Some excellent weather combined with some excellent habitat made sure we had quite the Adder Fest today. A mostly overcast sky, a slight but chilly wind and temperatures below 10 degrees Celsius made the Adders (Vipera berus) keen to bask today. Together with Laura and Manfred I explored a small moor and we found 20 individuals and a wide variety of patterns. These snakes belong to the debated subspecies "marasso" but whether or not this taxon is valid, these animals are stunning all the same!
Although the weather forecast predicted some decent adder weather, the temperatures were much higher than expected. As a consequence Manfred, Laura and I arrived a little too late in the habitat. The Sand Lizards (Lacerta agilis) and Viviparous Lizards (Zootoca vivipara) were running around and Manfred even spotted a small Tree Frog (Hyla arborea). After finding a snake slough we knew that mating time for the Adders is upon us. We settled for a place where we knew there are at least three individuals and just waited. A good strategy because after we sat in the grass for awhile the three male Adders (Vipera berus) emerged. Even two tiny baby Adders joined the party. It was lovely to observe the Adders doing their daily business but sadly it was a little too early in the year still for fighting or mating activities. We will be back another time!
Time to explore some (rather) new grounds. Although Niklas, Laura and me had been here before, we never saw this place in early spring and never explored the wider surroundings. It turned out to be a true Adder (Vipera berus) hotspot with 15 individuals seen, 14 of those were black. Also several Viviparous Lizards (Zootoca vivipara), Sand Lizards (Lacerta agilis) and a Black Woodpecker (Dryocopus martius). At a second stop we spotted the first Slow Worm (Anguis fragilis) of the year and saw Spring Pasqueflowers (Pulsatilla vernalis) in bloom, a very rare plant here in Germany.
A cold and windy but partially sunny day lured Niklas and me again to our favourite Adder spot. As expected, the snakes were out basking and we saw several new individuals this time, including the first one with a pattern. Quite special as all the other Adders we have seen here are completely black. A total of 16 Adders (Vipera berus) and several Viviparous Lizards (Zootoca vivipara) made for a very cool day in the moor! In the evening it got even more windy and also rainy but we couldn't resist to check out some of the local ponds. Many Alpine Newts (Ichthyosaura alpestris) were feasting on the egg masses of Grass Frog (Rana temporaria) while dozens of male Agile Frog (Rana dalmatina) were waiting for the females to arrive to the ponds. Cold and wet, but well pleased we arrived back home!
My colleague Chiel and I had the spontaneous idea to drive to Friesland during the week. In this age of digital teaching there are plenty of opportunities to teach from any random place. As we only had two hours of teaching and the weather was supposedly good for Adders we drove north. We had a quick encounter with herping buddy Jelmer but sadly the dense fog made sure the snakes were nowehere to be seen. We did get to see two foraging Cranes (Grus grus) which was cool! After the digital lessons from the moor we saw the weather was good further south and drove to the Veluwe. There we immediately saw a single Sand Lizard (Lacerta agilis) and five male Adders (Vipera berus) basking. A lovely working day :-)
With night temperatures dropping again, Niklas and I suspected the Adders (Vipera berus) would bask more extensively. To put this theory to the test, we searched in a large heatherfield south of Munich. We found several Viviparous Lizards (Zootoca vivipara) again but also 6 melanistic Adders. And indeed, they were basking much more in the open and we were very happy to see so many snakes in a place where you usually don't get to see that many.
With such sunny weather like the past week, Niklas and I were keen on seeing how much reptile activity there is to be found around Munich. We visited three different locations. On the first we saw many Viviparous Lizards (Zootoca vivipara) running around and found a melanistic Adder (Vipera berus). Also two Pygmy Owls (Glaucidium passerinum) were calling in the distance but we didn't get a visual. On the second site nothing was out surprisingly, but on the last location we again found a nice male Adder basking cryptically. A refreshing dip in the Isar concluded a very nice day in the field!
After seeing my first ever Wallcreepers (Tichodroma muraria) last month, I was aching to return to see them again. This time I immediately saw them as I knew what to look for, although a Peregrine Falcon (Falco peregrinus) caused some panick amongst the local birds!
On Sunday Laura and I ventured into a beautiful moor south of Munich. There was surprisingly little reptile activity but after searching for quite awhile, Laura found a nice melanistic Adder (Vipera berus). Although not in the most photogenic pose, we didn't want to disturb the snake so shortly after hibernation so admired her from a distance.
Two consequetive days of birding, and two days with some interesting sightings. On Sunday I went out with Niklas where we saw a myriad of duck species and some Long-eared Owls (Asio otus) resting in a tree. On Monday I went out in the mountains with the toboggan. It is a great way to go birding; hike up a mountain and then slide your way back down, stopping along the way when there is something interesting to be seen. Such as a massive feeding flock of Chaffinch (Fringilla coelebs), Crested Tit (Lophophanes cristatus), Goldcrest (Regulus regulus), Blackcap (Sylvia atricapilla) and two Red Squirrels (Sciurus vulgaris). At the top of the mountain a small flock of Crossbills (Loxia curvirostra) awaited me and the White-throated Dippers (Cinclus cinclus) are always a treat to observe. Hopefully with the rising temperatures more amphibians and reptiles will show up!
Together with Laura and Niklas I ventured south towards the Alps to do some birding and early herping. The predicted sun was out shorter than expected and our hopes of finding any early reptiles got smaller. The Sahara dust that was blown over the Alps was to blame for this. We did get to see some interesting birds but after some hours we still did not see a single reptile. While I voted for going back towards the snackbar to get some fries, Laura and Niklas convinced me to search just a little bit longer and that was a good decision! Just a few meters further I could find our earliest German Adder (Vipera berus) ever. A new record for us and a welcome sighting!
During my lunchbreak I couldn't resist the temptation to see if the local Wall Lizards (Podarcis muralis) would be out already. I hopped on my bike and not before long until I saw the first juvenile lizards chasing each other. And I also got to see a driving train up close!
Another lockdown means again no travelling. And with this lockdown being in winter, there is little chance for any decent herping. At least the surroundings of Munich were covered in a thick carpet of snow, providing much neaded distractions in the shape of tobogganing and trying to photograph animals in winter scenery. Especially my favourite birds, the White-throated Dippers (Cinclus cinclus) were a delight to observe in freezing streams surrounded by snow. But also seeing a Spotted Nutcracker (Nucifraga caryocatactes) for the first time was very exciting.
With the temperatures starting to rise and some rain the previous days, Laura and I headed out into our favourite forest patch together with herping buddy Niklas. Although we didn't really expect to find much, we were amazed by the numbers of Fire Salamanders (Salamandra salamandra) which were out and about. We found 32 individuals, mostly around streams which remain frost-free during winter but some brave (but slow) individuals were walking over patches of snow.
At the last day of the month, Niklas and I ventured into the Allgäu to a promising spot for one of my most-wanted birds. A slight drizzle and freezing temperatures weren't the nicest conditons to be staring at a cliff for a long time but persistence paid of. Our first sighting was a Grey-headed Woodpecker (Picus canus) foraging along the rocky walls, but in the end we managed to see two Wallcreepers (Tichodroma muraria). A species usually confined to high altitude locations, but spending the winter months in quarries lower down. Great sightings of great species, both of which we could observe for quite some time. Afterwards we explored some other areas higher in the mountains and enjoyed some great scenery. An awesome day!