LOCAL OBSERVATIONS 2006 - April

Tuesday 25th April 2006

A really warm, even hot day today, a slight breeze building up, I thought that this was prime weather to go herping. I for once decided to use my bicycle rather then the almost ran out of fuel scooter. As soon as I left my house I realised just how hot it was, I first went to the Geynes canal (the one the feeds all the gardens with water) as I arrived I saw many Pelophylax frogs, and one stood out more then the others, it was Pelophylax kl. grafi:

© Daniel Phillips

And I saw some Pelophylax eggs:

© Daniel Phillips

I then spotted a female common toad (Bufo bufo spinosus) in the water, she seemed almost albino, but was sure fat and full of eggs:

© Daniel Phillips

I then had a shock when I came across a dead Natrix natrix, it had been stabbed by a spade by the look of it, right into the middle of the body! And then on my way back down the water system I came across a dead Natrix maura, at first I thought that it must have been the same thing, but no this specimen had chosen to eat an earthworm, I manipulated the worm out from the snake to find that, only this earthworm was longer then the snake, so the snake probably suffocated himself:

© Daniel Phillips

© Daniel Phillips

I guess sometimes nature make mistakes too...

In returned home for a drink as I was completely dehydrated and to put the photos into the computer as I had no more space on my cards. On the way back out of the village I heard a scurry noise in the busy, and well well, it was only a lovely Western green lizard (Lacerta bilineata). I couldn't get a very good photo as he hid in the flowering bush and there were many bees, they are very intelligent!

I then went to my Montpellier snake hotspot with no luck and then headed north for 2 to 3 km and I saw Parsley frog tadpoles and then some Pelophylax perezi and I heard a noise in the bush and under some stones, I looked into the cracks and I saw a gorgeous juvenile Timon lepidus, I overturned the stone and he ran out (and a nice Discoglossus pictus also hopped out), I jumped on him (this is after 5 to 10 minutes, it was tricky!) and took him into the vines to take photos:

© Daniel Phillips

© Daniel Phillips

And when I returned to put him back, a huge 60 to 80 cm adult Timon lepidus ran out of a hole and into a tunnel (a tunnel that takes water under the tracks, this one was dry), I quickly put the fist specimen back and chassed the adult up the tunnel, but he was already at the other end so I got out, and ran to the other end surprising him from above, he dashed down the tunnel again, I did the same, but this time at the other end, I then waited for him to free himself of the tunnel and I ran to the other side expecting to hear a hustle and chase into the vines, but only to find nothing but a hole in the side of the wall covered with grass, he must have dived into that. I went back to where the Discoglossus pictus jumped out from, found him and took a photo:

© Daniel Phillips

Taking the bike I was cycling along the drying canal way, thick with mud and then I spotted a baby grass snake (Natrix natrix):

© Daniel Phillips

I then headed to the water lakes in the middle of the valley, cycling and starting to really burn under the sun, on my arrival I went to the place where I know that Hyla meridionalis hide during the day, I had a quick look for any blue ones, none, but a lot of brown ones though, more so then greens! I also caught an adult Discoglossus pictus, a little dull in coloring. I cycled home and rested for the rest of the day, I have such a head ache with all that sun!


Tuesday 18th April 2006

Patrolling the gardens near my village at late afternoon, there was a bit of wind but the sun was strong enough to make me find myself in a t-shirt, I looked up and down a water system canal, I fond a Large psammodromus (Psammodromus algirus) sunbathing:

© Daniel Phillips

And on then way back down the system I found a dead (droned) Montpellier snake juvenile (Malpolon monspessulanus). I then went to a greener environment where the villagers have gardens all separated by old stone walls, under a fallen down wooden door, there was a male adult Slow worm (Anguis fragilis):

© Daniel Phillips

I saw a gardener picking the asparagus on the track and asked him if he had seen any snakes, he turned out to be german but spoke english and he said that he did at 10 am saw a long (around 60 to 80 cm long) snake slithering into the bush, I looked around the gardens and I found whilst overturning stones a juvenile Montpellier snake (Malpolon monspessulanus) this one was alive but evidence of damage, maybe he was threatened by the garden owners a few years back, he also had eaten a few hours back, possibly a wall lizard:


Friday 7th April 2006

I had another of my intended snake days, and once again, it was the amphibians who stole the show. In actual fact I was board at home so I decided to go out and look for snakes. I had a look at my Malpolon hotspot with no luck, I only found many Psammodromus algirus, then I went to another place where for the first time I could observe and photograph Psammodromus hispanicus:

© Daniel Phillips

Just after this I found a Natrix maura as well as many Bufo tadpoles, and then I found a Malpolon monspessulanus, but it was fast to scurry into the vegetation. I did find 5 Timon lepidus adults as well as one dead juvenile, and looking in a stream I found many Hyla, Pelophylax and one Natterjack. And then here was the moment the amphibians stole the spotlight, I found a blue Hyla meridionalis:

© Daniel Phillips


 

Wednesday 5th April 2006

Tonight I was out looking for all sorts of amphibian species with Mathieu, we went all over Roussillon from Villeneuve-de-la-Raho to Canet. We stopped off frequently to help the Natterjacks across the road, we also came across many Discoglossus and Hyla. We went to the Golf course near St Cyprien, here in the many pools were loud noises of Rana (Pelophylax) and Hyla, I got my 'fisherman's' outfit on and went in, here I found a huge Pelophylax ridibundus (Rana ridibunda):

© Daniel Phillips

We had split up to cover more ground and when we met up he showed me what he had found, he had Pelophylax and a Discoglossus pictus, but this specimen had a pattern not see before by myself, this one was the lined pattern:

© Daniel Phillips


 

Monday 3rd April 2006

I went out today in search of a more reptile kind of animal, I didn't wait long before finding myself chasing after a large Ocellated lizard (Timon lepidus), after searching through the tree it ran up I could only get out of focus photos before she hid even better, and I didn't see her again (female). I than looked for snakes along a canal with only Rana and Bufo bufo to be found, and I started to turn my attention to the gardens looking under iron, and other junk, I turned over a concrete slab that was being used as a bridge across the dried up canal and under it was a small ditch and it's resident, a male Common midwife toad ! (Alytes obstetricans), and as the cherry on top of the cake he had his tadpoles on his legs!:

© Daniel Phillips

© Daniel Phillips

So after yet another day out and about, this time looking for snakes, an amphibian stole the spotlight, again! I am beginning to think that this isn't going to be a great year for snakes :(

 


Saturday 1st April 2006

Tonight I set a meeting with university friend Mathieu at the Opoul marsh/pool to discuss herpetological issues and to help him catch (with the correct papers) some Hyla meridionalis (which will NOT be killed but let free after a short period). I left quite early from Paziols and arrived at Opoul at 18:20 and it was still day! but very clouded, there was quite a bit of wind but it wasn't cold. Mathieu was not yet there as he was driving down from Montpellier. I had a quick look around and didn't find much, and Mathieu arrived and met me.

As it was early we decided to do a quick round to see some of the ponds in the area, these ponds were all up on the cliffs and hills, and not like the Opoul pool which is smack bang in the middle of the small plateau.

Arriving back at the opoul pool we stayed in the car and waited for the night to fall, the frogs started to sing at around 19:08 when it was not fully dark, but because of the cloud cover, this was possible. The wind dramatically dropped when night fell. We talked about parasites and he also gave me some locations for Rana temporaria which is a much more altitude species here in the pyrenees, living at over 2000 meters.

We strapped up with the fishing gear and I went into the pool and had a whale of a time taking photos, I even found my first Hyla meridionalis amplexus (breeding pair):

© Daniel Phillips

At this point I left the water and looked in the bamboo where to my surprise there were hundreds of Hyla meridionalis as well as a hunting Natrix maura:

© Daniel Phillips

© Daniel Phillips

Then we scanned along the other bank and I found in the water a dead Pelobates cultripes (Western Spadefoot), this is meant to be the most important station for this species but since the herpetologists from Montpellier came too often, it seems that the species had dramatically died off:

© Daniel Phillips

© Daniel Phillips
this is the spade tool used to dig

On a last round of the pool I found a Discoglossus pictus and a Triturus marmoratus female on her way back to the water:

© Daniel Phillips

And crossing the road, so this means that we saved this one: Pelodytes punctatus (Parsley frog)

© Daniel Phillips

Also along the road was a small adult Bufo calamita (Natterjack), so there is a total of 8 amphibian species and 1 reptilian species in this pool, great!