For a family visit Laura and I went to one of the southernmost provinces of the Netherlands and combined the pleasure with some herping. We failed to find any Tree Frogs but were able to observe several Viviparous Lizards (Zootoca vivipara). Usually this widespread species isn't such a remarkable find but the dunes of Zeeland are somehow special. Viviparous Lizard can only be found in a dune ecosystem here in Zeeland and on the island of Terschelling within the Dutch borders. Moreover, these lizards displayed interesting behaviour as we saw some of them fleeing towards water and swim towards safety. Great to see!
April first, a day of many firsts. With the ongoing sunny weather, Laura and I ventured out today to two of our favourite nearby herping spots. On the first spot there have been massive constructions going on but as it seems, this didn't influence the local reptile population too much. We found several Sand Lizards (Lacerta agilis) and a single Slow Worm (Anguis fragilis) basking. Near the hibernacula of the local Grass Snakes (Natrix natrix) there was a lot of activity going on and we saw at least ten individuals crawling around, not bothered too much by our presence. We even saw a mating ball of two males and a female. This was the first time to observe this type of behaviour in the field for the both of us. After lunch I had my first swim of the year in a still freezingly cold Isar.
On another spot in a forested area, many ponds had gone dry but the single pond that still had water brimmed with life. The egg masses of frogs were happily predated upon by both Common Newt (Lissotriton vulgaris) but mostly Alpine Newt (Ichthyosaura alpestris). Yellow-bellied Toads (Bombina variegata) were omnipresent and even calling already. A few individuals of Grass Frog (Rana temporaria) and Agile Frog (Rana dalmatina) remained in the pond as well, the latter species representing my first sightings of Agile Frogs in Germany.
Spring has finally sprung and with the beautiful sunny weather I decided to check some sites for Grass Snakes around Amsterdam. Buddies Thijmen and Suma joined and together we had a lovely afternoon of enjoying flowers in bloom, birds singing and sneaking up on little lambs. And moreover we found the first Grass Snakes (Natrix natrix) of the year for us!
A rainy weekend doesn't leave much space for any other herping than looking for salamanders. Several larvae were seen in the streams and puddles and we also found three diurnal Fire Salamanders (Salamandra salamandra) along with a few Grass Frogs (Rana temporaria).
As every spring I try to see blue Moor Frogs (Rana arvalis) in the Netherlands but it is always tricky if the best spots are quite a drive. However with many sightings the day before by my friend Wouter and a nice sunny day, I decided to hop in the car straight after work and drove south together with Sander and Suma. We arrived in the late afternoon and could easily see dozens (if not hundreds) of blue heads between the tall grass in the bogs and fens. An amazing spectacle to behold through the binoculars but due to the shy nature of these animals we couldn't make any good pictures. After an amazing dinner at the most prestigious snackbar of Boxtel we tried our luck again. There was a lot less activity and although the animals were more approachable under the cover of darkness, the blueish colour was a lot less (due to the cold?). We also found many Common Toads (Bufo bufo), a few Grass Frogs (Rana temporaria), a single Common Newt (Lissotriton vulgaris) and copious amounts of Palmate Newt (Lissotriton helveticus) preying on the frogs' spawn.
Together with Laura and Dominik we searched at two locations which were new to Laura and me, but well known to our friend Dominik. We weren't as succesful as Dominik had expected but with a couple of melanistic Adders (Vipera berus), Viviparous Lizards (Zootoca vivipara) and a beautiful sunny day in good company we were more than pleased! I am quite sure one of the adders we found was easily one of the most beautiful melanistic individuals I have seen.
A hint of spring flew through the air and with the temperatures rising, so was our anxiety to be in the field again. Luckily the nice weather persisted until the weekend so Laura and I ventured into a known spot for Adders we have visited several times before. It didn't take long until Laura spotted the first European reptile of 2017 for us, and a nice Slow Worm (Anguis fragilis) was found basking in the dry grass. We also both found an Adder (Vipera berus) male basking between the grass and a shy Viviparous Lizard (Zootoca vivipara). Many Beaver tracks lined the watercourses in the area and we should go back to see if we can catch a sight of those as well!