Belgian Ardennes - 16th until the 20th of July 2023

Like every year, I spent the final week of the school year in the Belgian Ardennes together with a group of 28 students and a colleague. This year that was my buddy Nick. We slept in self made tents, made meals over a fire and did a lot of outdoor activities such as climbing, rafting, hiking etc. Of course in my group there was also special attention for wildlife. During the activities we saw Slow Worms (Anguis fragilis), Wall Lizards (Podarcis muralis) and a freshly killed Grass Snake (Natrix helvetica). One evening I took my students to a very cool place to search for Fire Salamanders. Sadly we couldn't find those, but Robin found a nice big Grass Frog (Rana temporaria) and Sven managed to find a male Midwife Toad (Alytes obstetricans) carrying a clutch of eggs. So even without Fire Salamanders the evening excursion was a success!

View over the Amblève.
View over the Amblève.

Jisp, Noord-Holland - 13th of July 2023

For some time I have known about an introduced population of Midwife Toads (Alytes obstetricans) in the small village of Jisp, close to where I work. My students who live there told me about the strange beeping sounds they hear at night in summer. When a friend from Tieme bought a house in Jisp, he heard the same strange sounds at night. It was time for a visit! Together with Tieme and Chiel I drove to the picturesque village, while the sun was setting above the polder landscape. We started our search in the garden, but to no avail and we did not not even calling animals. A small stroll through town led us towards two other gardens where we did hear the familiar beeping. At the first house we rang the bell, but sadly the owners weren't at home. At the second house we had more luck as the owners found our request very funny and gave us permission to search. We immediately spotted a Midwife Toad in a crack in the wall and under some debris in the garden we found a pair of Midwife Toads and even a Natterjack Toad (Epidalea calamita). A great success after a night of urban herping!

Exploring Vienna - 30th of June until the 3rd of July 2023

After having visited Vienna several times in winter for the yearly meeting of the Austrian Herpetological Society, it was time for a visit in summer. On Friday evening we arrived and during dinner we made plans for the weekend.
On Saturday morning we drove towards the Neusiedler See where we first searched for some cute mammals. Close to the Hungarian border we observed many European Ground Squirrels (Spermophilus citellus). They were our new favourites animals! We did many stops in the area to keep an eye out for Red-bellied Toads and Great Bustards. But the ponds were mostly dried up and the grass too high so we weren’t in luck and only found a few Sand Lizards (Lacerta agilis). In one of the last attempts to find the Red-bellied Toads we visited a newly constructed pond. Just when we finished walking along the shores we heard a familiar call. Close inspection reveiled a Fire-bellied Toad (Bombina bombina), finally! It had been some time since I last saw one and they are truly my favourite animals. Before driving back to Vienna we drove past a Bee-eater (Merops apiaster) colony which is always a spectacle. Then it was time for the species we were hoping to see most: the European Hamster (Cricetus cricetus). In a park inside the city it didn’t take us long to spot several of these furry creatures scurrying around. They were not shy and it was great fun to see them foraging and even more so in this urban setting. An amazing experience and they are certainly my favourite animals. We got quite hungry after this buy day so we treated ourselves to some delicious pizza before closing the day with a glass of wine on Silke’s roof terrace. It sounded lovely, but in reality it was a scary experience with all those Yellow Sac Spiders around!

The next morning we drove to a very cool place near the Danube river. At an oxbow lake close to a castle we searched for European Pond Terrapins (Emys orbicularis). They seem to be thriving here as we found a great many of them, as well as several Marsh Frogs (Pelophylax ridibundus). The remainder of the day we spent at one of the few remaining patches of dry grassland. Here we marvelled at the rich plant communities and the corresponding entomofauna. The sky was filled with butterflies such as my favourite, the Marbled White (Melanargia galathea) and Michael even found a very rare Predatory Bush Cricket (Saga pedo), one of Europe’s largest insects. Higher up the hill we encountered some very interesting beetles as well, a couple of Alpine Longhorn Beetles (Rosalia alpina) and European Stag Beetles (Lucanus cervus). Eastern Green Lizards (Lacerta viridis) were commonly seen, but are notoriously shy with the sultry weather. At the end of the afternoon we walked along the Danube and found a few Slow Worms (Anguis fragilis) and saw an Aesculapian Snake (Zamenis longissimus) basking in a rocky wall. We had another fabulous dinner at the shores of the Danube and with the sun setting we drove up to a stunning viewpoint. Again we saw several Stag Beetles flying around, but also saw a Grass Snake (Natrix natrix) crossing the road.

Many, many, many thanks again Silke and Michael for this super nice weekend!

Exploring Bavaria - 2nd until the 5th of June 2023

Sadly my (former) students Bas, Finn and Jesse could not join to Cyprus this year because Bas already graduated last year and the trip took place during the final exams for Finn and Jesse. So I invited them to visit Laura and me in Munich for a herping weekend where we would try to find all species native to the area. On the second of June we met in the train and had dinner with Patat Mayonaise at the Smullers. We flew from Schiphol to Munich where we picked up a rental car. Our fabulous Salamander Twingo is not suited for a group of tall Dutch guys. In the queue we made some friends with an American guy who didn't understand the difference between quickly asking a question and skipping the line. Afterwards we teamed up with Laura at a place with many ponds where we searched for Green Toads. Those were nowhere to be found, but we did see many Common Newt (Lissotriton vulgaris), Common Toad (Bufo bufo), Common Tree Frog (Hyla arborea) and the first Marsh Frog (Pelophylax ridibundus). We also saw a very cute Shrew (Crocidura russula) and a European Hedgehog (Erinaceus europaeus).

We had breakfast in the car as we drove east to the Danube River. Along the shores many thermophilic species only just enter Germany here and can't be found in the rest of the country. At the parking lot we already saw the first lizards such as Sand Lizard (Lacerta agilis), Eastern Green Lizard (Lacerta viridis) and Common Wall Lizard (Podarcis muralis). A wood pile delivered exactly what we came for and we could add Slow Worm (Anguis fragilis) and Aesculapian Snake (Zamenis longissimus) to our list. A small puddle also gave us our first Yellow-bellied Toads (Bombina variegata). After a nice lunch at a nearby visitor center we explored an abandoned railway and the hills along the Danube and found many more Wall Lizards and a Lesser Stag Beetle (Dorcus parallelipipedus). We had a dinner with pizza and while the sun was setting we had a short stop at the shores of the Danube at some interesting looking stone piles. It didn't take Bas long until he found what we came for and he spotted a Dice Snake (Natrix tessellata) basking. Later on I found a second one shortly before we started the long drive back home. In the evening we explored my favourite swimming spot where many ponds have been constructed for a spectacular amphibian. As expected we found many Great Crested Newts (Triturus cristatus), but also some impressive Marsh Frogs and several Common Newts. As we drove home a Badger (Meles meles) almost ran into our car as he was probably listening to techno on his airpods. 

A visit to Bavaria is not complete without having visited our favourite spot in the Alps. Amidst some very impressive scenery we found several alpendropjes: Alpine Salamanders (Salamandra atra). We also saw some Common Toads, Common Frogs, Viviparous Lizards (Zootoca vivipara), several Slow Worms (Anguis fragilis) and a Blue Stag Beetle (Platycerus caraboides). In a hidden raised bog we spotted many Alpine Newts (Ichthyosaura alpestris) but the cold wind prevented us from swimming with them. At a high waterfall we saw a Dipper (Cinclus cinclus) and while hiking down from the hut where we had lunch we spotted a Chamois (Rupicapra rupicapra) on the slopes. While driving to the restaurant we had too good views on some interesting oma (or was it opa?) behaviour, but luckily we still had an appetite afterwards. After some fine Bavarian dining and a few Schnapps we headed into the forest. Despite the dry conditions we still saw many Common Toads and Common Frogs hopping around. With persistance Bas, Jesse and Laura all found a Fire Salamander (Salamandra salamandra) each so we had another successful night.

On our last day we still were hoping to add some species to our list. With the dry conditions we said we would be happy if we would find a snake today. It was a bit chilly in the morning so we took our time with a nice breakfast on the balcony of the Rewe. Apparantly at the right time we arrived at the shores of the Isar as we saw no less than 12 Grass Snakes (Natrix natrix), 6 Smooth Snakes (Coronella austriaca) including a copulating couple (which we didn't want to disturb) and even a nice black Adder (Vipera berus). Another Slow Worm, many Yellow-bellied Toads and a few Sand Lizards completed a very successful morning. We had a dip at a beautiful lake, relaxed in the sun and had lunch at the car before driving on. A small stop to try and find Agile Frog (Rana dalmatina) in the middle of the day during a long dry spell sounded ridiculous, but somehow we found a beautiful female hopping on the path. Magic! With one target species missing we tried our luck for Green Toads at another location. We didn't have luck with the toads but a beautiful melanistic Grass Snake and an erythronotus Sand Lizard made up for that. We also saw Alpine Newt, Common Newt and Wall Lizard before it was time to get to the airport. It was a crazy weekend with little sleep but lots and lots of herps, lots of beautiful scenery and a whole lot of fun! Thanks for the fun weekend guys!

For more pictures also check out Laura's Flickr Album.


Alpine Newt (Ichthyosaura alpestris)

Common Newt (Lissotriton vulgaris)

Great Crested Newt (Triturus cristatus)

Alpine Salamander (Salamandra atra)

Fire Salamander (Salamandra salamandra)

Common Toad (Bufo bufo)

Yellow-bellied Toad (Bombina variegata)

Common Tree Frog (Hyla arborea)

Marsh Frog (Pelophylax ridibundus)

Agile Frog (Rana dalmatina)

Common Frog (Rana temporaria)

Slow Worm (Anguis fragilis)

Sand Lizard (Lacerta agilis)

Eastern Green Lizard (Lacerta viridis)

Common Wall Lizard (Podarcis muralis)

Viviparous Lizard (Zootoca vivipara)

Smooth Snake (Coronella austriaca)

Grass Snake (Natrix natrix)

Dice Snake (Natrix tessellata)

Aesculapian Snake (Zamenis longissimus)

Adder (Vipera berus)

Along the Isar - 9th of April 2023

With temperatures on the rise it was time to check out our local Adder populations. A visit to a beautiful moor west of the Isar yielded quite some reptiles and we saw several Sand Lizards (Lacerta agilis) including many juveniles, a single Viviparous Lizard (Zootoca vivipara) and a total of 6 Adders (Vipera berus).

Vienna - 20th until the 22nd of January 2023

Always a delightful break from the boring winter, this weekend was again the annual meeting of the Austrian Herpetological Society in Vienna. The high level of organization, the open atmosphere, the quality of all the lectures and of course the mind-blowing museum itself made this another memorable edition. Thanks so much to Silke for the kind invitation, we hope to be back next year!