Jurgen and Paul have a splendid time in Israel: The South

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Jurgen and Paul have a splendid time in Israel: The South

Postby Paul Lambourne » Mon May 28, 2012 8:39 pm

Jurgen and I had a quick breakfast and packed our things.. Jurgen travels light and his small bag contained only seven cartons of Marlborough and three pairs of pants ( I exaggerate of course, there was only two pairs of pants) We jumped in the car, and Jurgen started the long drive in his usual, slow, steady style, like Miss Marple but with more swearing..

Our first objective was a well known site for Soft shell turtles.. we arrived reasonably early, and the heat was not too bad.. the site is not much to look at, a small river with a bridge, surrounded by farmland, however as soon as we approached the waters edge, the trionyx came to see us, they are very used to being fed by tourists, and are not as timid as Mauremys..also present in the river were huge musk rats and cat fish.. both benefiting from the protection afforded to the turtles and the tourist food scraps

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We spent a happy half hour with the Trionyx triunguis and the occasional Mauremys rivulata.. until our attention was distracted by a Hoopoe, a common enough bird,but still pretty..also a number of dragonflies were active..
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I think the dragonflies are Brachythemis leucosticta or impartita and Diplacodes lefebvrii...(hat tip to Jeroen)

Unfortunately our peaceful muses were interrupted by the arrival of a coach load of particually noisy children.. the look of horror on Jurgens face was splendid.. like my nan when someone put the tea in the cup before the milk...
We packed up and drove further into the agricultural area.. the landscape was predominantly sand with short bushes and sparse vegetation. Jurgen quickly spotted an Acanthodactylus schreiberi syriacus
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There were some old abandoned farm buildings, with roofing sections on the floor, so as good little herpers, despite the heat we turned all the trash we could, being extremly careful as the habitat was terra typica for Daboia. Despite or best efforts we only saw Chalcides ocellatus and an all to brief glimpse of Platyceps collaris. Sweaty like fat blokes flip flops we got back into the car, cranked up the air con and headed further south, stopping at a garage as Jurgens nicotine and caffeine levels had fallen to a dangerous low, we flipped some trash only finding this pretty little thing..
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We headed further South still and reached our accom, a very strange "guest house" in the middle of the desert.. just outside we spotted this little fella..
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..
The accom was run by an old stoner, it took about twenty mins for his kids to wake him to meet us :D What the accom lacked in organisation, it made up for in views.
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The stoner told us that Ibex could be best seen at 3AM near the houses.. odd as Ibex are not especially nocturnal.. so Jurgen an I went to look and saw them at 17:00, a much more pleasant time
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We drove into the desert to await the golden hour of road cruising... Jurgen smoked.. I thought of bone china,filled with Earl Grey...the habitat was markedly different to the North, dunes and small stone desert prevailed.. Jurgen whose trip logistics and research would be the envy of a Delta force briefing, had selected a section of road that had perviously been good to him... We drove the 5 k section a few times and then Jurgen saw the first snake of the evening a fabulous Atractaspis engaddensis
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A stunning snake and a real trip highlight.. even though we saw a few of these, the excitement never dwindled. We continued driving and saw a number of Stenodactylus stenodactylus..very cute, but hard to photograph as they are almost translucent.
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Soon after Jurgen let out a small yell, at first I thought he had run out of cigarettes, but no he had spotted another snake, and it was a stunner.. one of the most beautiful snakes of the trip.. without wishing to sound too Mills and Boon, the colours were fantastic, a coral pink, matching the desert sand perfectly.. the noise of the snake rubbing its scales together was amazing.. Echis coloratus, the Palestine saw scale viper.
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We continued driving, extremely satisfied and not expecting anything to top the Echis, when I spotted a snake in the middle of the road, we leapt out of the car and found a very hard to see snake, the stunning Telescopus dhara.. We were stoked.. we may even have had a little cuddle ( what happens in the desert stays in the desert)` :D
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As we drove back happy we saw another snake, another echis!
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We got back to the accom in the wee small hours, but as all good herpers know, you get all the sleep you need when your dead, so we got up nice an early and headed to the dunes before the temps got ridiculous.. we scanned the sand for tracks from the previous night, there were some, but not as many as Jurgen had seen on his previous trips. Soon the temp rose considerably, and soon we started seeing lizards.. fringe toed lizards were in abundance, uber rapid and very hard to tell apart :D
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habitat

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Acanthodactylus aegyptius..I think :D
Jurgen then saw a fabulously grumpy agama..temps were really getting hot and chasing lizards resulted in extreme sweatiness :D
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Trapelus savignii

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Even though this little fella was only 20 cm long he thought he could take us both on... he was probably right..

We continued the exploring of the dunes, seeing more fringe toed lizards..possibly scutellatus and boskianus and then Jurgen saw a varanus griseus..we gave chase, not the smartest thing to do considering the temps.. we tracked it for about 500m and Jurgen remembered a burrow with tracks from his previous trip.. we waited at the burrow..Jurgen smoking, me sweating what little fluids I had left... no monitor appeared, so once we reached an even cooked consistency we left.. we headed back to re hydrate, and I had some major camera servicing to do.. sand really does get everywhere and the lenses were starting to jam...

After a few hours of domestics..camera cleaning, battery charging ,washing pants, that kind of thing, we headed out to a rubbish tip on the outskirts of a small town, temps were falling and flipping seemed the way forward..

The site proved very successful, scorpions.. of a particularly naughty variety were under a great deal of the rocks, the larger flatter rocks provided Trachylepis vittata and Eumeces schneideri. We left the site and headed for another section of road.. unfortunately traffic was heavy and we started to see road killed snakes, very depressing.. at last we found a live snake, another Atractaspis, then we saw Jurgens number one tick( Daboia doesn't count..its his obsession) crossing the road in front of us was an adult Walterinnesia aegyptia..it was a fantastic sight,jet black and very sturdy..
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We headed back to the accom extremely pleased with ourselves... We had a much needed meal of instant noodles..a turned in..
Up again the next day we meet up Guy, I cannot express how grateful we are to the two Israeli guys for putting their lives on hold. We drove along, Guy pointing out a series out holes in the desert for communications cables , herps fall into these and Guy and Aviad regularly check these to rescue any trapped occupants.. most had only geckos and fringe toed lizards.. however one presented us with the fabulous little Macroprotodon cucullatus :D
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we drove on and stopped at an area of trash. After turning over trash in the heat we found only solifuges and skinks so we headed off to pick up Aviad..

The site that greeted us was to say the least disturbing.. Aviad, had changed out of his work clothes at short notice.. putting on the only spare clothes he could find..he stood resplendent in a pair of electric blue micro shorts... so tight that they would have constricted a gay anorexic Cuban waiter.. Aviad is not anorexic.. he is tall and big built.. he had teamed the shorts with a white T shirt and his work boots.. I have seen some bad shite in my 24 years of Law Enforcement but this was special bad.. we got Aviad into the car, worried that the shorts were cutting off his circulation, and if the Police would be after us as Aviad had clearly stolen them from a ten year boy..

Firstly we stopped at some water holes, full of pigeons but sadly no herps..except in the middle of the desert a solitary green toad
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Day solifuges were in abundance, pretty in a weird kind of way.. Guy even managed to convince me to stroke one.. very soft...
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Aviad and Guy found us two wanted ticks, the Tegu look a like, Acanthodactylus beershebensis and the very small and cute Messina guttulata
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We also saw the wonderful Trapelus pallidus
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With our skin heads, tattoos and Aviads shorts and boots, we looked like the oldest gay boy band as we headed back to the rubbish tip from the previous night. Here Aviad found my favourite non venomous snake of the trip, Eirenis coronelloides.. I love the fact that this tiny snake eats scorpions.. look at that face..it knows its cool..
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We left the dump and visited an area of stoney desert..here Jurgen meet a special friend..
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The very skinny Pseudotrapelus sinaitus, a gravid female, as indicated by the red patches on the back
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We then cruised the roads as the golden hour approached..and found absolutely no snakes!! we saw hyena, porcupine, mice and solifuge..but no chuffing snakes..
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We went home very late and very disappointed..
On our last day Jurgen and I did some tourist stuff whilst we waited for the boys and Leum to finish work/ get up .. we went to another water hole, more pigeons and lots of flies..but no herps..we headed for the dunes..

In true Israeli style Aviad brought me a snake as a present.. a much wanted Dolichophis jugularis
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We headed into the dunes and Aviad and Guy showed me how to follow the tracks of the desert herps and mammals.. an absolute honour to be allowed into the chaps favorite arena. Here Aviad showed me, what was my favourite lizard of the hole trip..Chalcides sepsoides..awesome :D
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Jurgen found me a lovely Stenodactylus petrii
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The high spot of the dunes however was the tiny Cerastes vipera, and for me, probably my favorite snake of the trip..
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Sadly it got late, and Jurgen and I had to head off for the airport.. we said goodbyes and drove to Tel Aviv.. Jurgen flew at 06:00 after sheadloads of queueing and security checks. I flew home at 16:45, so after being searched five times.. very thoroughly and being awake for around 39 hours I slept most of the flight home. I was picked up by my splendid girl friend and after a long drive finally got a decent cup of tea...

Huge,huge thanks to Aviad and Guy for the knowledge, enthusiasm and welcome. Their field guide is an essential, whether you are travelling to Israel or just like herps, and is available at this address http://guyhaimovitch.com/reptiles-and-a ... /index.php

Huge thanks to Leum and to Aviads partner for letting us monopolise their love ones.

And finally a massive thank you to Jurgen, hugely knowledgeable, an accomplished trip organiser, ,handles Daboia like puppies, afraid of geckos, creative driver,but above all outstanding company! I would recommend everyone takes Jurgen with them on a trip.
Thanks for reading this report folks.. off to Montenegro in a couple of weeks :D

Cheers Paul
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Re: Jurgen and Paul have a splendid time in Israel: The South

Postby Guillaume Gomard » Mon May 28, 2012 9:09 pm

WOW :shock: A very nice report, again! The Echis are magnificent. I think that the spider is a Steatoda paykulliana. I've already seen T.dhara in captivity, and it was quite a nasty snake: How was the behavior of the one you found?

Thanks,
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Re: Jurgen and Paul have a splendid time in Israel: The South

Postby Gabriel Martínez » Mon May 28, 2012 9:10 pm

Hi Paul!! The Telescopus dhara is too cool, and the photo amazing. Incredible desertic snake. And Walterinessia is also awesome. Very interesting trip!! It´s strange that Jurgen went to south and didn´t prefer to stay all the trip in Tel Aviv just searching for Daboia :lol:

In our first trip to Israel we found another Pseudotrapelus female, but we couldn´t take photos. The males in mating season are for me the coolest lizards in the mediterranean, but they must be difficult to be found in Israel because nobody has found them in our trips to the holy land :?

Cheers and congrats for your trip!!
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Re: Jurgen and Paul have a splendid time in Israel: The South

Postby Bobby Bok » Mon May 28, 2012 10:05 pm

OMG,I want to go to Israël so bad! That picture of the Ibex is award-winning and reading about how it's like to cruise some roads in the desert at night.... Someday...
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Re: Jurgen and Paul have a splendid time in Israel: The South

Postby Niklas Ban » Mon May 28, 2012 11:19 pm

The Eirenis coronelloides is a very very cool looking snake. It looks a litte bit like a small Cobra. :lol:
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Re: Jurgen and Paul have a splendid time in Israel: The South

Postby Jeroen Speybroeck » Tue May 29, 2012 9:20 am

Splendid! Love the sandfish, the Telescopus, the Cerastes, ... Desert cruising is sooo great...
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Re: Jurgen and Paul have a splendid time in Israel: The South

Postby Paul Lambourne » Tue May 29, 2012 2:47 pm

Once again thanks to everyone for their kind comments.

Gabriel Martínez wrote:ery interesting trip!! It´s strange that Jurgen went to south and didn´t prefer to stay all the trip in Tel Aviv just searching for Daboia


Gabri, you are not wrong.... Jurgen would look for Daboia 24/7, 365 if he could..he absolutely loves them.. and apparently as he kept telling me, they love him :D

Guillaume Gomard wrote:I think that the spider is a Steatoda paykulliana.


Guillaume.. thanks for the ID much appreciated.

Guillaume Gomard wrote:I've already seen T.dhara in captivity, and it was quite a nasty snake: How was the behavior of the one you found?


Extremely docile, a pleasure to handle.. only bluff striking after quite a bite of picture taking.

Cheers

Paul
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Re: Jurgen and Paul have a splendid time in Israel: The South

Postby Jürgen Gebhart » Tue May 29, 2012 3:22 pm

Hi Rookie, the Acanthodactylus is a boskianus not a aegyptius.
Thanks for the funny Reoport!


Some of my pics.
Ibex coming out of the Negev to look for some food

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The Story for the Atractaspis. We drove a very special road, the way goes a little bit up and a little bit down, not hills, in little waves, we came over one of these little hills and in the middle of my lane lays the Atractaspis and I run over it, I stopped the car and my heart stopped beating till the moment I saw that I don`t hit it, the snake was ok.

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Walter
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Paul, thank you for your support and help to made that trip as that what it was.
But how was it?

I really don`t know what kind of Trip that was.
I have very mixed emotions about it (That has nothing to do with Paul)
Was it a fantastic Trip, or just OK?
On one hand, we found my main target of the Trip, Walterinnesia.
I saw the first time the defense behavior of the Atractaspis.
We found all in all 42 Species, 12 I don`t see or pictured before, WOW that`s great!

But

On the other hand, we flipped tones of Rocks and Trash and found close to nothing, when we found something most of the time it was Chalcides ocellatus.
(For example last year we found two or three Platyceps collaris every Day, this year not one)
On road cruising at night we found some species but not in high numbers.
(One of this, one of that…)
Activity in the north was between 8 and 9 pm, in the south a half hour later.
But we drove till 11 or 11.30 pm for nothing.
Normally is that three or four different species of Geckos running on the roads at night, this Trip most of the time it was just one species.
Compare this with Kristian`s report May 2011.
viewtopic.php?f=4&t=774
We had a night with not one Snake on the Road!!! Very uncommon during that time of the year.
In the Negev Dunes at night we found just one snake Species, normal is three or four.
Normally you can find 20 or more Geckos and some Mice during a two hour walk of the Dunes this time I saw five Geckos and not a single mouse.

Is it me? Do expect too much? For me this Trip feels incomplete!

I have to go back,

soon,


very soon!!!


Btw the DOR-List


3 Malpolon insignitus
2 Daboia palaestinae
1 Natrix tessellata
1 Dolichophis jugularis
1 Atractaspis engaddensis
1 Walterinnesia aegyptia
1 Lytorhynchus diadema
2 Spalerosophis diadema
1 Telescopus dhara
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Re: Jurgen and Paul have a splendid time in Israel: The South

Postby Jeroen Speybroeck » Tue May 29, 2012 3:23 pm

As far as that would be necessary - I agree with the dragon IDs.
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Re: Jurgen and Paul have a splendid time in Israel: The South

Postby Jürgen Gebhart » Tue May 29, 2012 3:26 pm

Paul Lambourne wrote: and apparently as he kept telling me, they love him :D


Not just a story, that`s the truth!
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