Southern Italy & Sicily, April-May 2014


Visited places in Southern Italy & Sicily.
Visited places in Southern Italy & Sicily.

April 25th - May 4th, herpetological trip to Calabria & Sicily

© All CONTENT & PHOTOGRAPHS G.J. VERSPUI 2014 ©

Unless mentioned otherwise.

 

 

 

For viewing the photos in a bigger size, just click on them

 

 

 

All Lizard photo's are made 'In Situ', unless mentioned otherwise

 

 


Friday, the 25th of april, a perfect day every year because it is my birthday!

 

In the late afternoon I was given a ride to the trainstation, from there I went towards Schiphol, Bobby arrived half an hour later and around 20:15 our plane left towards Milan where Bobby bought himself a nice outfit.

We spend the night in a hotel in Milan where you can enjoy a 6€ beer, but what the hell.......its my birthday...

 

The next morning our flight to Lamezia Terme left very early, so around 08:45 we were already driving in our Fiat 500L stationwagon.

 

We contacted the rest of the team and drove towards them.

 

The Team

 

The crew is 6 pax strong, devided in 3 nationalities, all of them being in Europe, but strangly not everybody thinks they are European.....

 

Lets have a closer look at this....

Thomas Reich and Ida Sigl are both from Switserland, a country in Europe which still believes they are not really in Europe....strange people there, we were lucky that Thomas & Ida were very nice people.

 

Then Paul Lambourne and Trevor Willis, both from the UK, but calls us Europeans and believes that they are not......

As the March Harrier(or crow) flies it is only 350km between my home and theirs...

But lucky again, both of them are good herpers, like a joke and are crazy when it comes to drinking tea.......(tea related jokes should be avoided though)

 

Last Bobby Bok and myself, both from The Netherlands, we both know we are Europeans and yes, we wear wooden shoes, but we love them...so what.

 

Lets get back to reality and start the trip...

 

Bobby and I arrived at a little valley close to Nocera Terinese and waited there for the rest, while waiting we searched a bit and under the first stone were a Common Toad and an Italian Stream Frog, so the first herps were a fact.

I walked a bit higher up the valley and found the first tick of the trip, 2 Southern Spectacled Salamanders, 2 more Italian Stream frogs and Italian Wall Lizards.

 

I walked back to the car and found the best way to introduce myself to the others was just by showing the 2 Salamandrina's...

 

As fast as we could we photographed the animals and 90 minutes later we were finally in the car towards our second tick of the day, after a long winding road we arrived at a place Thomas already visited, here we found many Italian Newts, Italian Stream Frogs, Italian Wall Lizards, Western Green Lizards and Thomas caught a Western Whip Snake.

 

After photographing the pretty little Italian Newts we drove towards Serra san Bruno, we arrived in heavy clouded weather, so the Asp Viper attempt was stopped and we went into forested areas to look for Fire Salamanders, Paul Bobby and I found 3 Fire Salamanders while Thomas Ida and Trevor were doing some shopping in town....

 

We met the shopping team for dinner in a resaurant in Serra san Bruno and after some good pasta and a nice beer we went to the hotel, at least some of us arrived there, team Swiss & Trevor (shoppingteam) could not find the hotel and I think that Bobby gave the wrong coordinates for that place on purpose......

 

When we were complete again Bobby and I wanted to look around some more at night for Fire Salamanders, we found 1 active one and went back, Bobby was very tired and saw a hedgehog which actually was a lump of mud.....but when we opened the car door we heard the lovely sound of male love-songs performed by Italian Tree Frogs.

 

We parked the car, climbed over a fence and walked towards a concrete water basin with at least 10 Italian Tree Frogs inside, we photographed them and I almost drowned my camera by leaning on a wooden stick hanging above the water, which broke and my Nikon went under for a very short moment....battery out and back to the hotel where we were welcomed by a herd of drunk girls who had a party there, good night!

 

 

Sunday, the 27th of April.

 

Bongiorno, like rockstars do, Bob and I were a bit later then we were supposed to, but the weather did not look promising, so thats the first excuse.

 

The Breakfast was great, I ate everything that the rest of the team did not eat.....it could be your last meal you know.....

 

Todays planns were simple, find as many species as we can, first we went to the Fire Salamander place where we stayed very long......even Bobby was not making pictures anymore, he was making a clever piece of watermanagement into the little stream, yes I know, that is also a thing Dutch people like to do.

 

At last we left for the next place, an old monastery hidden in the woods, a big Common Toad was found and a minute later I found the third Southern Spectacled Salamander of the trip, this place seemed to be a good place for them because everybody found at least one of them, or not.........there was 1 person sort of crying when we left the place, wiping his tears with a scarf......

 

The weather was still bad, so we decided to go to a lower area around Lago Angitola, at this place the weather was much better and reptiles were found.

Many Italian Wall Lizards, Western Green LizardsWestern Whip Snakes, a Grass Snake, Italian Three-toed Skink and an Edible Frog, we also heard Italian Tree Frogs and Green Toads calling.

 

After diner Paul and I swopped sleeping Bobby for Tree-frog-loving Trevor and went for the Italian Tree Frogs again, not as much activity as the night before, but still around 5 calling males and 2 Italian Newts were present, Good night again!

 

 

Monday, the 28th of April.

 

Not a normal monday, noooo, today is naked monday, the weather did not cooperate, so Bob, Paul & me had some naked things...on our shirts, Pauls shirt was the best with a naked dog on it, he must be a reall dog loving chap.

 

Todays planns were looking on the east side of the Aspromonte mountains, the roads towards that place were almost all very curvy mountain roads and when we were already driving down on the east side, the road stopped.....so a big detour and after many hours of driving we finally arrived at the rendez vous point with Thomas & Ida, they already checked out the place for Yellow-bellied Toads and did not see any, but as always we wanted to see that for ourselves.

 

The wind was very strong, no activity at all, so we drove down to some lower parts close to San Luca, the wind was still strong and it was very clouded, Western Whip Snake, Italian Wall Lizard, Moorish Gecko and Turkish Gecko were seen.

 

Around 1900 we jumped in the car again and headed for Palmi on the west side of the mountains, Bobby was feeling a bit sad & sick, so Non European Paul from the UK gave him a neck masage, it did help only a little, I dont know why, but then the medicin popped up on the horizon, a big yellow M, also known as Golden Arches...

 

So Bobby wiped away his tears (again) and was the first one who ordered a cheap menu and we (Trevor, Paul & me) followed this good example.

 

The road towards Palmi was a smooth one, we arrived at Arcobaleno Hotel and did some nerdy wifi related things for 20 minutes and then we went out to look for Mediterranean Chameleons, the wind was still very strong, but after 15 minutes I found the first one and Bobby found 6 more after that, I think it is time to go to sleep.

 

 

Tuesday, the 29th of April.

 

We woke upand again everybody was too early again for breakfast, the English boys were drinking their tea, Lipton Yellow Label.... the Swiss couple were talking about the future in a undefined language.

So we blended in very well, Bobby dipping his tea bag and me having a glass of fresh nectar and eating everything in sight.

 

First we went back to the Chameleon spot and took some daylight photographs of Bobby's most favorite animals in the world. (together with Salamandra SALAMANDRINA  Alytes Hyla Pelobates & Eryx and many more)

 

Then we headed for the boat in Villa San Giovanni that would bring us from the mainland to Sicily, when we arrived in Messina we headed straight for our B&B, 2 hours later we arrived, in the garden were some herps, Italian Wall Lizard, Turkish Gecko and an Ocellated Skink, when Thomas & Ida arrived we went to a little almost frozen lake nearby and I found 2 European Pond Terrapins and a Grass Snake, Paul also found a Grass Snake and when we drove back towards our B&B we stopped at some water basins and found Pool Frogs and Painted Frogs there.

 

In Sant' Agata di Militello we found a restaurant, a giant beer and a squid infested pasta were the energy supply for the rest of the evening.

Green toads and the very rare pantyhamster were on the wanted list for that night, on the road towards the place I picked one Green Toad up from the road and where the road was blocked I spotted an other one on the road, at the site we did not see any toads so we were lucky with those 2, the other species we were after stays a mistery...

 

 

Wednesday, the 30th of April.

 

We woke up very early because today we went to Scoglio Faraglione, a small islet close to the island Salina, to reach Salina we took the hydrofoil from Milazzo to the Aeolian islands, first Vulcano, then Lipari and Salina was the place to get out of the hydrofoil, at Salina Thomas met with Luigi, our boatsman who would bring us to the small islet that is home to the rarest lizard species in Europe: Aeolian Wall Lizard.

In 45 minutes we arrived at the islet, but the see was a bit rough, looking at Luigi's face did not give us a lot of hope, but witin an hour he managed to get us of the boat on to the islet, Thanks Luigi, great skills, it was not without risks to manouvre the boat that close to the rocks, with a swell of almost 1 meter.

 

On the Islet we climbed up and soon after that the first Aeolian Wall Lizard was seen, in about 2 hours we made lots of photos of the lizards and other species that live there, the Lizards were not very shy, I really enjoyed photographing a male that gave some special attention to a female.

 

On the rocks I photographed 2  Eleonora's Falcons and on top of the island some chicks of Yellow-legged gulls, but those were not the only neighbouring species, Moorish Gecko was seen and a very strange blue bird who had a problem with loosing its feathers at the biggest parts of his body. The other strange thing was that this bird named Pinjo did not have a cloaca, but a nobby tool like a male human beeing, ask Paul for that photo....

 

After this great experience getting back on the boat was easier then getting on the islet, Luigi did the way back to the harbour around the other side of Salina, so we went all around this beautiful island with its wild vulcanic black rock formations, which reminded me a little bit of a person I know who shares the name of the island and recently had a black eye...

 

On Salina we walked around a bit and I bought 2 shirts for my own little dragons at home, this island would be a perfect habitat for some real fire (and other things) spitting dragons, I think I even saw one........after the hydrofoil dropped us off in Milazzo we went back to our B&B, had diner and found a Common Toad in the garden.

 

Welterusten!

 

 

Thursday, the 1st of May.

 

After breakfast we went to the little lake we visited before 2 days ago, now the weather was much better, in the grass I found 2 Italian Three-toed Skinks, around the lake were many Grass Snakes and the Euopean Pond Terrapins were basking and 2 off them were in a sort of romantic battle, so I put my 300mm prime on the camera and tried to photograph them.

Other species found there were Western Whip Snake, Western Green Lizard, Italian Wall Lizard and a juvenile Hermann's Tortoise.

 

Next was the area south of Mount Etna, to reach this place we drove over the Nebrodi mountains and had 2 stops there, a lot of wind and no Sicilian Wall Lizards were seen, but Italian Wall Lizard, Western Green Lizard, Italian Three-toed Skink, Ocellated Skink and Western Whip Snake were around in high numbers.

 

When we arrived at the southern slopes of the vulcano Etna we searched in a great looking habitat with 200 million hiding place per 100 square meters for Asp Vipers and Italian Aesculapian Snakes, we only found Western Whip Snakes and many Italian Wall Lizards, hopefully more luck tomorrow...

 

In Nicolosi we had our stay, Bobby and I had the most romantic room, so I unpacked the ginger wig I always carry around.....but first a pizza and then the hunt for the African Green Toad, at the spot we searched for a long time, but nothing, then Bobby came back and said that he finished his tick-list and found his last European amphibian, we made some photos and then we drove back to our B&B, Bobby looked very good with a big smile under the ginger wig...

 

 

Friday, the 2nd of May.

 

After a low quality & quantity breakfast we went back to the southern slopes of Mount Etna, here we searched the whole morning, many Italian Wall Lizards and Western Whip Snakes were seen and I saw a brownish snake move smoothly into a stone wall, this was most certain the species we were after, but I did not see an other one, Paul had the same experience, but Paul did come back with the snake we wanted, the Italian Aesculapian Snake!!!

 

After photographing this friendly snake we drove towards Palermo, it was a long drive, so the girls on the backseat had permission to close their eyes while I was driving with my co-driver who was more awake then ever before....normally he sleeps as soon as he steps into a car.

We visited a place close to where the motorway reaches the coast again, I spotted a very goodlooking male Sicilian Wall Lizard, made some photos and then we searched some more, I found more of them soon and made some good photos of this very beautiful lizard species.

 

We moved on towards Partinico, where we had a nice B&B, first checking in and some wifi time, (strange that 1 year ago this certain guy commented as soon as I touched my phone, but now he and his phone are sort of married. totally in his own bubble)

 

Paul, Trevor Bobby and I went out for a quick bite and some African Clawed Toad searching, the bite came in the shape of a piece of pizza and a coca cola made by very nice people!

Then towards lago Poma, close to the lake is a big area where the introduced African Clawed Toad lives, we stopped the car 2 times to listen for calling amphibians, we heard March Frogs, Italian Tree Frogs & Green Toads.

 

The first pond we found (it was 10 m from the car, so easy herping) was a good one, with our very cool flashlights we found at least 15 - 20 African Clawed Toads, 2 pair were in amplexus, Bobby was very excited and when Bobby is excited he starts to undress, but we were lucky and he only took off his shoes and socks, thanks mate for the effort! We also found March Frogs there.

 

We went back happy, all the possible new European species for us were found and we still had one day left.

 

zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz..

 

 

Saterday, the 3rd of May.

 

I woke up, looked outside.....hard wind, dark grey clouds and showers......somehow weatherconditions like that seem to have affect on the speed of getting ready for the day, I took a shower, and like every morning: boooooooooooooobbbbb.......

 

This has nothing to do with the name of my herping buddy which was still in bed.....holding his phone, looking very serious...

 

After a breakfast we headed to higher ground, only short periods of sunshine....so the chance of finding some reptiles there were very small, we decided to drive to the coast and prey for some better weather.

 

At the first spot we had 5 minutes of sun and I saw some Italian Wall Lizards and 2 Sicilian Wall Lizards.

The next spot was better, a lot of wind but here I found around 5 Sicilian Wall Lizards, which were almost posing like real models, close to that I saw a big Western Whip Snake, many Occelated Skinks, Italian Wall Lizards and a Turkish Gecko.

 

When I returned to the car I noticed that all the girls (except Ida) were hiding in a car, because a little bit of rain came down......I looked at their faces, tears were not far away, so I gave them a little motivation boost by showing them the place with the Sicilian Wall Lizards, the lizards were still there, so I hope they made some photo's.

 

After some food and beach time Paul and Trevor had to go to the airport, we said goodbye and 5 hours later they were both enjoying a Lipton Yellow Label in their own homes, far away from Europe....... I hope you gave our regards to you know who, Paul!!!!

 

Thank you Paul & Trevor, you both were excellent company, hope to see you soon for some serious herping again!  Peace out!

 

 

So, alone with Bobby again, Monte Pellegrino was the place we wanted to visit in the evening, so lets have a look there in daylight, there are 2 roads going up that place, the first was blocked and guess what was wrong with the second one, blocked by the police....

 

So lets find the B&B in the center of Palermo, very hard to find, no place to park the car, I love Palermo.......After a long time we found it, dropped our lugage and had a tasty kebab, the B&B was above a bar so it was a bit noisy...

 

 

Sunday, the 4th of May.

 

Very early we went to the airport, we arrived there 1 hour and 45 minutes before our flight left, when we tried to check in, we heard that our flighttime was changed, more then an hour earlier and the gate was already closed for us.....

The guy behind the desk told us to go to the service desk, so we did and had discussions there for about an hour, she said that they send me an email with the changes in it and I said that I did not get such an email....

 

Around 10:15 things started to change a little, we found a flight from Catania (250km away) to Amsterdam that was leaving 14:30, so after Bobby sqeezed out some crocodile tears, she told us that we could take that flight.....but how can we get very fast on Catania airport..

 

I ran towards the hertz desk and as fast as possible we were in a fiat panda driving towards Catania with 150 - 160 km/h, 13:20 we walked into the airport and were in time for our flight...

 

So 7 hours later then expected we arrived in The Netherlands again.

 

 

 

Conclusion

 

Only 8 days to see as much as possible in Calabria and on Sicily, some dark and very wet days, but the results were good, we found everything we wanted, so we dont have to go back.......only the damn Italian Aesculapian Snake kept us busy for almost a whole week.

Thanks to the team, Trevor & Paul, both of you are very welcome for a future trip, great company! The same goes for Ida & Thomas, thanks and see you later!

Bobby, thanks for arranging the hotels, good job, except the last one......and for the gathering of all the info for this trip!

 

Unfortunatly there was also a dark side to this great trip, we returned the rental car just before opening hours and it was in perfect shape, but when I was already home I noticed that they charged us for almost 300 euro extra.

In a letter they said that I damaged the car, but none of us could remember anything happened to the car.

I contacted Maggiore at Palermo, but they used al the excuses possible to avoid straight contact, so I mailed Economy car Rentals and they contacted Maggiore and Maggiore only showed some documents which could be from any car in their fleet, but the asked for proof like a photo of the damage was not shown.

 

We googled Maggiore costumer service and found out that many people have the same problem as we had, so the lesson of the year is: Maggiore Palermo screws its own costumers by claiming fake damages.

 

Thanks to Jeroen Speybroeck, Wouter Beukema & Daniel Bohle for sharing their information!

 


Observed Species

 

 

 

1.   Italian Newt - Lissotriton italicus
2.   Fire Salamander - Salamandra salamandra ssp. gigliolii

3.   Southern Spectacled Salamander - Salamandrina terdigitata

4.   Common Toad - Bufo bufo

5.   Green Toad - Bufo viridis ssp. siculus

6.   African Green Toad - Bufo boulengeri

7.   Painted Frog - Discoglossus pictus

8.   Italian Tree Frog - Hyla intermedia

9.   Pool Frog - Pelophylax lessonae ssp. bergeri

10. Edible Frog - Pelophylax kl. esculentus ssp. hispanicus

11. Marsh Frog - Pelophylax ridibundus

12. Italian Stream Frog - Rana italica

13. African Clawed Toad - Xenopus laevis

14. Hermann's Tortoise - Testudo hermanni

15. European Pond Terrapin - Emys orbicularis ssp. trinacris

16. Mediterranean Chameleon - Chamaeleo chamaeleon
17. Moorish Gecko - Tarentola mauritanica

18. Turkish Gecko - Hemidactylus turcicus

19. Italian Three-toed Skink - Chalcides chalcides

20. Ocellated Skink - Chalcides ocellatus ssp. tiligugu

21. Western Green Lizard - Lacerta bilineata ssp. chloronota

22. Italian Wall Lizard  - Podarcis siculus

23. Sicilian Wall Lizard - Podarcis waglerianus

24. Aeolian Wall Lizard - Podarcis raffonei ssp. alvearioi

25. Western Whip Snake - Hierophis viridiflavus ssp. carbonarius

26. Grass Snake - Natrix natrix ssp. sicula

27. Italian Aesculapian Snake - Zamenis lineatus