Provence, France: May 2011

France, British isles

Provence, France: May 2011

Postby Mario Schweiger » Tue May 24, 2011 12:16 pm

Hello,

Saturday, May 14th we (Hannes Hill, Rudi Klepsch and I) started from Salzburg to the Provence.
Goal was to visit some Vipera ursinii locations in the Alpes Maritimes and in Vaucluse.

First intended stop was a location in the Alpes Maritimes. When arriving there late afternoon, it was rainy and windy.
In the next morning there was a complete blue sky, but freezing temperatures.

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Vipera ursinii mountain in the Alpes Maritimes


We started in the field around 9:30, but could observe only a few Lacerta bilineata and some Podarcis muralis.

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Lacerta bilineata in situ


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gravid Lacerta bilineata female


Our landlady told us, "Orsinis" are everywhere around and visit her garden regulary.
From time to time they even come close to the house and rest in the flowers nearby.

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Vipera ursinii "habitat"


So we drove down to be more successful than on the mountain.
But the same - only Lacerta bilineata and Podarcis muralis.
Hannes found one Chalcides striatus below a flat rock.

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Chalcides striatus


The next morning blue sky again and temperatures a bit above freezing.
But only Lacerta bilineata, Podarcis muralis and one Anguis fragilis have been seen.

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habitat of Vipera ursinii, Podarcis, Lacerta and Anguis


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Anguis fragilis with a few blue spots


In the late morning, fog and clouds came up from the valleys and the coast, temperatures dropped rapidly.

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No herps out anymore - time to make pictures of flowers.

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Orchis ustulata


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Dactylorhiza majalis


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unknown 1


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Orchis pupurea


In the wet meadows "millions" of Narcissus poeticus were blooming.

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On the hillsides Paeonia officinalis were blooming

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Paeonia officinalis


In the afternoon we left the Alpes Maritimes direction west.
Near the city Castellane we observed Podarcis muralis on the walls of an old bridge.

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Castellane and bridge


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Podarcis muralis female


In a creek nearby we only saw Pelophylax sp.

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Pelophylax sp.


In the forest nearby Dactylorhiza majalis was growing

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Dactylorhiza majalis


On our way to Sault du Vaucluse (center of the Lavender agriculture), our next location, we passed by dozens of Lavendula fields

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In the following morning we wanted to visit Vipera ursinii habitats on the Montagne de Lure.
Close to the top, an old piece of iron hit the car ventilator and the radiator.
We lost all the cooling water within seconds.

While waiting for the beakdown service, we walked around a bit.
Podarcis muralis and Lacerta bilineata have been seen again - and some Dactylorhiza sambucina in purple and yellow morphs.

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Now we were fixed to Oraison to wait until our car would be ready again. This lasts until friday morning (4 days).
We climbed a hill everyday without much success. Only lizards and a missed young Hierophis viridiflavus. Along the Asses and Durance river also nothing except lizards and a subadult slow worm.

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Lacerta bilineata. Watch the extremely long tail!


One evening they prepaired a magnifique Paella in our hotel.

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Hannes: "A very very good paella"


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a pair of Podarcis muralis on a garden wall near our hotel.


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... and a Pelophylax sp. (fotographed through a garden fence)


Friday 8:30 a.m. we picked our car, drove to Sault to pick up our main luggage and drove on to Mont Ventoux to meet Jean Pierre Baron there.
Arriving there it was cool and cloudy.
Hannes found the only Vipera ursinii female approx. 12:30

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Jean Pierre Baron and "our" viper. A well known individual. You may see easily the marked ventral


Short after it began to rain and hail.
We left, because I should have been in the Berner Oberland, Switzerland friday late evening.
In Switzerland we have been much more successful -
http://www.fieldherping.eu/Forum/viewtopic.php?f=10&t=753

Mario
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Re: Provence, France: May 2011

Postby Aleksandar Simovic » Tue May 24, 2011 12:22 pm

Really nice photos, and i am hungy now :D
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Re: Provence, France: May 2011

Postby Guillaume Gomard » Tue May 24, 2011 4:09 pm

I don't know which picture is the most impressive, I would say the paella one :lol: But I have to admit that the Vipera ursinii is awesome too. Did you find this snake at the same location as you did last time? What's the approximate altitude?

thank you,
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Re: Provence, France: May 2011

Postby Mario Schweiger » Tue May 24, 2011 4:28 pm

Yes, the same location, but not the same individual.
Altitude 1420 meters.

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Re: Provence, France: May 2011

Postby GertJan Verspui » Tue May 24, 2011 5:27 pm

Very nice Mario!!! Love that place!!
Amphibian & Reptile Adventures http://www.gertjanverspui.com
Instagram: @gj.verspui_herping
Facebook: Gerrit Jan Verspui
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Re: Provence, France: May 2011

Postby Mario Schweiger » Tue May 24, 2011 5:54 pm

Talking with Jean Pierre, we´ve got some interesting infos.
This years April was extraordinary warm and dry.
So mating season was one month "before normal".
At the time of our visit - after the mating season - all vipers, except gravid females, are hiding and will come out again, when grasshoppers reach a length of min. 16 mm.
Vipers, young and old ones, start feeding around at the middle of July (depending of weather and temperature conditions) first in the year.
In France they only feed on grasshoppers (99%). No crickets or lizards.
Also very interesting:
Last and this year Jean Pierre and coleguages found subadult Malpolon monspesulanus for the first time in ursinii habitat on Mont Ventoux (1'420 m asl).
Climate change ?

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Re: Provence, France: May 2011

Postby Jeroen Speybroeck » Tue May 24, 2011 6:55 pm

That's indeed interesting stuff, Mario! Thanks!

I would expect juveniles of all the "normal" lowland snakes to be able to occur up there (with Malpolon and Rhinechis being the last in line, perhaps). My friend and regular travel companion Jan found aspis and viridiflavus very(!) close to that ursinii place. In any case, this is a highly sensitive spot, which -unfortunately- will disappear over the next decades, I'm afraid... Or maybe the unpredictable weather will help ;)
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Re: Provence, France: May 2011

Postby Paul Lambourne » Tue May 24, 2011 7:02 pm

God I want my treatment to hurry up so I can go Euro herping again!!!!! :D Fantastic viper, and stunning orchids.. what a fabulous location :D

Kind regards

Paul
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Re: Provence, France: May 2011

Postby Wolfgang Wüster » Tue May 24, 2011 7:08 pm

Mario, we missed each other by a few hours! My friend Sylvain Ursenbacher and I arrived on Mont Ventoux and met up with Jean-Pierre Baron on the evening of the day you left. We saw three V. ursinii the following day - 1 "new" gravid female, 1 male parked on a previous day, and one that escaped.
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Re: Provence, France: May 2011

Postby Mario Schweiger » Tue May 24, 2011 8:09 pm

Wolfgang Wüster wrote:Mario, we missed each other by a few hours! My friend Sylvain Ursenbacher and I arrived on Mont Ventoux and met up with Jean-Pierre Baron on the evening of the day you left. We saw three V. ursinii the following day - 1 "new" gravid female, 1 male parked on a previous day, and one that escaped.


Oh, thats bad :oops:
Would have been nice to meet you up there ;)
Jean Pierre told us, they have 2 vipers in the lab, but we forgot to do pictures in the hurry :(

Jeroen Speybroeck wrote:That's indeed interesting stuff, Mario! Thanks!

I would expect juveniles of all the "normal" lowland snakes to be able to occur up there (with Malpolon and Rhinechis being the last in line, perhaps). My friend and regular travel companion Jan found aspis and viridiflavus very(!) close to that ursinii place. In any case, this is a highly sensitive spot, which -unfortunately- will disappear over the next decades, I'm afraid... Or maybe the unpredictable weather will help ;)


Hierophis is found at the ursinii place also from time to time, and, as you wrote close by also Vipera aspis.

Up to now 2011 was a bad weather excursion year for me and my compagnions participating ;) , although Montenegro brought nearly all lowland species!
Hope this will change soon :P

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