How not to: field herping

We figured yesterday that it would probably be a good idea to get moving as early as we could, to avoid yesterday’s problems. With our kids, having an action-packed program is the most relaxing day for us. The kids are happy and just follow us as we go, and we are happy because we get to do stuff we like, and with happy kids. It’s a double whammy. The trick is to keep them as busy as possible for as long as possible, and come back when it’s time for them to go to bed.

Baska town seen from our hike. Absolutely deserted now. In summer, I wouldn’t want to be found dead in this place. It’s beautiful, but from what I’ve read it hosts many more tourists than the beaches can support. I don’t know why you’d want to be here in summer, it sounds horrible…

At 8.30 we left our van and the empty camperlot we are still parked at behind, and decided to hike along the beach and mountainside on the right hand side of Baska bay. Heike’s goal was getting some exercise and reaching the lighthouse that’s supposedly built on the southern tip of the bay. My own goal was to find the – in my mind – elusive long-nosed viper, Vipera ammodytes. It’s supposedly super common here, although I haven’t found much about their presence on the south of the island of Krk.

The advantage of dragging your kids around on field herping trips, is that they may spontaneously start liking these things because they don’t know any better, and given that I have literally zero friends that would look for long-nosed vipers with me, that’s a worthy long-term investment. Or I should find more field herping friends. Maybe both would be good.

The disadvantage of dragging your kids around is that you don’t stand a fucking chance of finding anything. I’m carrying Rafa either in a backpack, while trying to swiftly go through the landscape, and scan as much area as I can, or I’m letting him walk, but I stay close to him (he’s too young to understand what venomous means, and he’s too familiar with snakes to be scared of them…). Turning over rocks or wood is out of question with that backpack thing on. You lose all agility, and there wasn’t much to begin with. Either way, those snakes see us coming from miles away, laugh at us, and slowly crawl back into their hiding spots. The highest odds of finding something are when you just follow the least bumpy trail, so you can move fast. All you need then is luck. If one animal was dumb enough to sit along the track, that’s how you can still spot them with kids. Photography, then, is a nope, too. Agility. Speed. Nope. Therefore, I can barely use my stick/’snake hook’ while operating my camera with that backpack on. All my focus goes to balancing.

Luckily, I rarely find snakes on paths. It makes for less frustration. I do find lots of lizards, as these animals seem to love paths. Today I found a couple of species, among which some I had not seen before: Lacerta trilineata, Podarcis melisellensis, P. muralis and P. siculus. I wish I could have gotten a picture of the first. An amazing and chunky 40cm beast that actually sat quite still for observation, but squeezed itself into a stone wall crevice when I tried to get my camera. I’ll find another soon, I promised myself.

I think this is probably a male Podarcis siculus. They’re extremely variable as a species, both in terms of pattern and coloration, and very similar to P. muralis. P. melisellensis has more red on the neck and abdominal scales, and often is rather patternless.

Obviously, I didn’t find any Poskok (but Rafa screams POSSSS…. KOKK! all day, which is a result), or any other snake for that matter. Maybe it’s too early in the year (but it’s warm enough though). Maybe I was out too early today, mornings are cold, and admittedly even the lizards I only saw on the way back… I’ll try again tomorrow, but maybe a bit later in the day! I’ll find one. I won’t leave this country before that!

Published by Robin Heinen

Father of two | Husband | Entomologist and Ecologist | Postdoctoral Researcher @ TUM | Traveler | Coffee Addict

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