This July I went to visit my friend Dylan Alfrey from the Balkan Ecology Project in Shipka. He's a herper like me, so the main goal of the visit was to go snake hunting together. His uncle Peter Alfrey, who is a birder, was with us on every trip. I was there for a week or so and for this much time we caught amazing stuff. I really wanted to see an Aesculapian Snake (Elaphe longissima), which I didn't have a chance to do, but I'm okay with that. Anyways, here are the photos.
Me and Dylan looking for skinks.
The first snake we caught together. In the evening on the same day I got there me, Dylan and Pete went on a little herping/birding expedition. We where just talking about how Dylan had never seen a Smooth Snake up close, and the minute we got out of the car, under the first rock I lifted, there was a juvenile female Smooth Snake (Coronella austriaca). Dylan was very excited, and so was I.
Spurge Hawk Moth caterpillar (Hyles euphorbiae). Loads of those on the herping/birding road the three of us visited almost every day. We wanted to take the first three we found with us, but unfortunately lost them in the car. :P
This is the habitat of our herping/birding road. While me and Dylan where herping, Pete would take out his binoculars and start searching for birds.
Evening on day one. We where releasing the Smooth Snake we caught earlier in the Alfrey's garden when suddenly Dylan saw this magnificent Natrix natrix in the pond, and jumped in to catch it before it could escape. Yeah, herpers are crazy! :P
European Pond Turtle (Emys orbicularis). We found this and one other at Haji Dimitrovo lake. This particular one had it's back right leg bitten off, probably by a pike. We placed them both in the pond back at base.
Pete, Dylan and I often took Stoyan (on the left) on herping trips with us.
We went up in the mountains (in the background) to look for cool stuff, like Horn-nosed Vipers, but didn't find any. Instead, our faithful 4x4 companion decided to "die" on the way back. We where driving on inertia for around 15-20 minuets when we finally stopped.
Paul, Dylan's dad, came to the rescue.
While we were waiting for Paul I aimlessly flipped an old inflatable baby pool and found the most amazing thing we have seen during my visit, and maybe the most amazing thing we've seen at all - a female combo-morph gold and cream Smooth Snake. This buddy is SO rare, I didn't know they even existed! The four of us where very excited, especially me and Dylan.
After releasing the gold and cream Smooth Snake we found another one, this time a juvenile male. We released this one in the nearby river because Dylan wanted to test if Smooth Snakes are good swimmers. The result was positive.
Last day at Shipka. Dylan, Pete and I went to a small lake to look for Grass Snakes. We found two huge ones (95cm and 110cm). They where both eating the same frog.
Of course, Pete couldn't go without a selfie with the big one! :D
All in all, I spent some great quality time with people who understand my passion and learned many new things. Thanks everybody! :)
Gold and cream Smooth Snake
Me catching the two huge Grass Snakes
Dylan made a video featuring all critters we caught during my visit. I helped him a bit (not a lot, he made pretty much the whole thing), but he still gives me some credit for it because it wouldn't exist if we hadn't found these amazing creatures together. Thanks, bro! ;)
Link to Pete's blog, if someone's interested in birding:
P.S: The photos from this post aren't mine, Pete made them. I just asked him for permission to use them