Getting above the trees…

We’re currently in the town of Podbela, Slovenia in the Nadiza river valley. I have to say it’s extremely pretty and all, but of course that’s not the only reason we’re here. (It may be the only reason for the rest of the family though.)

You don’t even have to guess. Of course the other reason is snakes. This place is supposedly filled to the rim with snakes, and I think there should be somewhere close to twenty different species in the larger area. Of course I care about all snakes, but especially the vipers have a special place in my heart. And this…. This is a special place when you like vipers.

This particular valley is one of the rare places in Europe where three species of viper from the Vipera genus occur in the same location, being the slopes of a nearby mountain ridge. This is probably the Northeastern end of the range for the common asp (Vipera aspis), which is pretty common West from here in Italy, France and parts of the Iberian peninsula. It’s also almost as far West as it gets in the range of the long-nosed viper (Vipera ammodytes), which is common in the Balkans and Greece. And well, there’s the common Adder (Vipera berus), an awesome beast that probably has the largest distribution of any viper, reaching North into the Arctic circle, West even in the UK, and East for quite a stretch into Russia. I’m not completely sure how far South they go, but this might be close to the southern boundary for their range. Anyway, there’s some overlap in viper range in only a handful of places in Slovenia and Italy, and for some other species in Northern Spain.

I’m staying in the middle of one right now.

There’s only one problem: they don’t typically live on the bottom of the valley, which is where I stay. Reaching the tree line is probably where I’d find the best odds of encountering them. The tree line is a substantial distance up, I’d guess about 600 to 800m higher than we are now. There are no real roads there…

Tomorrow, we’ll see how far we can get by car, and how easy it is to get to the treeline with two kids in tow. I surely hope to find some of my beloved vipers, but I’m a bit worried that I should have tried harder to find them when I was on Mt. Matajur, which was literally the next mountain, that probably would have yielded one or two species… I looked but didn’t put proper field herpetologist efforts into it. Let’s hope it works tomorrow. Wish me luck!

The Nadiza river valley
I need to be in the lighter left part of the ridge that goes through the center of the picture, seen from Mt. Matajur.

Published by Robin Heinen

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

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