Updated: Sep 23, 2019
Being a Peloponnese native, I feel blessed when the discussion comes to reptiles. But northern Greece has its own unique fauna and it is with great expectation that I travel north, almost every year. This time I had a special lizard in mind. Zootoca vivipara is a small lizard found in a vast range in Europe and Asia, all the way to Japan. It is found far above the Arctic Circle, its success being the fact that it gives birth to live small lizards instead of laying eggs. And that is because it can bask in the sun and warm itself and the embryos. Last year, friend Ilias Strachinis together with Korina Karagianni, Martin Stanchev and Nicola Stanchev, published a paper about a population they found exactly at the north border of Greece (with Bulgaria). In my quest to see and photograph every species of reptile in Greece, I had to visit this small area. So we arranged with Bulgarian naturalists and photographers Martin Popov, Julian Bojilov and Miroslav Todorov to go together and find them.
After leaving our Bulgarian friends, I met my old friend Giorgos Spyridakis for a search on the same mountains. We tried to find Vipera berus. We had no results, but we found other beautiful creatures
Leaving Rhodope Mountains I headed west, to a mountain on the border again. There I searched again for Vipera berus and other critters, this time with some success. I happened to find a female pregnant Vipera berus bosniensis basking in early morning sun to warm its little snakes inside.
The last leg of the trip was to the shores of Lake Prespa and the forests around. The weather was very hot making it very difficult to find things. But I had a very rare experience. As I was walking in an oak forest one afternoon, I spotted and old tortoise carapace. I decided to make a photo of this, lying on the ground to include the trees on the background. As I stood up, I noticed a female Vipera ammodytes, which were sitting motionless among the oak leaves. It didn't move, nor hiss at all. I had placed my cheek at 10 cm from it. After that I continued to make some photos of this calm snake, which didn't move for at least half an hour with me all over it. A great snake indeed!