Sardinia January 2019

Sardinia January 2019

Postby Kevin Byrnes » Fri Feb 01, 2019 4:50 am

Paul Lambourne had previously raised the subject of visiting Sardinia for the Speleomantes to myself and Suzanne but due to Suzanne's failing health and Paul's descriptions of what was needed to find them we declined the offer. A year later the situation was sadly different , plans were made and a team was put together consisting of myself, Paul and Sean Cole. Paul needed to find The Monte Albo cave salamander Speleomantes flavus after failing twice before and also Bedriaga's rock lizard Archaeolacerta bedriagae ahead of a proposed split. Sean needed a couple of species and as it was my first time there my list was rather long.
Tuesday January 8th
We flew from Luton together and after collecting our car from Alghero airport we went to check a couple of Sean's sites, we stopped at a lakeside where we flipped stones and checked for orchids as Sean is an orchid enthusiast. No luck here so we headed to an area where Sean wanted to see some Little bustards. We passed a very rocky field that looked promising for skinks and so pulled over and began looking beneath stones, I very quickly found what turned out to be the only Ocellated skink Chalcides ocellatus of the trip and so we moved on. No luck with the bustards so we headed towards our accommodation on the east coast. Realising we were going to be passing a site for S flavus we decided that we had time for a quick look so parked up and entered a large quarry . Paul explained that S flavus would be difficult and we would struggle to find it. I had no experience with cave salamanders and stood there scratching my head, looking at the scene and wondering what to do next. Paul started to flip some stones so I followed his example, turned round and saw Sean examining cracks in the rock face, thought that looked more promising so did that for a while. The cracks just didn't look right, too dry and dusty for an animal that breathes through it's skin so I returned to turning stones at the rock face. There was some noise from a nearby house and also lots of machinery around so I got nervous about whether we should be there or not so I slid in behind some bushes out of sight. I looked around and thought to myself "That stone looks nice" flipped it and there was my first ever Cave salamander. A quick shout of "Got one" brought the boys running in disbelief, a few handshakes, slaps on the back etc etc and we were off, heading to the accommodation. Well, that was easy, don't know what all the fuss is about.

Image1 by Kevin Byrnes, on Flickr

Image2 by Kevin Byrnes, on Flickr

Image3 by Kevin Byrnes, on Flickr
Wednesday 9th January
A lovely sunny morning with coffee,cakes and a rather beautiful waitress in the local cafe to celebrate last night's success. During the planning stage of this trip Paul sent me a message saying that if I was bored I could try and pinpoint the location of some Bedriaga's rock lizards by looking at a couple of photos from a previous trip report. The information was very vague but after a couple of minutes on google earth I had the spot. We drove to the coastal site, walked around admiring the rock formations but could find no rock lizards. I spotted a Tyrrhenian wall lizard Podarcis tiliguerta near the top of the site and some more were seen on a sunny wall near some ruins , Sean and Paul also saw a Pygmy algyroides Algyroides fintzingeri and a Moorish gecko Tarentola mauritanica. I explored some ruins finding just another T mauritanica and then as we left the sight I flipped a large stone and briefly saw a greyish lizard. I quickly put my hand on it and seeing a grey spotted leg sticking out I proudly called the boys over. I stood there with a big grin on my face, slowly opened my hand to reveal just another wall lizard and not the rock lizard I was expecting. This was a constant source of amusement for the rest of the trip.
After lunch we watched some flamingos for a while at a local salina and then headed back to town stopping enroute at another rocky field where I flipped a stone and found a couple of Italian wall lizards Podarcis siculus.

Image4 by Kevin Byrnes, on Flickr

Image5 by Kevin Byrnes, on Flickr

Image7 by Kevin Byrnes, on Flickr

Image11 by Kevin Byrnes, on Flickr

Image13 by Kevin Byrnes, on Flickr

Thursday 10th January
We checked out of our cold wifi free apartment and headed to our favourite cafe for a leisurely breakfast before heading to the Sopramonte mountain range to look for the Sopramontane cave salamander Speleomantes supramontis. We stopped first at a roadside stream and pond where I quickly found a Tyrrhenian tree frog Hyla sarda and my first Italian three toed skink Chalcides chalcides. We left here and tried to find our way through the very narrow complicated streets of a hillside village with just inches to spare on either side of the car. As we climbed the hill it became icier and the bushes were covered in snow, this was not looking good and eventually we could get no higher so turned around and stopped at a site lower down the hill. We started walking through a wooded area turning logs and stones and eventually just as I told myself it was a waste of time I turned a stone to reveal a young S supramontis.
Our next stop was a location for the Sardinian brook newt Euproctus platycephalus, the details were a bit vague and after wandering around for a couple of hours in a restricted area that was also an army firing range , we eventually gave up and began a very long tiring drive to Cagliari on the south coast. We headed out in the evening to a recommened restaurant only to find it was a Pizzaria, our third night of pizza.

Image14 by Kevin Byrnes, on Flickr

Image15 by Kevin Byrnes, on Flickr

Image16 by Kevin Byrnes, on Flickr

Image17 by Kevin Byrnes, on Flickr

Image18 by Kevin Byrnes, on Flickr

Image19 by Kevin Byrnes, on Flickr

Friday 11th January
A short drive this morning to the Sette fratelli mountains and a visit to a location that I had always wanted to see, the small concrete structure that is home to many Sette fratelli cave salamanders Speleomantes sarrabusensis. I knew that it was now locked and access was impossible but I still wanted to see it, a quick chat with the park rangers confirmed that it was locked and no key was available. We set off on our three hour trek pausing at a stream to check for newts, where unfortunately I lost my glasses. We stopped now and then to photograph a few wall lizards enroute and eventually arrived at our destination, I tried to peek through the gaps in the door but saw no sign of life so started to flip some stones. Stone number 5 was the winner and a quick shout of joy brought our search to an end. A three hour walk uphill, 5 minutes on site and a 2.5 hr walk back to the car.
Feeling very happy with myself and desperate to avoid another pizza I reluctantly agreed to join the others for a McDonalds and so broke a self imposed 30 yr ban.

Image22 by Kevin Byrnes, on Flickr

Image23 by Kevin Byrnes, on Flickr

Image24 by Kevin Byrnes, on Flickr

Image26 by Kevin Byrnes, on Flickr

Saturday 12th January
The targets for todays search were the Gene's cave salamander Speleomantes genei A and B, there is talk of B being made up to full species rank and so we were keen to see both of them. Using some clues from a trip report we headed west to a hill containing a few mines, we searched the first one but it seemed too dry. I moved a flake of stone from the wall and found 2 Turkish geckos Hemidactylus turcicus and then a shout from Paul that he had found a salamander outside beneath a stone. I started to panic at this point but very soon found my own specimen that I could count and tick off. This was lucky as we failed to find any others. As we walked back to the car Sean played the call of the Firecrest on his phone and a very angry male approached within feet of us wondering who was on his patch. We left here and headed for a very large touristy cave where Gene's A had been found but we failed to find anything here so moved on to one of Paul's and Sean's spots. A walk in the woods brought us to a partially closed mine entrance but given our success in the week we decided to turn stones first. Another shout from Paul sent a shiver down my spine but again I quickly found a couple of juveniles beneath stones and then an adult in a nearby structure. Paul and I then entered the mine and despite a good search we found nothing until I spotted one in a crack as we left the mine,while we were in there Sean had found some more juveniles outside beneath stones.
This was the end of Paul and Sean's adventure and so I drove a couple of hours back to Alghero to drop them off at the airport, 20 mins later I was back at the airport as Sean had left his wallet in the back of the car.
An hours drive south brought me to my airbnb house which was very cold despite the young owners having lit a fire for me. They took me took a local bar and bought me a couple of beers which was nice.

Image28 by Kevin Byrnes, on Flickr

Image29 by Kevin Byrnes, on Flickr

Image30 by Kevin Byrnes, on Flickr

Image31 by Kevin Byrnes, on Flickr

Image32 by Kevin Byrnes, on Flickr

Image33 by Kevin Byrnes, on Flickr

Image34 by Kevin Byrnes, on Flickr

Image35 by Kevin Byrnes, on Flickr

Sunday 13th January
Today I drove North again to try and find the rock lizard, I ignored warnings about wandering about in the countryside because Sunday is a hunting day but was rather shocked when I arrived at the site to see men running down the road carrying shotguns. They were hunting through my intended site and so I moved down the road to another rocky area, I parked the car and checked a few roadside stones finding a couple of Pygmy algyroides Algyroides fitzingeri. A check on a rocky hillside and then a rocky area at sea level proved fruitless so returned to the main site where luckily the hunters had gone. Nothing to be seen here so I returned to the car to find I had a slow puncture and no spare wheel only a compressor and bottle of sealant to refill the tyre ! It started to rain as I headed back and as I neared the house I spotted something in the road, it was a Green toad Bufo

Image37 by Kevin Byrnes, on Flickr

Image38 by Kevin Byrnes, on Flickr

Image39 by Kevin Byrnes, on Flickr

Image40 by Kevin Byrnes, on Flickr

Image41 by Kevin Byrnes, on

Monday 14th January
I had one cave salamander species to find on Sardinia but had marked the location on google earth and now had no internet, I contacted Sean and he kindly sent me some coordinates for the Scented cave salamander Speleomante imperialis. I drove 85 miles across the island stopping here and there to check streams etc but when I arrived at the site I found the gate was locked and no way to squeeze past it. I stood there for a few minutes wondering what to do next and then spotted a large rock on the bank that just looked "right". I moved a couple of smaller stones out of the way and then heaved this boulder away from it's position , balancing it against my legs to stop it rolling down the hill. I stood there disappointed gazing at the empty space and then a cave salamander fell from the wall into the gap and I was looking at the last one on the list Speleomantes imperialis :D A few photos, a bottle of beer and a sandwich to celebrate and I began my drive back, very happy.

Image48 by Kevin Byrnes, on Flickr

Image49 by Kevin Byrnes, on Flickr

Image50 by Kevin Byrnes, on Flickr

Image51 by Kevin Byrnes, on Flickr

Tuesday 15th January
An early start and a drive to the airport stopping on the way to check rock faces but seeing only Tyrrhenian wall lizards.

Species seen
Moorish gecko
Turkish gecko
Tyrrhenian wall lizard
Italian wall lizard
Pygmy algyroides
Ocellated skink
Italian three toed skink*
Green toad
Tyrrhenian tree frog
Monte albo cave salamander*
Sopramonte cave salamander*
Scented cave salamander*
Sette fratelli cave salamander*
Gene's cave salamander A*
Gene's cave salamander B*
Kevin Byrnes
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Re: Sardinia January 2019

Postby Jose Luis Perez » Fri Feb 01, 2019 9:20 am

Superb species Kevin! I have never been to Sardinia, maybe someday... Well done and thanks for sharing
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Re: Sardinia January 2019

Postby Jeroen Speybroeck » Fri Feb 01, 2019 9:34 am

Ah! Gotta love winter mandering!

Kevin Byrnes wrote:a rather beautiful waitress in the local cafe to celebrate last night's success

Interesting... :P
Jeroen Speybroeck
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Re: Sardinia January 2019

Postby Kevin Byrnes » Fri Feb 01, 2019 10:55 am

maybe I should have written that differently but to be honest I think I prefer the original :D
Kevin Byrnes
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country: England

Re: Sardinia January 2019

Postby Laura Bok » Sat Feb 02, 2019 1:27 pm

Great report of a lovely little winter-getaway! The Speleomantes sarrabusensis is a stunner :shock:

Kevin wrote:a rather beautiful waitress in the local cafe to celebrate last night's success

Pictures or it didn´t happen.
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Re: Sardinia January 2019

Postby Bobby Bok » Mon Feb 04, 2019 2:49 pm

Marvelous trip you guys did!
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