Lefkada, Kefalonia & Akarnania, 24.5. - 3.6.2014

Algyroides nigropunctatus kephallitacius is a subspecies of the Dalmatian Algyroides which can be found on the Ionian Islands of Kefalonia, Lefkada and Ithaka. These lizards are relatively nknown: a fact which piqued our curiosity. Hence, a complete field trip dedicated to this supspecies? Rather nerdy – and the perfect plan for us! Here are our adventures. Thanks to Peter Keymar, Ilias Strachinis & Matt Wilson.

  • 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...

  • Here we go: Approaching Preveza-Airport with view over the Amvrakian Gulf and the mountains of Akarnania in the background

    As if it was made for us, there are direct flights from Düsseldorf to Preveza in the Etoloakarnania Prefecture – an area we had never heard about before (like most people, probably) but the perfect starting point for our Algyroides trip. After a scenic flight over Montenegro, Albania and Northern Greece we arrived at our destination in the evening. In the baggage claim area, huge posters praised the beauty of Etoloakarnania. But we didn’t get weak and followed our plan to visit Lefkada first. Fortunately, the island is connected to the mainland by a bridge, so our brave rental car brought us to Nidri, our first station, within one hour. There, our visit of a Tavern in the evening was rewarded by delicious calamari and the sighting of our first reptile (Tarentola mauritanica) – a pleasant start.

  • High expectations…

    Near Nidri there is a waterfall, which attracts lots of tourists. But, to our surprise, we realized that the tourists do not visit this place because of the Algyroides – unbelievable! We were excited seeing these legendary lizards and started our first photo session. At noon it became hot and we decided to spend some hours at the beach. In the afternoon, we visited another Algyroides habitat.
    In fact, we were able to get a clear idea of these lizards during these days. Therefore, we would like to use the opportunity to tell the truth about some myths of Algyroides nigropunctatus kephallithacius in this report, subsequently.

  • The cascade of Nidri, a popular tourist attraction

  • Happy frogs (Pelophylax ridibundus)

  • Birdwatching?

  • No – there is Algyroides on the tree

  • Myth #1: „Algyroides nigropunctatus kephallithacius has petrol-coloured throats“
    There may be specimen with dark cyan-coloured (=petrol) throats. At least on Lefkada and Kefalonia males have green or yellow throats during mating season, females have yellow throats.

  • Caliaeshna microstigma

  • Phelipanche schultzioides

  • Ophrys cerastes – obviously, a Vipera genus has been named after this flower

  • Lefkada has nice beaches – obviously, we weren’t the first to notice that

  • Myth #2: „Algyroides nigropunctatus kephallithacius can only be seen far from human settlements“
    Our picture shows a habitat with high population density. These lizards are somehow synanthopic.

  • Algyroides nigropunctatus…

  • …and another one…

  • …and yet another one

  • Pair of Algyroides nigropunctatus

    The herpetofauna of Lefkada seems to be rather poor. Besides the species mentioned above we merely noticed some Pseudopus apodus DOR and something that looked like a ran-over Hierophis gemonensis. Therefore, we took the early ferry to Kefalonia where about 25 herptile species have been encountered. After one hour on the “Captain Aristidis” we arrived at the port of Fiskardo – at perfect beach weather! In the afternoon, we headed for the Enos Mountain, a peak of 1600 meters altitude with a population of Algyroides nigropunctatus. Much to the delight of all motor-alpinists an asphalt road goes straight to the peak. Hence we were able to enjoy the scenic view without an exhausting hike. Actually, we found Algyroides nigropunctatus in the peak area. But these peculiar mountain dwellers weren’t cooperative at all when we tried to take pictures. In the end, we had wasted a complete afternoon finding out that Algyroides on Mount Enos is shy and on top of that, they don’t look very good. Photographing didn’t get better in the evening sun, so we left this place…grumbling.

  • Approaching Fiskardo

  • View from Enos peak, with Zakynthos in the background

  • Viola cephalonica

  • Myth #3: “Algyroides nigropunctatus kephallithacius prefers high-altitude habitats“
    Though Algyroides nigropunctatus occurs on Mount Enos it seems to be more abundant in lower areas.

    Highly motivated, with spirit of adventure we started herping in the early morning to explore some promising habitats. But everywhere, we came across the omnipresent Algyroides nigropunctatus – only Algyroides nigropunctatus (apart from some road casualties like Malpolon insignitus). Places which were supposed to provide Algyroides moreoticus turned out to be pure nigro-spots. In the late afternoon we became more and more nervous…
    At sunset, finally, as the temperatures decreased, luck was on our side: Podarcis tauricus, Anguis cephallonica, Tarentola mauritanica and – to our delight – Zamenis situla were the results of that evening.

    Myth #4: „Algyroides nigropunctatus kephallithacius is specialized with regard to its habitats“
    We found these lizards literally everywhere – near brooks or ponds, in olive groves, in hotel gardens, at the roadside.

  • At this nice brook we found:

  • Algyroides nigropunctatus

  • In this olive grove we found:

  • Algyroides nigropunctatus

  • On this old oak tree we found:

  • Algyroides nigropunctatus

  • Myth #5: „Algyroides nigropunctatus kephallithacius avoids the afternoon sun and can be observed best in the early morning and the evening”
    We cannot confirm this: We saw these lizards basking in full sun at noon.

  • Myth #6: „Algyroides nigropunctatus kephallithacius is rare“
    Well, rather not…

  • Onychogomphus forcipatus

  • Polygonia aegea

  • Aristolochia rotunda

  • Finally, something different: Podarcis tauricus coming out in the evening light

  • Anguis cephallonica – on Kefalonia the species name makes sense!

  • Zamenis situla

  • Tarentola mauritanica at our studio at night

    The day started promising with Podarcis tauricus at our studio. We went to Argostoli to watch out for sea turtles (Caretta caretta). Due to the crowd of onlookers the right spot in Argostoli harbour was easily found. In view of these impressive turtles even normal tourist became enthusiastic herpetologists, pulling out their smartphones and iPads keenly. The afternoon didn’t bring spectacular findings: the omnipresent Algyroides nigropunctatus and some Lacerta trilineata DOR.

  • Podarcis tauricus

  • The turtle zoo of Argostoli – and it goes like this: in the morning, the fishermen return to the harbour where they sell their catch.

  • A continuous cold chain is crucial for professional fish processing – this challenge has been mastered perfectly by a parasol, as you can see on the picture.

  • Unsalable stuff is thrown back into the sea which attracts the marine turtles.

  • Et voilà: turtle zoo!

  • Caretta caretta…

  • …another one…

  • …and another one.

  • Even the fishes were enthusiastic!

    We gave another try for Algyroides moreoticus: This species is much more colourful on Kefalonia than on the Peloponnes and we didn’t want to miss it. In central Kefalonia we finally succeeded. We came across that species in a habitat with Cyrtopodion kotschyi, Podarcis tauricus, Anguis cephallonica, Lacerta trilineata – but without Algyroides nigropunctatus. Hence, if you ever will visit Kefalonia, search for spots where Algyroides nigropunctatus doesn’t occur…
    In the afternoon we visited a mountain habitat where we found Telescopus fallax and Vipera ammodytes.

  • Podarcis tauricus

  • Juvenile Anguis cephallonica

  • Happy Cyrtopodion kotschyi

  • Finally! Algyroides moreoticus

  • Myth #7: „On Kefalonia, Algyroides nigropunctatus is rarer than Algyroides nigropunctatus“
    It’s the other way round: We had problems finding Algyroides moreoticus at all. That species is less abundant and more secretive than Algyroides nigropunctatus.

  • Cytinus ruber

  • Podarcis tauricus

  • Mountain meadow on Kefalonia – home of…

  • …Telescopus fallax and…

  • Vipera ammodytes

    From the 25 herptile species on Kefalonia we had seen – hmm – six or seven, so far? Anyhow, we left Kefalonia and took the early ferry to the mainland where we arrived at noon: Etoloakarnania. This prefecture comprises, as its name indicates, two areas: Akarnania in the West consists of limestone mountains and resembles to the adjoining Ionian Islands. Aetolia in the east is characterized by the slopes of southern Pindos. As there was a lot of rain in the Pindos Mountains during our stay, we actually visited Akarnania only. A fascinating area, sparsely populated, not touristic at all. Even the beautiful coast seems to live in the shadows of the Ionian Islands. Here are our chronicles of Akarnania…
    The first reptile we came across on the mainland was – surprise – Algyroides nigropunctatus kephallitacius. The crop of an excursion in the afternoon was Testudo marginata, Lacerta trilineata and Bufo viridis.

  • Leaving Kefalonia, with Ithaka on the left

  • The Akarnanian Coast at Mitikas – a beautiful patch

  • Myth #8: „Algyroides nigropunctatus kephallithacius occurs on Kefalonia and Lefkada only“
    No, the mainland south of Amvrakian Gulf is also populated by the green-throated subspecies.

  • Professional tortoise photography (Testudo marginata):

  • Wrong…

  • Right!

  • Village pond with…

  • Lacerta trilineata…

  • …and this calling Bufo viridis, which attracted our attention by its beautiful voice

  • Orthetrum brunneum

  • Gonepteryx cleopatra

    We went to Lake Amvrakia, one of four big lakes in Etoloakarnania. The lake is lovely – too bad that it is completely inaccessible. The plain parts of its shores are fenced pastures and the rocky parts of the shores aren’t accessible at all. Obviously, no one expects that tourists could be interested in the lake. So we had to abstain from a refreshing bath. At one spot, we were able to get close to the water and this gave us an idea of the treasures of that lake: Natrix natrix, Hierophis gemonensis, Lacerta trilineata and Algyroides nigropunctatus were seen here. In the afternoon, we came to a place, where Algyroides nigropunctatus showed intermediate colouration of kephallitacius and nominate form.

  • Lake Amvrakia

  • Natrix natrix

  • Hierophis gemonensis

  • Lacerta trilineata

  • Algyroides nigropunctatus – transition form?

  • Algyroides nigropunctatus

    Another trip across the wild Akarnania! Although there were plenty of suitable habitats, we saw remarkably few reptiles. It is noteworthy that the genus of Podarcis is apparently absent in Akarnania, although Podarcis tauricus, Podarcis muralis and Podarcis erhardii have been reported from adjoining Aetolia. In this regard, Akarnania resembles to Lefkada: The lack of Podarcis (tauricus) on that island has been described in literature. Probably Lefkada and Akarnania had been isolated sometimes from the mainland and therefore have not been populated by Podarcis.
    Cruising through Akarnanien we came across Testudo hermanni sometimes. Furthermore, there are a lot of artificial ponds in that area, probably for watering the fields. Here we found Emys orbicularis.
    At the marvellous Lake Ozeros we made the same experience than at Lake Amvrakia the day before: Perfect scenery but no possibility to get to the lake. However, going there was worth it, because we had the opportunity to do a good deed: A Bufo bufo had fallen in an irrigation canal and was about drowning in the vortex of a drain. Heroically, we saved the completely exhausted animal.

  • Anywhere in Akarnania…

  • Testudo hermanni was the most abundant – or more precisely: the only – reptile species we saw in this landscape.

  • Artificial pond with:

  • Emys orbicularis

  • and another one

  • Lake Ozeros

  • Bufo bufo in distress

  • Saved!

  • Nooo! Elaphe quatorlineata DOR

    A daytrip to an eastern part of the area provided Algyroides nigropunctatus which looked like the nominate form. In between, we also noticed some intermediate colour variations, with maybe some influence of subsp. kephallithacius.
    Back to the coast, we managed to get some trilineata shots and finally managed to catch a Pseudopus apodus. After 10 great days we looked back in melancholy and – after some difficulties in finding species in the beginning – our twitching list comprised 20 species after all.

  • Algyroides nigropunctatus – nominate

  • Another one

  • Intermediate colours – rainbow lizard!

  • Lacerta trilineata

  • And another one

  • After dozens of specimen dead on the road we really appreciated to find a Pseudopus apodus alive.

  • Myth #9: „Greece, land of the myths!“

  • Time to get sentimental – dinner with sunset inclusive

    A short farewell tour in the morning brought Algyroides nigropunctatus once again. At noon it started raining – time for us to enter the airplane bringing us back home.

  • A last farewell: Algyroides nigropunctatus kephallithacius – If anyone still thinks he hasn’t learned enough about these lizards, we recommend to re-read this report from the beginning.