Sicily, 28.03. - 04.04.2009

The major issues of our spring trip to Sicily were the local herpetofauna and the orchids of that area. As we were not willing to spent a considerable part of our holiday in the car rushing from one place to another we focused on a single region of this big Island – the area of Syrakus.

  • Pyrenees, 2008 - 2016

    Pyrenees, 2008 - 2016

    Searching for Pyrenean lizards - third time's a charm!

  • Sicily & Aeolian Islands, 26.5. – 6.6.2016

    Sicily & Aeolian Islands, 26.5. – 6.6.2016

    Mission Volcano! Smoking mountains and rare reptiles

  • Astypalaia & Naxos, 25.3.-3.4.2016

    Astypalaia & Naxos, 25.3.-3.4.2016

    Hellas reloaded – Back in Europe’s biodiversity lab

  • Spain, 29.8.-11.9.2015

    Spain, 29.8.-11.9.2015

    Biodiversity on the south-eastern tangent

  • Montenegro, 2. – 11.7.2015

    Montenegro, 2. – 11.7.2015

    Lizard Safari in the mountains of Montenegro

  •  Malta, 3. – 6.4.2015

    Malta, 3. – 6.4.2015

    The exclusive Podarcis filfolensis Home Story!

  • Oman, 6.–15.3.2015

    Oman, 6.–15.3.2015

    Adventures in the southeast of the Arabian Peninsula

  • Central Spain, 29.8. - 14.9.2014

    Central Spain, 29.8. - 14.9.2014

    14 days in the heat of Castile

  • Lefkada, Kefalonia & Akarnania, 24.5. - 3.6.2014

    Lefkada, Kefalonia & Akarnania, 24.5. - 3.6.2014

    Reptile adventures in Western Greece

  • Mallorca / Alicante - 15.-23.03.2014

    Mallorca / Alicante - 15.-23.03.2014

    2014 Season Kick-off with 16 reptile species

  • Corsica, 07.-17.09.2013

    Corsica, 07.-17.09.2013

    Mountains, sea and rock lizards

  • Portugal, 13. - 20.07.2013

    Portugal, 13. - 20.07.2013

    Lizard hunting in Central Portugal

  • Romania, 24.05. - 03.06.2013

    Romania, 24.05. - 03.06.2013

    Herping adventures from the Black Sea coast to the Iron Gate

  • Menorca, 17. - 24.03.2013

    Menorca, 17. - 24.03.2013

    Visiting the Balearic lizards

  • Peloponnese, 20. - 27.10.2012

    Peloponnese, 20. - 27.10.2012

    Autumn trip on Peloponnese

  • Montenegro, 27.07. - 04.08.2012

    Montenegro, 27.07. - 04.08.2012

    Summer trip in the mountains of Montenegro

  • Skyros & Evia, 26.05. - 04.06.2012

    Skyros & Evia, 26.05. - 04.06.2012

    Our search for the legendary giant lizards...

  • Crete, 06. - 13.04.2012

    Crete, 06. - 13.04.2012

    Searching for flowers and lizards on Crete...

  • Andalucia, 10. - 18.03.2012

    Andalucia, 10. - 18.03.2012

    A hot week full of herping highlights in Southwestern Andalucia

  • Northern Spain, 02. - 13.09.2011

    Northern Spain, 02. - 13.09.2011

    Herpetological trip to the northwest of Spain: the mountains west of Leon, the Atlantic coast south of A Coruña and the Picos de Europa.

  • Aegean Islands, 28.05. - 13.06.2011

    Aegean Islands, 28.05. - 13.06.2011

    Five islands in two weeks: Kythira, Pori, Milos, Kimolos and Sifnos

  • Rhodos & Kastellorizo, 12. - 19.03.2011

    Rhodos & Kastellorizo, 12. - 19.03.2011

    Trip to the easternmost island of Greece...

  • Central spain, 25.09. - 03.10.2010

    Central spain, 25.09. - 03.10.2010

    Iberolacertas within Sierra de Gredos, Pena de Francia and Sierra de Guadarrama

  • Alps, 03. -17.07.2010

    Alps, 03. -17.07.2010

    Our first trip to the Alps led us to the Allgäu area, the Julian Alps and Carinthia

  • Northern Peloponnese, 3.-11.4.2010

    Northern Peloponnese, 3.-11.4.2010

    Four Podarcis species in one area!

  • Northern Greece, 01. - 15. 06.2009

    Northern Greece, 01. - 15. 06.2009

    Great trip to the Pindos mountains...

  • Sicily, 28.03. - 04.04.2009

    Sicily, 28.03. - 04.04.2009

    Orchid trip to eastern Sicily

  • Samos, September 2008 / 2009

    Samos, September 2008 / 2009

    Chamaeleons, Trachylepis and beautiful beaches...

  • Spain, November 2008 / February 2009

    Spain, November 2008 / February 2009

    Lizards in the Alicante Province

  • Eifel region

    Eifel region

    Our local "playground": botanical highlights, meadows with numerous butterflies and some herpetofauna...

  • Meadow near Floridia / Syrakus with view to the Aetna

    The Syrakus area has three outstanding nature reserves: The Gorges of Pantalica with its impressing necropolis, the Cava Grande del Cassibile canyon and the Riserva Vendicari at the coast – that’s more than enough program for one week! The mountains of this region consist of limestone and show a rich flora, only the higher parts of the Iblei mountains consist of volcanic rocks. During our stay, the sky sometimes was grey but the weather was warm (about 20 °C) and mostly dry.


    For Sicily, 15 reptile species have been reported – but we only have seen 7. All in all, the area we have visited was densely populated by reptiles but the diversity was rather low. The dominating species has been the omnipresent Podarcis siculus: We came across that lizard at the sandy beach of Vendicari, the Papyrus-marshes of Fonte Ciane, in cultivated areas, on the peak of Monte Lauro…

  • Male Podarcis siculus: uni-coloured phase

  • Podarcis siculus: female

  • Podarcis siculus at Vendicari (chequered phase)

  • Podarcis siculus at Pantalica: note the red underside of this male. This is, according to our literature, characteristic for the subspecies P. s. ciclopicus and P. s. medemi, which occur on small islands off the Sicilian coast only. In contrast to that, the red underside of the specimen above is quite unusual for P. s. siculus, which occurs on the Sicilian mainland.

  • Cava Grande del Cassibile: Habitat of Bufo bufo spinosus

  • Podarcis waglerianus seems to be quite common as well but only in certain habitats. We noticed these lizards on the numerous meadows bounded by dry stone walls on the high plateau between Pantalica and Cava Grande del Cassibile.

  • Male Podarcis waglerianus

  • Another male…

  • Female Podarcis waglerianus

  • At the necropolis of Pantalica

  • Lacerta bilineata is represented on Sicily by the subspecies chloronota. We have seen most of these lizards close to water, in particular at Cava Grande del Cassibile, some of them in the mountains near Buccheri. For us, the lizards nearly looked the same as the Central European L. b. bilineata (maybe L. b. bilineata has stronger black speckles on its back).

  • …also in dense vegetation the males can easily be spotted because of their blue throats.

  • Female Lacerta bilineata in a comfortable, relaxed position, sunbasking

  • Juvenile Lacerta bilineata

  • We also saw Tarentola mauritanica in a high population density. This may be a consequence of the fact that the complete region is covered by a dense network of dry stone walls – so there are plenty of capable habitats. We came across these geckos at the coast near Vendicari, in olive groves near Floridia and on meadows near Pantalica. In contrast to this, we didn’t notice the other gecko species on Sicily: Hemidactylus turcicus.

  • Tarentola mauritanica with yellowish underside

  • In particular on meadows, Chalcides ocellatus occurred in a striking population density. At some places we found nearly under every stone at least one skink. Overall, we saw dozens of them. In contrast to this, we didn’t find Chalcides chalcides.

  • Chalcides ocellatus: the animals of the Italian subspecies tiligugu are bigger than the Aegean animals and show a darker colouration.

    Obviously, Hierophis viridiflavus is common and widespread on Sicilia. The Sicilian subspecies carbonarius shows an almost black colouration. In addition, we found several Natrix natrix sicula at the Anapo river. Unfortunately, we didn’t see any other of the snakes species which occur on Sicily (Coronella austriaca, Zamenis situla, Elaphe lineata, Vipera aspis). We also didn't see Testudo hermanni and Emys orbicularis.

  • Hierophis viridiflavus

  • Natrix natrix sicula

  • Habitat of Natrix natrix sicula

  • Portrait of Natrix natrix sicula

  • Glaucopsyche alexis on Borago officinalis

  • Pseudophilotes batoni

  • Zerynthia polyxena


    Early April is a good time for orchids on Sicily – we saw 24 species. Our highlights were Ophrys bertolonii and the endemic Ophrys lunulata. We found rich and extensive orchid sites on the complete high plateau between Pantalica in the north, Cava Grande del Cassibile in the south and Monte Lauro in the west. In particular the meadows were quite interesting. Although we didn’t find very high numbers of orchids, we were able to find numerous species on most sites.

  • Ophrys lutea: often flourishing together with…

  • Ophrys sicula (left) and Ophrys bombyliflora (right)

  • Ophrys biancae

  • For us, it wasn’t easy to identify Ophrys oxyrrhynchos: Most of the orchids we had identified in situ as Ophrys oxyrrhynchos turned out to be Ophrys biancae afterwards. The specimen above maybe shows at least some oxyrrhynchos influence.

  • Orchid site at Floridia

  • Ophrys bertolonii

  • Another Ophrys bertolonii: we really appreciate that species!

  • Left: Ophrys speculum, right: Ophrys grandiflora

  • Left: Ophrys lunulata, right: a beautiful hybrid: Ophrys lunulata x grandiflora

  • Coastal area at Vendicari: also in this region there are interesting orchid sites

  • Left: Ophrys exaltata, right: Ophrys garganica

  • Left: Ophrys incubacea, right: Ophrys panormitana

  • Left: Probably Ophrys panormitana with red lip, right: Gagea sp. at the peak of Monte Lauro

  • Romulea bulbocodium flourishing next to...

  • ...Orchis longicornu and Orchis lactea

  • Left: Orchis papilionacea, right: Orchis lactea

  • Orchis conica: has a different inflorescence and different lip shape compared to O. lactea. It can be distinguished from the similar species Orchis tridentata and Orchis commutata by the green base of its hood.

  • Orchis italica

    Species list

    We have seen the following species during our stay in the Syrakus area:

    1. Aceras anthropophorum (flourishing)

    2. Barlia robertiana (withering)

    3. Ophrys bertolonii (flourishing)

    4. Ophrys biancae (flourishing)

    5. Ophrys bombyliflora (flourishing)

    6. Ophrys exaltata (flourishing)

    7. Ophrys garganica (flourishing)

    8. Ophrys grandiflora (flourishing)

    9. Ophrys incubacea, (flourishing)

    10. Ophrys laurensis (flourishing)

    11. Ophrys lunulata (flourishing)

    12. Ophrys lutea (flourishing)

    13. Ophrys obaesa (flourishing)

    14. Ophrys oxyrrhynchos (flourishing)

    15. Ophrys panormitana (flourishing)

    16. Ophrys sicula (flourishing)

    17. Ophrys speculum (flourishing)

    18. Orchis collina (faded)

    19. Orchis conica (flourishing)

    20. Orchis italica (flourishing)

    21. Orchis lactea (flourishing)

    22. Orchis longicornu (flourishing)

    23. Orchis papilionacea (flourishing)

    24. Serapias bergonii (flourishing)