© All CONTENT & PHOTOGRAPHS G.J. VERSPUI 2014 ©
Unless stated otherwise.
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All Lizard photo's are made 'In Situ', unless mentioned otherwise
Ever since the spring trip to Southern Italy and Sicily there was a plan about visiting Romania and Bulgaria, but some people were already making plans togeteher very secretly, when I found out about those plans I decided to invite myself into the club of non-sharing trip planners, only because I dont want to miss a thing...
The timing for this trip was not the best I would say, but the 'reason in person' for this ensured me that everything was still possible (never trust a handsome biology teacher with a prodent smile...)
So we went in autumn with 4 members from the very succesful Italy team and we took 2 aditional entertainers with us for the laughs.
The team was devided in 2 nationalities, The British and The Dutch.
Team "Tea-bag": Paul Lambourne, Trevor Willis & Sean Cole, 3 metro-men that were always good company to have around, but the strange thing is, they are all 3 very nice men, touching each other all day long, but somehow they dont want to share a room with each other..
Team "Made in Holland!" : Bobby Bok, Ronald Zimmerman and myself, no strange things are known about this team, the rumor goes that they have very big harts, love to share rooms, stewardesses, British bird&snake loving taaiaapen, jacuzzi's and bed's with mirrors above it..
Monday the 13th
After a more than great sunday I woke up very early and drove with one eye open to Schiphol, here I met with Ronald and he started the day with some good news, he was one of the last ones checking in on the flight and now he was overbooked and didnt know yet if he could come along on the flight, KLM was the company that transported us to eastern Europe and I would not think a company like that have still such methods..
But it went ok, so we both arrived in Bukarest and the others were already waiting for us, half an hour later we jumped into our damaged rental van and I drove towards Brasov, the roads were not bad, but we were used to better ones...around Brasov we visited some places to look for Adder, Eastern Slow Worm and Carpathian Newt, but none of these were found, only some juvenile Sand Lizards, Yellow-bellied Toads and Grass Frogs...and as we dont hide our feelings anymore everybody was crying like a little girl...an Ural Owl made up for this, which could easily be observed.
Now fast towards Brasov to check in at Astra Hotel, 5 minutes later I heard a voice from the back of the van, it was Trevor: "guys, I think I left my gps next to a tree" so as it always should be in life we treated him on some exercises to make his body and mind stronger so he would not forget anything anymore.....10 push ups for turning the van, 5 for letting him out, 10 for not being back in time at the van, 1 minute is 1 minute Trevor...and 10 for letting him back in the van again. A bit tired, but a lot stronger Trevor jumped back in with his gps.
At Astra hotel we walked in and behind the counter was a huge wild looking dragon species who was seriously checking out our benjamin, but Ronald played hard to get and told her we wanted to eat and see bears first before she could spit her fire over him.
Macdonalds provided some needed energy (Thanks Paul!) and now towards some known places for bears just on the outskirts of Brasov, unfortunatly no bears, but when we came back at the hotel, the dragon was still waiting, we paid her money so she wouldn't bother Ronald again.
What actually happened stays a secret, Ronald didn't talk for the next 2 days.
Tuesday the 14th
In the morning we did some attempts to look for Eastern Slow Worm and Carpathian Newt again, but we only found Great Crested Newt, Alpine Newt, March Frog and Viviparous Lizard, in the afternoon we drove back to Bukarest and visited a forest close to the capitol, here we found Eastern Green Lizard, Smooth Snake, Edible Frog, Great Crested Newt and we heard Eastern Tree Frog calling.
It was already dark when we started the drive to the coast, 250 km on a highway, or motorway as tea-bag-members would say... so it was done within 2 hours. At our Hotel we checked in and found out Bobby and I had a very special room, very big bed with mirrors and red light above it and a jacuzzi for 2.....very hungry we went into the restaurant and had a good pizza with some beers, back at the room Bobby jumped in the jacuzzi and I did some social stuff.
Wednesday the 15th
After breakfast which could have been better we moved towards the southern parts of the Danube delta, when we arrived at the beach it was very windy and couded, so the chances for finding the Steppe Runner were very small, Bobby found an Eastern Tree Frog and me and Trevor found a juvenile Sand Lizard.
We went a bit more inland and searched there next to the slightly higher road and as soon as the sun came out I saw some snakes, 2 Dice Snakes and a Caspian Whip Snake which went into a hole and I could not get it out when I grabbed the tail, the other guys found a Smooth Snake.
The sun was out, so back to the beach and shortly after arriving I saw a black Grass Snake moving over the sand, a short sprint resulted in catching this beauty.
After a short while the first Steppe Runners were seen also and I tried to make In Situ pics of them, it seemed not that easy, but when they don't run away for 100 meters they are pretty easy to aproach and prove to be great models! I also spotted an other Grass Snake.
Next stop was at the Histria Ruins, it was already late in the afternoon, but we still saw some species: around 50 Dice Snake that were in and on the walls that were still in the last sunlight, other species: Caspian Whip Snakes, March Frogs, Balkan Wall Lizards, and 3 European Pond Terrapins that were in a dried out hole, I got them out of there and gave Bobby the task to let them go in a better place.
Last location of the day was a good one, lots and lots of Eastern Spadefoot Toads were hopping around, we also saw 2 hunting Grass Snakes there, now as fast as possible back to the hotel, eat fast and jump into the jacuzzi for more then 2 hours!! After midnight I saw a Green Toad walking outside, call it luck because the one from the day before which Bob and I found was released after photographing it by some....not by me and Bobby...I think there was also a similar story with an Eastern Tree Frog, Paul next time feel free to break someones arm for that!
Thursday the 16th
We had a breakfast time of 08:00, so Bobby and I were there half an hour later, I guess the bad influence of a biology teacher is starting to have effect on me..
Next we went into the direction of Bulgaria, after 5+ hours we arrived in the South East of Bulgaria, but before we went into Primorsko, we visited some places and found some species, many of them were already seen, but an Eastern Slow Worm juvenile by Trevor, 4 Nose-horned Vipers, Fire-bellied Toads, Common Newts and Balkan Crested Newts were new for this trip.
Looking for 'guesthouse Stenli' was not succesfull so we went into the Imperial Hotel for the next 2 nights. Everybody must know by now that Stenli is never where you are, he is the tall handsome exotic man who treats the women back home on massages and other relaxing things when the real men (Biology Teachers, Cops, Tea-traders, Marines) are catching animals and get really exited about that...
Every member had a separate room, but Bob and I shared a room to have pajama exchange parties and talk about the other members who were afraid they would not be able to control themselves with other men in their room...
Friday the 17th
After a very healthy breakfast we started our search again at several locations close to Primorsko, at an old never finished mega hotel I had some nice observations, first an Eastern Green Lizard that posed for me, then a juvenile Nose-horned Viper, a tiny Snake-eyed Skink and I found a Grass Snake that was trying to have an Agile Frog for dinner, after a while Ronald and Trevor also enjoyed this and after some photographes we left them alone again.
Meanwhile Paul found a big nice Common Toad, Bobby a Glass Lizard and Trevor an other Eastern Slow Worm.
At Beglik Tash we found Hermann's Tortoise, Balkan Green Lizard, Balkan Wall Lizard, the weather was nice so I laid myself down in the sun, there weren't really any animals anymore that I wanted to find, so some relaxing color scheme time!
The next site was on top of a hill, 1 other team member was still highly motivated of finding the Reddish Whip Snake, so he used his 1.5 meter legs to run up the hill, scare everything away and still he couldn't find this snake, he and I did find 2 Nose-horned vipers and under every log or stone were juvenile Balkan Crested Newts.
Back at the hotel we had dinner and some of us went out to find Kotschy's Gecko and they found 1! The Gecko-boys didn't know that the hotel had a nice offer, 45 min massage for an apple and an egg, done by the hotel owner and her helper from the restaurant.
Saterday the 18th
Today we wanted to drive back to the border with Romania, this would be a long drive again, but first some last chances of finding Reddish Whip Snake and maybe Blotched Snake, we went back up the hill we were the day before and Ronald found an Aesculapian Snake, Paul an other Nose-horned Viper and I found a juvenile Caspian Whip Snake and a stunning dark grey Aesculapian Snake.
At the Arkutino swamp we didnt see much, but we met with a researcher there who gave us some info about Danube Crested Newts near the city of Ruse. Thanks Krasimir Kirov!!
Before we started the long drive to Ruse we stopped at 1 more place, Bobby found a big Eastern Montpellier Snake and Paul found a large adult Blotched Snake, unfortunatly it was DOR...
It was already getting dark when we reached Ruse, some miscommunication made me drive even more then needed, but when we reached the road where Krasimir told us to go, we found many Danube Crested Newts within a short time, they were all moving from the water to their hibernacula, also Fire-bellied Toads and March Frogs were seen there.
In Ruse we found us a cheap hotel and ordered Pizza, which was big enough for dinner and breakfast the next morning..
After crossing the border again we searched for Meadow Lizards in a forest close to Bukarest, but without any result, so it was time to bring back our rental van and wait for our flights back home, the teaboys to the UK, Bobby to Munich and Ronald and myself to The Netherlands.
At the airport we got rid of the dirty clothes and did some shaving, or at least I did, Paul was looking very strange and suspected some tummy rubbing would be waiting for me back home, but I just went to work straight after landing and I just need to have a face there smoother than a baby's bottom...
After getting to know almost all of the female flight attendants at the airport it was very hard to say goodbye to them...saying goodbye to my forced herping friends was much more easy!
Autumn, enough said about that, maybe we were a bit late for some species, but who cares, the Reddish Whip Snake......still have the bite marks on my hands from the big one in Israel, when the others were looking really hard I was enjoying the sun...
The only one that I missed was Carpathian Newt, I guess I will visit the Czech Republic for that in spring...
The company was great, thanks for all the team members for just being themselves! I am already looking forward to december, where Paul, Bobby and I will meet again on Malta & Mallorca.
Thanks to Jeroen Speybroeck, Bert Vandebosch, Benny Trap, Lepadus Florin, Vlad Cioflec & Tibor Sos.
1. Alpine Newt - Ichtyosaura alpestris
2. Common Newt - Lissotriton vulgaris
3. Great Crested Newt - Triturus cristatus
4. Balkan Crested Newt - Triturus ivanbureschi
5. Danube Crested Newt - Triturus dobrogicus
6. Fire-bellied Toad - Bombina bombina
7. Yellow-bellied Toad - Bombina variegata
8. Common Toad - Bufo bufo
9. Green Toad - Bufotes viridis
10. Eastern Tree Frog - Hyla orientalis
11. Eastern Spadfoot Toad - Pelobates syriacus
12. March Frog - Pelophylax ridibundus
13. Edible Frog - Pelophylax kl. esculentus
14. Agile Frog - Rana dalmatina
15. Grass Frog - Rana temporaria
16. European Pond Terrapin - Emys orbicularis
17. Hermann's Tortoise - Testudo hermanni
18. Kotschy's Gecko - Mediodactylus kotschyi
19. Snake-eyed Skink - Ablepharus kitaibellii
20. Eastern Slow Worm - Anguis cf. colchica
21. Glass Lizard - Pseudopus apodus
22. Steppe Runner - Eremias arguta
23. Sand Lizard - Lacerta agilis chersonensis
24. Eastern Green Lizard - Lacerta viridis meridionalis
25. Common Wall Lizard - Podarcis muralis
26. Balkan Wall Lizard - Podarcis tauricus
27. Smooth Snake - Coronella austriaca
28. Caspian Whip Snake - Dolichophis caspius
--. Blotched Snake - Elaphe sauromates (DOR)
29. Eastern Montpellier Snake - Malpolon insignitus
30. Grass Snake - Natrix natrix persa
31. Dice Snake - Natrix tessellata
32. Aesculapian Snake - Zamenis longissimus
33. Nose-horned Viper - Vipera ammodytes montandoni