How to get into reptiles and amphibians?

opisska

Jan Ebr
Poland
After finding out how great mammalwatching is, I looked around the hierarchy of vertebrates and found out that the only things missing in my life (besides fish, which I find hopeless as I mostly hate water) are reptiles and amphibians.

However, they are even more "exotic" than mammals. Birds have this huge following around them (as shown by this webpage we are at!), mammals a bit more overlooked, but there is still a lot of material, but I don't even know where to start on Reptiles and Amphibians.

Would someone recommend some starting resources? Is there a good "WP" book for those (like Svensson for birds)? A good worldwide forum? Anything I should really just know about to save me a lot of trouble?

Thanks in advance!
 

Andy Adcock

Fractious Member of ill repute
England
There are plenty of guides but be prepared, reptiles are TOUGH, especially Frogs and you'll find you'll be doing a lot of stuff on range. A lot of books will also not, be very complete and cover just the most commony seen stuff.

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Amphibians...1547638455&sr=8-1&keywords=reptiles+of+europe

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Guide-Rept...1547638510&sr=8-1&keywords=reptiles+of+africa

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Reptiles-A...7638540&sr=8-3&keywords=reptiles+of+australia

https://www.amazon.co.uk/National-G...574&sr=8-1&keywords=reptiles+of+north+america

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Field-Guid...d=1547638695&sr=8-2&keywords=reptiles+of+asia

Scythebill includes a spreadsheet for South East Asia
 
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opisska

Jan Ebr
Poland
So the trajectory birds->mammals->reptiles/amphibians seems only logical :) Already in mammaps there is a lot of range ID, there is even a map of the US showing which places have only onw ground squirrel as the only way to get them all for sure :)

The guides you linked are also incomplete? At least it's nice to see that the world is moreorless covered! I recently feel like I am changing my place into a bookstore, but I am not sure I am gonna resist buying those you linked as well :)
 

Andy Adcock

Fractious Member of ill repute
England
So the trajectory birds->mammals->reptiles/amphibians seems only logical :) Already in mammaps there is a lot of range ID, there is even a map of the US showing which places have only onw ground squirrel as the only way to get them all for sure :)

The guides you linked are also incomplete? At least it's nice to see that the world is moreorless covered! I recently feel like I am changing my place into a bookstore, but I am not sure I am gonna resist buying those you linked as well :)

You should see mine......;)

This is new

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Amphibians...39178&sr=8-5&keywords=reptiles+of+east+africa

Also East Africa

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Field-Guid...39178&sr=8-1&keywords=reptiles+of+east+africa
 

Andy Adcock

Fractious Member of ill repute
England
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opisska

Jan Ebr
Poland
Nice selection! I will start slowly though, have to show restraint, since our flat is currently only 15 sq. meters and we will also some day want to move everything back to Prague ... On the other hand, shouldn't I agressively devour everything from UK Amazon that's not easily found in my local stores, before I will have to start paying customs on UK purchases? :)
 

Andy Adcock

Fractious Member of ill repute
England
Nice selection! I will start slowly though, have to show restraint, since our flat is currently only 15 sq. meters and we will also some day want to move everything back to Prague ... On the other hand, shouldn't I agressively devour everything from UK Amazon that's not easily found in my local stores, before I will have to start paying customs on UK purchases? :)

My advice it to buy everything when it comes out, some books quickly become harder to get and thus more expensive, don't rush and shop around for bargains.

If something is on offer or new (especially site guides), buy it, you never know if / when you'll want it, check ebay too and this British site is quite good with reasonable prices. NHBS are my last resort as they are expensive.

https://www.wildsounds.com/menu/main.shtml
 
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jurek

Well-known member
Just a word of warning: herps require mostly digging in dry leaves, dead stumps, under stones and in swamps. There is following in the USA especially, with term like "herping". But it is not for everybody's liking.
 

dantheman

Bah humbug
So the trajectory birds->mammals->reptiles/amphibians seems only logical :) Already in mammaps there is a lot of range ID, there is even a map of the US showing which places have only onw ground squirrel as the only way to get them all for sure :)

The trajectory - birds>butterflies and/or moths>dragonflies for many in the Uk perhaps.

With birds>cetaceans for some at coastal locations ;-)
 

opisska

Jan Ebr
Poland
After almost two years, the unusual amount of free time due to the wrecked state of the world travel had us to finally try to crack the herping thing. We bought the "Field guide to the Amphibians and Reptiles of Britain and Europe" by Speybroeck et. al and started working on European herps - the book is quite nice, it's main drawback is that some info is only really spelled out in the "key" tables, but those also work in a way where you must be able to answer all the questions (with many impossible without the animal in hand) and so you need to combine info from several places sometimes. The main benefit is that it really teaches you what are the field marks - that's a very different way of thinking than in birds, as color sometimes almost doesn't matter at all with herps. I really like the idea of IDing reptiles by counting specific scales on the head - how comfortable is that! This then allowed us to improve out IDs for other places, simply by knowing what to look for.

For outside of Europe, we have herp pictures from so many places that I would have to buy a library first, so we use the combination of various internet resources - mainly iNaturalist data, "list of reptiles of" pages on Wikipedia, IUCN ranges (sadly very incomplete for herps) and sometimes straight up research papers which may have lists of amphibians for some areas. In general, we found iNaturalist really useful, because it's a "crowdsourcing ID platform" - you upload pictures and get opinions on IDs. In principle, one could even upload completely blindly pictures of unknown species, but then you would have to blindly trust the IDs, and we try to not do that and prefer to have first an idea what the herp is.

So far we have IDed 55 species, but there is still a lot to go through, mostly outside of Europe. I am generally surprised how many different species we already have randomly met - and sometimes it's a big chunk of what exists somewhere, such as in the case of tortoises/turtles in Europe (from the 6 native species excluding the sea ones, we miss just one, ironically the only one that lives in Czech Rep./Poland), or just the list of reptiles of Poland for example. A big surprise to me was to find out that there is only like a few dozen crocodilians in the world, so it's possible to quickly understand the whole offering, even though we have just 4 species so far. On the other hand, the number of species in the tropics is sometimes too damn high!

It's quite fun. I am not sure whether I am gonna start running around turning stones and whatnot, mainly because the level of success from "just looking around" seems to be quite high already, but I feel like knowing what these animals are enriches the experience in nature a lot. On the other hand I am considering buying a small net to comb through some ponds, because I have found out that we have really awesome looking newts in Europe and I have never seen a newt ever!
 

Andy Adcock

Fractious Member of ill repute
England
Some of my titles here that I use in helping ID stuff but books are limited as you now know. Many are quite technical whilst others, only show the common species and are of minimal help, it's not an easy field.

Amphibians and reptiles of Greece
Amphibians and Reptiles of the Maya World Julian C.Lee
Amphibians and Reptiles of the Yucatan Peninsula Julian C.Lee
Amphibians of Europe, North Africa and the Middle East Christophe Dufresnes
Amphibians, of Peninsular India: R R. Daniels
A Field Guide to Western Reptiles and Amphibians , Stebbins, R. C, Peterson, R. T

Reptiles and Amphibians of Britain and Europe Speybroek J, Beukema W, Bok B, Van Der Voort J
Reptiles and Amphibians of Britain and Europe, Field guide Arnold and Ovenden
Reptiles and Amphibians of Costa Rica Federico Munoz Chacon, Richard Dennis Johnston
Reptiles and Amphibians of Eastern and Central North America, Peterson Field Guide to Powell, Conant and Collins
Reptiles and Amphibians of Madagascar, A Field Guide to the of Frank Glaw and Miguel Vences
Reptiles and Amphibians of Puglia (in Italian) Nitti, N
Reptiles and Amphibians of the Seribuat Archipelago Lee L Grismer
Reptiles of Australia, A Complete Guide to, 4th ed Steve Wilson, Gerry Swan
Reptiles of Central America Kohler, G
Reptiles of New South Wales, A field guide to Gerry Swan
Reptiles of Thailand and South East Asia Das, I
Reptiles of Thailand, A Field Guide to the Tanya Chan-ard Jarujin Nabhitabhata, John W. K. Parr
Reptiles, East Africa, A field guide to the Spawls, Howell, Drewes and Ashe
Reptiles, Southern Africa, a guide to the Alexander and Marais
Venomous Reptiles of the United States, Canada, and Northern Mexico vol 1 Ernst Carl H. ,Ernst Evelyn M
Venomous reptiles of the United States, Canada, and Northern Mexico vol 2 Ernst Carl H, Ernst Evelyn M
 

opisska

Jan Ebr
Poland
17 square meters, 17 square meters andy, that's my living space :) I think the Europe book is pretty good, so I am not really hurting for a Puglia book on top of it (I am not particularly sure where that even is :)) but the rest of the world is sometimes funny - I was looking for possibly an Ecudaor book and found one just for Mindo! Well, so far it doesn't seem feasible to buy out all the books, I will maybe get some for places where I have a lot of questions or for future trips, if it is ever possible to travel again. But I will now have to consider baggage allowances, as having a Bird, Mammal and Herp ID book and then possibly also "where to find" books for all three may accumulate quite some weight :)
 

Andy Adcock

Fractious Member of ill repute
England
17 square meters, 17 square meters andy, that's my living space :) I think the Europe book is pretty good, so I am not really hurting for a Puglia book on top of it (I am not particularly sure where that even is :)) but the rest of the world is sometimes funny - I was looking for possibly an Ecudaor book and found one just for Mindo! Well, so far it doesn't seem feasible to buy out all the books, I will maybe get some for places where I have a lot of questions or for future trips, if it is ever possible to travel again. But I will now have to consider baggage allowances, as having a Bird, Mammal and Herp ID book and then possibly also "where to find" books for all three may accumulate quite some weight :)

17m2, that leaves 15m2 for books by my reckoning :t:

Puglia is a region of Italy, I picked it up during a short trip.

Baggage allowance, unless you are really in to herps and I've only ever met on guy who was ( a Dutch man), the books don't travel. I always do retrospective ID from photos when I get home, where possible that is.

There's a huge shortage of books for many regions and authors have concentrated in the main, on areas that get plenty of visitors e.g Mindo.

With books such as 'where to find', much of it will be unrequired when you're on a set itinerary so I just photocopy relevant pages.
 
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opisska

Jan Ebr
Poland
17m2, that leaves 15m2 for books by my reckoning :t:

Puglia is a region of Italy, I picked it up during a short trip.

Baggage allowance, unless you are really in to herps and I've only ever met on guy who was ( a Dutch man), the books don't travel. I always do retrospective ID from photos when I get home, where possible that is.

There's a huge shortage of books for many regions and authors have concentrated in the main, on areas that get plenty of visitors e.g Mindo.

With books such as 'where to find', much of it will be unrequired when you're on a set itinerary so I just photocopy relevant pages.

I find it much more fun to be able to ID things in field - not only you have a better feeling that you have "seen it", but you also know what have you seen and what are you missing, what ID marks to look for to separate the things you are missing etc... But yeah, one has to choose what we take with us!

My "itinerary" usually consists of me reading some guidebook or "where to find" book in the airplane on the way to the destination, so that's why I find those great to have. I have only a few birding "where to finds" though, it's a kind of book of little "reuse" value often - the best was in Oman where a birder friend just let me borrow his, but on the other hand, this makes me afraid to damage it considering my style of travel :) The US/Canada "where to find" on mammals by Vladimir Dinets on the other hand, that's a book one could be using for years and still finding new places to go - and it's so small, perfect!
 

jurek

Well-known member
I solved the space problem by photographing books page by page. With my good-but-not-outstanding phone camera, even a bird book was useful this way. I met a tour guide who had a tablet and carried books about mammals, herps, insects, plants etc.

With herps, the problem is that you should really carry a long lenses to photo them and inspect diverse scales, spots, proportions etc.
 

opisska

Jan Ebr
Poland
I solved the space problem by photographing books page by page. With my good-but-not-outstanding phone camera, even a bird book was useful this way. I met a tour guide who had a tablet and carried books about mammals, herps, insects, plants etc.

With herps, the problem is that you should really carry a long lenses to photo them and inspect diverse scales, spots, proportions etc.

Yeah, we had this discussion about photographed books, it's still hard to use :)

I am carrying a long lens for birds/mammals anyway, so that's how we have good pictures of various herps. But it turns out that the really long 400mm one is not that great because it only focuses from 3.5 meters. The 70-200mm focuses from 1.5m which means that on 200 it actually gives better detail when you can get close to the subject and typically the best detailed photos are from that.
 

opisska

Jan Ebr
Poland
The slow crawl through the last 10 years of photos continues and we already broke a 100 IDed herps, with a few dozen probably still waiting. Turns out we even have a Boa (even though just a very small specimen of Garden Tree Boa), that sounds so cool - really one thing I love about herps is how we now are finding out that we have already seen many really cool-sounding species that I never realized one can easily see.

Meanwhile we are also trying to get the local frogs and newts, but with no luck - what we are missing are mostly nocturnal species and it's pretty hard to stay in a wet area in Poland in the dark these days and stay focused on anything but the mosquitoes ... But a few days ago, we were walking during the day among some ponds and my wife saw a heap of old wood and said "this is a reptile place". I thought she's being optimistic, but the one heap actually had a Grass Snake and a Viviparious Lizard! It's a shame that there are so few reptile species in Poland that we already have all of them, but it's still really fun being able to just see them and know what they are.
 

Andy Adcock

Fractious Member of ill repute
England
Meanwhile we are also trying to get the local frogs and newts, but with no luck - what we are missing are mostly nocturnal species and it's pretty hard to stay in a wet area in Poland in the dark these days and stay focused on anything but the mosquitoes ... But a few days ago, we were walking during the day among some ponds and my wife saw a heap of old wood and said "this is a reptile place". I thought she's being optimistic, but the one heap actually had a Grass Snake and a Viviparious Lizard! It's a shame that there are so few reptile species in Poland that we already have all of them, but it's still really fun being able to just see them and know what they are.

Are they 'Viviporous' in Poland? It's a bit of a misnomer because in parts of their range, they actually lay eggs. I think the bareing of live young, is an adaptation to the colder weather in parts of their range where eggs would not be viable, this is a guess on my part.
 

opisska

Jan Ebr
Poland
Are they 'Viviporous' in Poland? It's a bit of a misnomer because in parts of their range, they actually lay eggs. I think the bareing of live young, is an adaptation to the colder weather in parts of their range where eggs would not be viable, this is a guess on my part.

I have no idea either. This one was hugely pregnant, but we didn't wait to see whether it will produce eggs or live offspring :)
 
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