Our trip to Mexico past summer was intense and soon afterwards Laura and I were thinking we were in need of a more relaxing destination. What better option to choose than Greece! We decided to visit the island of Milos. An island I had visited before and liked very much. Back in 2013 I was able to see all species of the island but a few (more specific) targets remained. Moreover I was keen on seeing some more of the spectacular beaches and scenery. Milos is the most southwestern island of the Cyclades and is volcanic in origin. Something that is already hinted by the very shape of the island, as its horseshoe shape is the caldera of a now extinct volcano. There are other signs of its turbulent geological past and sulphur and obsidian are common rocks. In the south of the island sulphuric gasses rise up from the earth and colourful ruggid terrain reaches as far as the eye can see. Despite this, the island is home to an interesting number of species of herpetofauna. 11 species of amphibian and reptile are known to inhabit the island and amongst them are no less than 4 endemic (sub)species. During this trip we were lucky to see almost all of them (except Leopard Snake) despite an extremely unforgiving wind that blew from the north during most of our stay.
21st of October 2019
After the annual meeting of urodele enthusiasts in Gersfeld, Laura and I flew to Athens in the evening. We had to spend a night here before our early flight to Milos the next day. The driver of the shuttle service was already waiting for us and brought us to our comfortable accommodation at a short distance from the airport. The first Turkish Gecko (Hemidactylus turcicus) of the trip was spotted on a hotel wall.
22nd of October 2019
In the early morning we were brought to the airport again where we would depart to Milos. The tiny aircraft brought us in roughly half an hour to the island where the lady of the rental company was already waiting. That was the quickest transaction ever. "Please sign here. Have a nice trip. Bye!" First stop for us was a nice place on the eastern half of the island. Not for long until we found more Turkish Geckos but especially Kotschy's Geckos (Mediodactylus kotschyi) which are everywhere on Milos. The small ponds at this location still held a lot of water and Milos Water Frogs (Pelophylax sp.) were plentiful. After a quick stop at the supermarket we drove to a lush valley located in the western half of the island. It took us some effort to find our way down to the streambed but at the single water point left in the valley we immediately struck gold. A Blunt-nosed Viper (Macrovipera lebetina schweizeri) was hanging in the vegetation. Behaviour we badly wanted to see! But not only that, this particular snake had a European Robin (Erithacus rubecula) in its mouth which it must have caught moments before we arrived on the scene. Naturally we watched the whole event until the bird was finally swallowed. Somehow the viper started eating midbody which complicated feeding, but once he moved from the vegetation to the soil it went a bit quicker and after a small hour all that remained were a few feathers. What an amazing sight and we felt very lucky to have seen this! After a futile attempt in another valley we dropped our luggage at the lovely Maistrali hotel in Provatas. Then dinner in Adamas and into the night. At the first search site we quickly found both geckos, Milos Water Frogs, two more Vipers and a White-breasted Hedgehog (Erinaceus roumanicus). Sadly no sign of Grass Snakes so we moved on to another spot with freshwater. There it didn't take us long before we spotted a total of three very pretty Grass Snakes (Natrix natrix schweizeri). An endemic subspecies occurs on Milos and is not often found due to the absence of waterbodies. We found two picturata morphs and a melanistic one in shed. Also several Milos Water Frogs at this spot of which the adults were all very bulky and pale green. A great way to close the first day of herping on Milos!
23rd of October 2019
We had a lovely breakfast on our balcony with a view on the sea. After that we went to a valley where we didn't see anything the day before but which looked great as it held a lot of water. Again no vipers for us, only the first Milos Wall Lizards (Podarcis milensis). The afternoon we relaxed at the Fyriplaka Beach were we were almost alone. Snorkeling gave me quite a few new fish species which I hadn't seen before. In the late afternoon we searched at two places close to Plaka and found more Milos Wall Lizards, Kotschy's Geckos and the first Snake-eyed Skink (Ablepharus kitaibelii). This species really seems to like discarded car tyres, as in spring I also found them underneath them very often on the Peloponnese. We had a quick and easy meal at a local Gyros shop and searched in vain for Cat Snakes around Adamas. The strong wind really wasn't in our favour here! We did hear an additional viper crawling deep in a dry stone wall of which we caught some glimpses. Additionally the two gecko species were present as well.
24th of October 2019
After our usual breakfast with a view on our balcony we drove to the far west of the island to a nice valley I visited before in 2013. Also now it didn't take us long to find a Blunt-nosed Viper and a big individual was laying in ambush behind a boulder. Such a cool sight to stumble upon! After admiring this animal we searched on, both up- and downstream, and saw a second viper crawling around and spotted several shy Milos Wall Lizards. The hot afternoon we spent at Kleftiko with its stunning white cliffs and rock arches. A family of Eleonora's Falcons (Falco eleonorae) was flying overhead and sometimes resting on the cliffs. The snorkeling was a bit disappointing but a stunning place all the same! Shortly before sunset we checked a promising place for Leopard Snake but only the usual suspects were seen. I did flip a White-breasted Hedgehog which was a first for me! In Adamas we had dinner at the lovely Flisvos restaurant with some typical Greek food. A windy search for both Cat Snakes and Vipers was not so productive, we only saw one Telescapus in a wall. Under these conditions we decided to call it an early night.
25th of October 2019
In the morning we visited Kalamos, a remnant of an active vulcano and a reminder of the turbulent geological past of Milos. Here sulphuric gasses reach the surface and hot vapor streams out of the rocks. Sulphur crystals line the vents and the rotten egg smell can't be missed. A very special place! Afterwards we did a few dedicated searches for lizards and around Plaka we searched for another endemic for Milos and the second Lacertid occuring on the island, the Balkan Green Lizard (Lacerta trilineata hansschweizeri). It took us some time but in the end we found a small juvenile and were happy with that. The big adults didn't show themselves sadly. After a stop at the supermarket we drove to Sarakiniko, another amazing beach and the first place where we met other tourists. Luckily all of them stay at the famous beach and when you walk just a tiny bit you have the place to yourself again. We had lunch at the coast and I snorkeled around the shipwreck in a rough sea. The wind was battering the north coast so we decided to not stay too long and went to Kastanas on the south coast instead. A good choice as there were no people and no wind here. In the evening the wind seized and after a tasty dinner we tried our luck for Cat Snakes again. We told each other if we were going to see Cat Snakes this trip it must happen this night as there was so little wind. It didn't take us five minutes before I spotted the first Cat Snake (Telescopus fallax) in a wall after which Laura found a second one. After some photos we drove towards the only place where you can find Terrapins on the island. In a tiny puddle in a rocky stream we found a single Balkan Terrapin (Mauremys rivulata). It is such a crazy place for them and I am amazed they survive here. Rather late we were in bed but it was another great night on Milos.
26th of October 2019
We decided to sleep in a bit and take it easy today. A quick stop at the promising looking valley didn't deliver any more vipers, so of to the beach it was! First we stopped at the Old Sulphur Mines at the east coast of the island. A strange place with a lot of sulphur crystals still laying around. At Kastanas we had the beach all to ourselves again and enjoyed a relaxing day without people but with a lot of sun. When we got bored we checked some other promising looking places for Grass Snakes on the island which we would visit at night. Before sunset another promising looking place for Leopard Snake was visited but again no luck. A dinner with Kalamari and gyros gave us the energy to continue and we explored some nice places for Grass Snakes. We quickly found two individuals both of the spotted picturata morph. Also many Milos Water Frogs and an additional Cat Snake was found.
27th of October 2019
Sadly we had to leave this amazing island behind today. Our flight left in the afternoon so we still had some times at least to search. First we visited a valley in the far west of the island where we again found the same viper as a few days before in ambush. We explored another tributary of the stream and despite lots of puddles no more vipers were seen. On the way back we stopped at the promising looking valley one more time but again, no sign of a viper here. A last minute stop at an abandoned factory close to the airport delivered some more geckoes but then it was really time to go. Also our departure went as smooth as our arrival and before we knew it we were back in Munich. Although a short trip we found almost all species on the island and had some amazing viper sightings which was our main objective. We didn't get to see a red viper or a grey grass snake but after seeing an eating viper that is all forgiven. Moreover we enjoyed the sunny weather, fantastic Greek hospitality, tasty food and amazing scenery Milos has to offer. We will be back!
Make sure to check out Laura's Flickr album as well!
Milos Water Frog (Pelophylax sp.)
Balkan Terrapin (Mauremys rivulata)
Turkish Gecko (Hemidactylus turcicus)
Kotschy's Gecko (Mediodactylus kotschyi)
Snake-eyed Skink (Ablepharus kitaibelii)
Balkan Green Lizard (Lacerta trilineata hansschweizeri)
Milos Wall Lizard (Podarcis milensis)
Grass Snake (Natrix natrix schweizeri)
Cat Snake (Telescopus fallax)
Blunt-nosed Viper (Macrovipera lebetina schweizeri)
Many thanks to Frank Deschandol, Alexander Eppler, Lennart Schmid, Alexandru Strugariu and especially Benny