You all now by now I’m a bit of a reptile nerd. I can’t help it. It’s been like that since forever. It started with dinosaurs when I was young, and it never left me.
Those of you that now me a little better, or read here regularly, will also understand that snakes in particular have a special place in my heart. There’s just something about them that I find tremendously beautiful and endlessly interesting. Maybe it’s the fact that even though they have lost limbs over the course of evolution, they still manage to thrive, with species occurring in every continent on the planet, except Antarctica. You’d expect limbless animals to be helpless little maggots, but they’re not. Snakes are generally far from helpless, and have no trouble getting around. Slithering, climbing, constricting or injecting venom, swallowing prey whole. Snakes can do it all, without the need for limbs. Some of them grow to several meters, whereas others keep the size of a small earthworm. There’s something cool for everyone!
(Snakes are awesome.)
Over the past couple of weeks in Croatia, I’ve been on the hunt for my legless friends. Unfortunately I’ve been less successful than I had hoped – only four snakes, but at least of four different species.
Today, I gave it another try on the Premantura Peninsula in southern Istria. We wanted to visit Kamanjac, a nature park on the southernmost tip of the peninsula, but the Croatian army was shooting it to pieces this week for trainings, so entrance was strictly prohibited. We settled for a trail close by with some viewpoints. The trail also was crossing something that I could only classify as prime reptile habitat.
I just couldn’t help myself.
As Heike and the kids took the normal trail to the viewpoint, I walked around like an obsessed idiot, staring at the floor a few meters in front of me, while also scanning for areas that look ‘snakeable’. (Honestly, this just me pretending to be a snake on the lookout for a place to heat up for a moment, and I can’t guarantee that this is a working method).
I walked through low shrubs, with lots of dry rocky-grassy habitat. Lots of sun exposure. A sunny day today, with the odd cloud here and there, and about 18 degrees centigrade made it a perfect spring day to warm up my cold-blooded buddies.
I scanned for about one and a half hour.
I didn’t find a single snake…
But, I did find something else.
Some may even confuse it for a snake, but trust me, it’s not. I found a limbless lizard. We have limbless lizards called slow worms in Germany and the Netherlands too, but these are generally rather small. I knew Croatia also was home to a larger species of limbless lizard, the Scheltopusik – Pseudopus apodus. I had never seen one, until this morning, when I found two of these oddballs. They’re not particularly pretty. They look like slow worms on steroids, and move like a snake on a glass plate (snakes on glass have no friction and move like idiots). Despite their ugliness, and overall clumsiness, these animals seem surprisingly okay with it. They have a constant expression of satisfaction, serenity, and maybe even gratitude. It surprised me how big they are. The first was about 60 cm, but the second was probably closer to 80. They let me get close enough for some reasonable snaps. My son is now telling me all the time that he has seen ‘seldompussy’, so that was funny, too.
They may not have been snakes, but they’re a new species on my list, and with some pictures to show for it, that makes me also feel satisfied, serene, and grateful. Dear readers, I hope you enjoy them too!
Oh, before I end it here, I promised something earlier this week. I (again) bumped into many Lacerta bilineata. These lizards run off when you get within 10 meters, which makes them terrible to snap without a zoom lens. Today, I bumped into a bunch of males in kind of a bar brawl. They were so busy fucking each other up, that I could take a snap from 5 meters. The loser pussied out, and the winner basked in glory and sunlight in his basking spot. He hadn’t noticed me, so I could finally snap a picture. Unsurprisingly, it got scared two seconds after, and off it went. If you ask me, these lizards are among the sexiest species in Europe (Lacerta is without a doubt my favorite lizard genus).
No snakes, but a wonderful day!