Lycian Coast, 21st of February until 1st of March 2014

The Lycian coast must be one of my favourite destinations to spend some time during winter. It never becomes boring to travel through Turkey and every trip holds several interesting observations and new discoveries. Laura shares my passion for the country so this February we went for another week trip to the Lycian coast. Since we both have visited the region before and focused a lot on animals, this time we also wanted to see a bit more of scenery and culture - preferably combining it with herping.

 

The weather during our trip was mostly sunny, no wind, a blue sky and with general temperatures around 22°C. Unexpectedly nice spring weather that is and also favourable for reptiles. This winter has been a mild one with higher temperatures than others and without too much rain according to what locals told us. That resulted in drier soils than on previous trips which made it harder to find salamanders. Amphibian activity in general was lower as many pools and ponds had gone dry. Reptiles on the other hand were more active and while on most winter trips an occasional basking agama or lizard can be seen, now that was a common sight. Not only mating salamanders but also mating tortoises were seen at several locations, snakes had begun to become active and in general more thermophilic reptile species were observed.

Overview of prospected sites.
Overview of prospected sites.

21st of February 2014
In the early afternoon Laura and I flew from Munich to Antalya to land on Turkish soil after darkness. We picked up our rental car (Lancia) and after filling in forms and handling the formalities we quickly drove on to the Burger King for a healthy bite. While dining we already heard the first Eastern Tree Frogs (Hyla orientalis) and Levant Water Frogs (Pelophylax bedriagae) calling and a small hike through coastal dunes delivered a single Green Toad (Bufo viridis) and 7 sleeping Mediterranean Chameleons (Chamaeleo chamaeleon). What a great start!

After admiring these fascinating creatures we drove on to Hurma were we found an excellent stay in Hotel Villa Granada.

22nd of February 2014
After a quick breakfast at the hotel we drove on to Gökdere Selalesi, a waterfall in the habitat of two species of Lycian Salamander. Despite thorough efforts to find them we found none. But a beautiful place all the same! At a second search site somewhere along the D400 we were surprisingly more successful and already found a few Bille's Salamander (Lyciasalamandra billae) underneath trash at the parking lot. More were found in the woods next to several Anatolian Worm Lizards (Blanus strauchi) and thousands of mosquitos who remarkably only chose Laura as target.

Göynük Canyon was waiting for us so we had to move on. This beautiful gorge provides next to dramatic scenery an endemic salamander species: Irfan's Salamander (Lyciasalamandra irfani) that was quickly found. Other herp species here were Green Toad larvae, Levant Water Frogs and Oertzen's Rock Lizards (Anatololacerta oertzeni). Water levels were low this year so we didn't have to climb cliffs or wobbly bridges to find our desiderata here.

And the day wasn't over yet since we had still some things on our busy schedule; first we drove on to Cirali beach, dropped the luggage in our wooden "tree house" at the Sima Peace Pansiyon and went on to the Yanartaş, also known as the Chimaera. On the way we photographed a Southern White-breasted Hedgehog (Erinaceus concolor) just crossing the road in front of our car. The hike to the Yanartaş is a steep one but the scenery is worth it, the rocky outcrops is littered with vents that emit gasses such as methane and which fuel fires that have been around for at least 2500 years. The fires,  the view on the ancient ruins of the Hephaistos temple, the view on the Mediterranean Sea and the calling Tawny Owls (Strix aluco) from the surrounding woods make it a truly magical place. While hiking down we found another Green Toad and a little stroll after dinner delivered 6 Mediterranean Chameleons. 

23rd of February 2014

After waking up a lovely breakfast was awaiting us on our balcony and we had an unlimited supply of fresh orange juice while overlooking the orange orchards of the Cirali lowlands. Fully refueled we did another search stop dedicated to my favourite creatures and found three Mediterranean Chameleons that we could photograph in daylight this time. Many Spur-thighed Tortoises (Testudo graeca) and Eastern Snake-eyed Skinks (Ablepharus budaki) were crawling around and I could catch a little Dahl's Whip Snake (Platyceps najadum) which was climbing through the shrubs. Here we also met our new friend Ahmed who overestimated our ability to learn Turkish in a few minutes but probably complimented me with my new scarf.

Spring fever hit us hard this morning and we decided to try our luck at the nearby Olympos ancient ruins. These ruins located at a medium-sized river provide habitat for many herp species but probably we arrived a bit too late; Oertzen's Rock Lizards, Snake-eyed Skinks and Starred Agama's (Laudakia stellio) were running around everywhere and near impossible to photograph. In the ponds huge numbers or Balkan Stream Terrapins (Mauremys rivulata) and Levant Water Frogs were present and a big and beautiful Grass Snake (Natrix natrix) managed to escape sadly. Other herp species here were many Spur-thighed Tortoises and a juvenile Black Whip Snake (Dolichophis jugularis).

The afternoon was spend at the peninsula south of Adrasan. Besides Oertzen's Rock Lizards and a Spur-thighed Tortoise we could only find a little lacertid of which I took a few quick record shots, but which afterwards proved to be an interesting find as it was a juvenile Pamphylian Green Lizard (Lacerta pamphylica). We tried to find a small secluded beach at the pensinsula to have a swim but the premarked Pirate Bay coördinate proved wrong and we had to hike all the way back, luckily we found a nice Turkish Pirate who did dare to drive his car around on the unpaved roads on the peninsula and gave us a lift. Due to the increasingly hot temperatures we couldn't resist the temptation of doing regular holiday stuff and desided to spend the rest of the day at the beach were we even had a swim. Just another day in paradise! While sun set we drove to Finike, checked in into Hotel Grand Finike and tried to find Luschan's Salamander (Lyciasalamandra luschani finikensis) without avail. A dinner at restaurant Deniz 2 supplied us with a seeminlgy endless amount of comfort food so we weren't feeling too sad.

24rd of February 2014

We had breakfast at the roof terrace of the hotel were we had a splendid view on the city and its surrounding mountains. Sun was shining again and we decided to skip another salamander search in favor of spending these optimal conditions in reptile habitat. Around Demre we searched around ancient ruins and found huge numbers of Spur-thighed Tortoise, Anatolian Worm Lizard, Worm Snake (Typhlops vermicularis), Snake-eyed Lacertid (Ophisops elegans), Starred Agama and a basking Black Whip Snake. A Coin-marked Snake (Hemorrhois nummifer) sadly got away. A great decision to go here! Birdwise we also made some interesting observations; a Blue Rock Thrush (Monticola solitarius) was foraging on the road and two Dunlins (Calidris alpina) we found resting on the beach.

Second stop was Üçağız were we visited the ancient Necropolis just outside the town and had a splendid view of the lagoon and its islands. Only herp species here was a concolored Oertzen's Rock Lizard. On the way to Kalkan we saw a nice rock tomb along the road and decided to flip some stones there - with good results! We found several Luschan's Salamanders (Lyciasalamandra luschani basoglui), some Green Toads and an Oertzen's Rock Lizard. News spread fast that a handsome European couple was photographing animals here and all ungulates out of the valley rushed in to have their picture taken.  

Through thunder and torrential rains we drove on to Kalkan, found a nice hotel, an even better dinner at the Aubergine Restaurant and fell asleep with the enchanting sound of barking dogs.

 

25th of February 2014

Another sunny day, another great place for reptiles on the menu. The ruins of Xanthos were visited just before some dark clouds came rolling in. Luckily we had enough time to find some big Balkan Green Lizards (Lacerta trilineata), Snake-eyed Lacertids, Anatolian Worm Lizards, Spur-thighed Tortoises, Levant Water Frogs and a beautiful Levant Skink (Trachylepis aurata). Conditions seemed extremely good for snakes but sadly we found none. One moment I thought I saw one moving though a rock pile but it was a Hazel Dormouse (Muscardinus avellanarius). While we ate our Simit at the parking lot, rain started dripping down slowly. Time to move on. The ruins of the less frequently visited city of Pinara were on the menu. The drive to Pinara was a bit tricky, but in the end it resulted only in the near loss of our license plate. Besides a dead tortoise we found three Luschan's Salamander (Lyciasalamandra luschani luschani) here, a very interesting find as this is only the second time they have been found this far north. While sun was setting we had to leave this beautiful place, already knowing that on the next trip to Lycia we would have to visit these ruins again. Such an unspoiled place oozing a magical atmosphere - here it isn't hard to imagine what it must have been like to live here 2000 years ago.

On the road to our next location we had to stop because the rains and the darkness had lured the entire Urodele community out and we found dozens of them sitting on the road and in the grass, some of them in amplexus. Always a great experience! When we arrived at the Yediburunlar Lighthouse where we would spend the night we found an additional 8 more specimens at the windy cliffs which were our garden.

26th of February 2014

A breakfast with a view is always nice and the Yediburunlar lighthouse was the perfect location for this. Sadly we couldn't stay too long as the beach of Ölüdeniz was waiting for us. On the beach itself we found a big Spur-thighed tortoise and during a hike to the opposite side of the lagoon we could only find a Starred Agama and an Oertzen's Rock Lizard. So animal-wise a bit of a slow day, but scenery wise we had breathtaking views of this famous beach and afterwards also spend some more time there, enjoying the sun. At the end of the day we drove to the in 1922 abandoned city of Kayaköy. While sun was setting we explored the narrow streets, the abandoned church and could find some more Rock Lizards and a Green Toad. Few Rock Nuthatches (Sitta Neumayer) were still foraging while Tawny Owls started to call from the surrounding woods. In Göcek we found a nice accommodation at the Göcek Pera Hotel and had a great meal at the Limon Restaurant.

27th of February 2014

First stop of the day was a known place for African Softshell Turtles (Trionyx triunguis) of which we quickly saw 7 individuals. This relictual species is very curious and easy to observe at this place, and besides the fact it feels somehow sad to see these beautiful animals in such an anthropogenic influenced place it also is amazing to see how graceful these big creatures swim through the water. Nearby hills delivered Fazilae's Salamander (Lyciasalamandra fazilae).

A small boattrip brought us to the ancient ruined city of Kaunos were we found the usual suspects again; Spur-thighed Tortoise, Balkan Green Lizard, Snake-eyed Lacertid, Starred Agama, Anatolian Worm Lizard, Balkan Stream Terrapin, Levant Water Frog, Green Toad and two adult Glass Lizards (Pseudopus apodus). The local Rock Nuthatches were constructing which was a very intersting sight.

Afterwards we drove on to the top Bozburun Tepesi for one of the most stunning views of the trip, a view over the entire Dalyan delta including Iztuzu Beach. With the last rays of sunshine we explored an interesting valley north of Köyceğiz. Of course Spur-thighed Tortoise was present as always next to Levant Water Frogs, but we also found a freshly killed Coin-marked Snake. 

With twilight we drove towards Dalyan again, checked in into the excellent BC Spa Hotel and had some excellent kebap and fish & chips afterwards. Afterwards we wanted to visit the same temporary lake as last year, that amazing place with thousands of amphibians including the rather elusive Spadefoot Toad. Arriving at the scene we were horrified to discover that local farmers built drainage canals, so the lake was just gone. No frogs, no toads, no terrapins. A local restaurant owner told us that there were too many frogs. Nature conservation in Turkey at its best...

28th of February 2014

After the best breakfast of the trip we drove on in the direction of Korkuteli were we went out for some groceries and were I got a lot of admiring looks from the locals, they probably never saw such beautiful rubber boots.

First search stop of the day was around Termessos but we weren't able to find any herps there. No problem, the ancient ruined city of Termessos was such an enchanting place. This holds even more true during winter, when there were no leaves on the trees but a ghostly mist hanging around between the pale rocks. Loved it!

In the afternoon we went to the outskirts of Antalya and were more lucky, besides few Anatolian Worm Lizards we also found 3 Antalyan Salamanders (Lyciasalamandra antalyana). After a great dinner at McDonalds we went to Hotel Kapris near the airport and searched in vain for amphibians, but did find 8 juvenile Mediterranean Chameleons.

1st of March 2014

Time to go back home again after an amazing week in this amazing country. Turkey never fails to surprise and is always a guarantee for a special time. We already know that we will come back here. Soon!

Species

Antalyan Salamander (Lyciasalamandra antalyana)

Bille's Salamander (Lyciasalamandra billae)

Fazila's Salamander (Lyciasalamandra fazilae)

Irfan's Salamander (Lyciasalamandra irfani)

Luschan's Salamander (Lyciasalamandra luschani ssp. luschani and basoglui)

Green Toad (Bufo viridis)

Eastern Tree Frog (Hyla orientalis)

Levant Water Frog (Pelophylax bedriagae)

Balkan Terrapin (Mauremys rivulata)

African Softshell Turtle (Trionyx triunguis)

Spur-thighed Tortoise (Testudo graeca)

Anatolian Worm Lizard (Blanus strauchi)

Mediterranean Chameleon (Chamaeleo chamaeleon)

Starred Agama (Laudakia stellio)

Eastern Snake-eyed Skink (Ablepharus budaki)

Levant Skink (Trachylepis aurata)

Glass Lizard (Pseudopus apodus)

Oertzen's Rock Lizard (Anatololacerta oertzeni)

Pamphylian Green Lizard (Lacerta pamphylica)

Balkan Green Lizard (Lacerta trilineata)

Snake-eyed Lacertid (Ophisops elegans)

Worm Snake (Typhlops vermicularis)

Black Whip Snake (Dolichophis jugularis)

Coin-marked Snake (Hemorrhois nummifer)

Grass Snake (Natrix natrix)

Dahl's Whip Snake (Platyceps najadum)

 

Many thanks to: Wouter Beukema, Sergé Bogaerts, Joachim Nerz and Sebastian Voitel.