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Herping with Dylan and Pete

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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/bird…

Back With the Alfreys: Part 2

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Took me a little while, but here's part two of our adventure! :)

Part 2:

 Soon after my first visit at Shipka for the year, Dylan's family invited me over again. The first time wasn't anything special, but this time was expected to be different. Cuz on the day before I left, Dylan called me, saying he stumbled upon a dead Caspian whipsnake in the lake. The news had me very excited, for the Caspian whipsnake is my all time favorite snake. I was, of course, sad when I heard it's dead, but that means there is a chance of us finding a live one.

 After I got off the bus, me and Dylan went straight to the lake, not wasting even a second of daytime. It was the end of the mating season for the Asculapian snakes, so I had the chance to catch my first adult one!











Back With the Alfreys: Part 1

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Hey guys! As I said in a previous post I was planning to go visit Dylan and his family once again. Last time I was in Shipka I made a post about it and it got pretty popular, so I hope this one is as good, if not better than the last one. Now, the story is quite long, so I'll split it in  three parts - one for each day I spent there.
 Credit for most of the photos (the prettier ones, to be exact XD ) goes to Chris, who you'll meet later in this post.

Part 1:  I couldn't get on the early bus from Sofia to Kazanlak, so I took a late one instead, which was pretty awful. What was worse, though, was the fact that it wasn't even a bus, but a minivan. All the seats where taken, so there was too little room for comfort. The journey went on for about four hours, so it was very exhausting. When I finally arrived in Kazanlak it was already quite dark (about 9:00pm). Dylan was waiting for me. We took a taxi to his village, Shipka. While in the taxi, we caught up with each other …

Smooth Snake Relocation Mission

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Yesterday (5/18/20017) I went to Samokov for karate practice. Usually this is when I visit the Iskar river, since it's right next to the building I train at. The weather was nice, so I decided it's gonna be a great time for a little herping. Sadly, I was wrong: I only saw about 4 or 5 snakes, all of which where Grass snakes, except a young female Smooth snake (Coronella austriaca). They are very rare in that section of Iskar that crosses the city, and the reason is very simple: they don't belong here.


 Usually, Smooth snakes end up in Samokov when the spring snow up in the mountain melts and the river drags them down to the city. Smooth snakes are reptilophagous (I don't know if that's even a real word XD ), meaning they prefer to eat reptiles such as lizards and rarely baby snakes. The problem, though, was that the wall alongside the river gives a huge advantage to the lizards to escape a hungry Smooth snake, leading it to its eventual starvation and death, which…

Grass Snake Mating Season

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Today and yesterday I'm all about snake-hunting, because it's one of the best times of the year for herping - the mating season. Grass snakes are everywhere at the Iskar river in Samokov, so I decided to take advantage of the moment.


After releasing those two I continued my journey. Though not the most pleasant to the eye, the Samokov part of Iskar is a great place for herping.
What I noticed is that during mating season the best strategy to find a lot of snakes is to find a big female, they're often in the center of a huge area filled with males. One female means a handful of males. Later on, I stumbled upon a ball of six baby Grass snakes basking in the sun in one of the cracks of the wall. I didn't manage to take a shot, sadly, because they quickly scattered in all directions. In the evening, when I was back in my village, me, my sis and bro stayed up late outside. Our game of hide and seek was interrupted by a stunningly beautiful Great peacock moth. Here they'…