was scheduled for 3 pm. On Rhodos, we received our hire car and went to an area where we hoped to find Hemorrhois nummifer. We searched a lot but without success: the only findings were a Testudo graeca and some Ablepharus kitaibelii.
Our last day on Rhodos and the final chance to find some snakes. But obviously, the Karma of this trip wasn’t the best since our return from Kastellorizo. We wasted ridiculously much time searching for Hermorrhois nummifer – without success… The only findings were Anatololacerta pelasgiana, Lacerta trilineata and some (doubtful) records of Trachylepis aurata. In the evening it was time to say goodbye to the English colleagues: everyone shed some tears, emotional moments… Thanks a lot, boys and girls – you were great travel companions!
Return flight to Düsseldorf.