Turtle ponds, castles, and a view

When we are staying on a campsite for a couple of days, we are generally confined to the direct surroundings of the camping spot. We usually hike a lot, or stroll through tiny villages close by. We don’t drive on these days. When our Ford Nugget is fully unfolded, with upper and lower beds out, the car seats have to be moved all the way to the front. There’s no way to drive, certainly not with my size. Driving somewhere with four requires a complete packing up, which isn’t a huge job, but with two kids around, it’s too much of a hassle to do very often. We usually plan things that require driving on a travel day, so we can see things when we are anyway packing up. We packed up early today, so we could make the most out of our travel day today. We didn’t plan to travel far – the other side of Krk – only half an hour or so away. Plenty of room to drive up and down the island to see spots and obviously look for reptiles!

This wall lizard (Podarcis siculus) was our neighbor for three days 🙂

Today we visited Gradec castle in the North first, and Stara Baska (on the other side of the island) second. We camp in the town of Krk. On the way to the castle, we passed a small pond where I saw some turtles basking in the sun. A great potential to add the European pond turtle to the trip reptile list! I pulled the breaks and parked a little further down the road, under what apparently was the oldest tree on the island. Together with my son, I checked out the pond. The turtles had of course already dropped from their basking rocks into the water. But I know turtles. Give them a few minutes and they’ll be back. First I decided to walk around the swampy pond with my boy. Fairly soon we spotted our first snake. He even saw it, too! “Dad, is that a sweet snake?” I tried to explain to him that most snakes are sweet snakes, like the ones we have at home, but that there are some angry ones too, so he shouldn’t pick them up. “Yes, Rafa. This is a sweet snake.” It was in fact a very pretty grass snake (Natrix natrix) – golden brown with a dark orange ring around its neck. The ones we have in Germany and the Netherlands are darker, with paler rings. As I was holding my son’s hand while walking around the slippery banks, it was a difficult choice between either dry pants for Rafa and a happy child, or a small chance for a picture if I would be quick enough to grab the camera before it was gone. I chose the former. Sorry… The turtle situation was somewhat disappointing. As is becoming the norm in much of Europe, most turtles are released pet turtles. Several species, commonly known as sliders were imported from their native range in North America and kept as pets for decades, the most famous species being – as was the case here – the red-eared slider (Trachemys scripta elegans). These turtles get big, and old. Often they are dumped in parks or ponds, to the detriment of local fauna. I saw several turtles in this pond, far from any town, some of which were very small. I couldn’t verify whether there were also European pond turtles (Emys orbicularis). They’re also often outcompeted by the bigger and more agressive sliders.

Small pond, but so much life. Water is always a good place to ‘hunt’ in dry landscapes.
Horrible zoomed out resolution, but the thing in the middle is a red-eared slider’s face poking through the water surface. If you zoom in even further you can see the red ears.

The castle wasn’t in good shape. Just a few walls, mostly overgrown by Robinia pseudoacacia – another sometimes problematic invasive tree. I’ve seen better castles. However, it yielded a new species of lizard for me: Algyroides nigropunctatus. The walk up and down were pretty good, so this place was worth it.

Gradec castle…
Inside (excellent lizard habitat).
Algyroides nigropunctatus female.

The bay in the south was pretty. I scanned a rocky field with some Salvia and I believe Phlox plants as the sparse elements of vegetation that were present. After 20 minutes of not even seeing a lizard I gave up. We took some snaps of the magnificent views and drove off to our selected RV lot in Krk town.

Let’s see what we can do here tomorrow! The town itself is cute.

Published by Robin Heinen

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

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