Peloponnesus 2003

Between 18-25 April I and Anders Selmer with families visited Peloponnesus, the southern peninsula on the Greek mainland. The area is very rich in herpetofauna with several endemic species. Totally 49 species has been registered, among those some new ones lately. Important sources for knowledge about the areas species and distribution was articles by Henrik Bringsö and information from Lars Bergendorf who visited the area 2001. During our trip we saw in total 19 species even though the weather was quite bad the first days. With a rented car in Athens we drove around the peninsula clockwise by the route Epidaurus-Mystra-Pyros-Kalogria-Zachlorou. The time for studying herpetofauna was good but the weather is still unpredictable this early in the season. It had rained a lot the week before which had created a lot of freshwater ponds. Later in the spring the weather is more stable but then the possibilities to see frogs and salamanders decrese. The flora was in it's peak and we saw at least 15 species of orchids.

Day 1

We left Athens in the morning and drove on the highway to the Corinth channel where we had a break and enjoyed the view. From here we continued on smaller roads along the cost to the ruins of Epidaurus where we had heard it could be a good start for lizards. The sky was covered by dark grey clouds and a light rain fell so we did not se any species. We then continued to Tolo where we found a nice pension for the night. In the town we had sites for Turkish and Kotschy´s gecko but in the cold evening no animals could be found.

Day 2

We started early and went for the ancient ruins of Mykene which lie very beautiful on the mountain slopes northwest of Nafplio. The weather was cloudy and cold but the sun got through now and then. In the most remote part of the ruins we saw the first Peloponnese Wall Lizard (Podarcis peloponnesiacus) in a short opportunity for sunbathing. Sunny days they say those can be really numerous here. We continued along the coast south and started to climb the Parnon Mountains where heavy rain started. By a creek at about 1000 m above sea level we stopped and found some frog spawn (probably Rana graeca) but no adults. In better weather the area could be very nice to explore. We now continued for Sparta and made a stop south of the city by the river where we could hear green frogs (probably Pelophylax kurtmuelleri). In Sparta we found a central pension for the night.

Day 3

Clear blue sky in the morning gave us hope for a nice day in the ruins of Mystra at the slopes of Taygetos Mountains just west of Sparta. The mountains were covered with snow and gave a wonderful view. We had a very nice morning in Mystra and saw in the lower part Kotschy's Gecko (Mediodactylus kotschyi), Peloponnese Wall Lizard (Podarcis peloponnesiacus), Snake Eyed Skink (Ablepharus kitaibelii) and a young Hermann´s Tortoise (Eurotestudo hermanni). The weather got cloudy and soon we had rain. Between the village Mystra and the ruins we took a walk up in a canyon and had a lot of orchids but no herpetofauna. After lunch we decided to go up in the mountains on the main road to Kalamata. Several stops along the road did not give any result for Rana graeca. It was cold and rainy with heavy fog at 1000-1200 m above sea level. We were the only guest at Gasthaus Kanada just before the highest part of the road.

Day 4

We started early the next day. It was still cloudy but the fog has gone and we could se out over the beautiful mountains. At the café in the highest pass we had a nice breakfast. Then went go downhill and directly after the first village we stop at a creek. Quite soon Anders finds a Balkan Stream Frog (Rana graeca) and almost at the same time he sees a Greek Algyroides (Algyroides moreoticus). Both are new species and we get some nice pictures of them. The cold morning made them move very slow and they were easy to photograph. Pleased with the good start we continue downhill in a very nice landscape with orchards and pastures. After about a kilometer we have an other stop at 800 meter above sea level. Along a small track we find many orchids and other interesting plants. Under a stone we find what we think is a Peloponnese Slow Worm but later (when putting the picture on this website) we're advised that it was a Limless Skink (Ophiomorus punctatissimus). Three new species in just half an hour is a very good start! We continue down and have a break before Kalamata with nice view over the bay. The weather is still bad and we decide to drive direct to Pyros. After a nice lunch in Pylos the clouds opens and we gets a really nice but windy afternoon. The goal for Pyros is the sandy area between the bay and the lake in the north. Here is the only cite for African chameleon in Europe and we hope to see it. The area is also good for many other species. The circumstances were not very good with the heavy wind carrying sand that blasted our faces on the wind side and got into cameras and binoculars. We walked along the trail and saw some new birds and orchids but no herpetofauna. The signs told about tree frog, green toad, Balkan and European Pond Terrapin, Hermann´s Tortoise and Chameleon. We drove back to Pylos but stopped by the road where there were some shelter for the wind. The first stop was where the road starts to climb from the coast plan. Under the olive trees we find an Agile frog (Rana dalmatina), Balkan Green Lizard (Lacerta trilineata) and Hermann´s Tortoise (Eurotestudo hermanni). The second stop was just after the junction for Kalamata on the seaside of the road. In the olive orchard we had a look under some stones and found a young snake. After consulting Arnold we get it to a young Balkan Whip Snake (Hierophis gemonensis). Satisfied with four new species during the day we returned to the pension in Pylos for the night.

Day 5

At last we got some really nice weather. We started early and drove to the remnants of Nestors palace where we had breakfast. On the old olives by the north parking there were several Kotschy´s Geckos (Mediodactylus kotschyi) enjoying the sun on the trunks. In the wall we could see a Peloponnese Wall Lizard (Podarcis peloponnesiacus). We had heard a lot about Kalogria and reached the area in just 3 hours. The area is very exiting with lagoons, small mountains in the north and vast wooded pastures with conifers on sandy ground and oak on more fertile. At the end of the road are some pensions and hotel but still most of the area is very well preserved. After lunch we made an excursion from the beach up on the mountain in the north. The maccia is thick and it is difficult to leave the path until it reaches the plateau at the top. The area has a very rich flora and we met a large number of big grass hoppers in the bushes and on the path. After the walk we returned to the pension and had dinner. When it got dark we went for the lagoons east of the road. The air was full of song from Greek March Frog (Pelophylax kurtmuelleri), Epirus Water Frog (Pelophylax epeiroticus), Common Tree Frog (Hyla arborea) and Green Toad (Epidalea viridis). It seemed as if P kurtmuelleri was far out from the beach and we could only se P epeiroticus up close.

Kalogria, Pines and Lagoon © Per Blomberg

Day 6

The nice weather continued and we decided to explore the pine forest with small ponds 1 km south of the pension. In a pond just 300 meters west of the main road we heard a lot of Epirus Water Frog (Pelophylax epeirotica). At the shore a Balkan Green Lizard (Lacerta trilineata) was sitting in the bushes and on a log we found a Snake Eyed Skink (Ablepharus kitaibelii). We continued about 1 kilometer south to a nice landscape with oaks and pastures between the road and a wetland 300 meter to the west. In some brackens we saw the first Balkan Wall Lizard (Podarcis tauricus). In the open water there were European Pond Tortoise (Emys orbicularis) and Epirus Water Frog (Pelophylax epeiroticus). Twice we saw a snake swimming in the water but couldn't find out what species it was. Suddenly we saw a viper in the grass and managed to get close enough to see that it was a Nose-horned Viper (Vipera ammodytes). The pulse got to some higher levels after that meeting and we felt quite pleased when we went for lunch in the nearest village. We then continued for the mountains east of Patras. When we left the highway we made a brief stop and saw the only Common Wall Lizard (Podarcis muralis). We drove up in the Mountains and made the first stop between Katarrankis and Dendra. There is a nice hillside with stonewalls and scattered bushes. Here was a lot of Peloponnese Wall Lizard (Podarcis peloponnesiacus) which was out of the distribution of the map in Arnold. We also found some young Balkan Green Lizard (Lacerta trilineata) and a Balkan Stream Frog (Rana graeca). The weather got cloudy and we continued to Kalavryta and on to the village Zachorous down in the canyon some 20 kilometers north of Kalavryta. On the road we found a dead Balkan Whip Snake. The pension down in the village is nice and has a very small railroad which goes between Kalabryta and the coast in north.

Day 7

7.44 in the morning the small train woke us up and we started the drive down to the coast. We made several stop and found two Balkan Stream Frog (Rana graeca) along creeks. The cherry blossom was very beautiful along the road by Kernitsa halfway down to the coast. We drove to old Corinth where we had lunch and a last view of a Snake Eyed Skink (Ablepharus kitaibelii) under some boards and other junk. We then drove directly for the airport outside Athens and ended a very nice week in Peloponnese.

/Per Blomberg

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