How to get into reptiles and amphibians?

janvanderbrugge

Well-known member
Hello Jan,
Nice to read about your experiences with the crawling world of lizards, tortoises and snakes. And I can imagine the shyness of searching for them at darkness in eastern Poland, I've been in the "Polish Amazon area" long ago on a birding trip. In Holland we have only 3 species of snakes, 4 lizards (one of them exotic) and a handful of newts and frogs/toads. Many tortoises in the ponds, but they are escapes!
I am a member of the organization waarneming.nl, which is comparable to BirdForum. Regularly pictures of the groups I named are submitted to the forum and there are some admins who know much about them, especially those which are attached to an organisation RAVON, specialized in such animal categories. Some of them are really familiar with difficult lizard groups like Anolis or certain snakes, at a level which others feature towards birds or butterflies!
A rather recent topic was the identification of the Natrix we have in the Netherlands. They were always listed as Natrix natrix, but this resulted to be erroneous, the species of that name does not occur here, so the nomenclature had to be adapted. If you are interested, I'll try to get some more data, and also post the RAVON address here. Alternative: you could become a member of waarneming.nl and submit questions or pictures to the forum, that's up to you; if I can help, let me know.
Kind regards from your namesake,
Jan van der Brugge
 

opisska

Jan Ebr
Poland
Hello Jan,
Nice to read about your experiences with the crawling world of lizards, tortoises and snakes. And I can imagine the shyness of searching for them at darkness in eastern Poland, I've been in the "Polish Amazon area" long ago on a birding trip. In Holland we have only 3 species of snakes, 4 lizards (one of them exotic) and a handful of newts and frogs/toads. Many tortoises in the ponds, but they are escapes!
I am a member of the organization waarneming.nl, which is comparable to BirdForum. Regularly pictures of the groups I named are submitted to the forum and there are some admins who know much about them, especially those which are attached to an organisation RAVON, specialized in such animal categories. Some of them are really familiar with difficult lizard groups like Anolis or certain snakes, at a level which others feature towards birds or butterflies!
A rather recent topic was the identification of the Natrix we have in the Netherlands. They were always listed as Natrix natrix, but this resulted to be erroneous, the species of that name does not occur here, so the nomenclature had to be adapted. If you are interested, I'll try to get some more data, and also post the RAVON address here. Alternative: you could become a member of waarneming.nl and submit questions or pictures to the forum, that's up to you; if I can help, let me know.
Kind regards from your namesake,
Jan van der Brugge

Now I am confused, my Field guide (Speybroeck et. al, most authors have pretty Dutch sounding names!) shows only Natrix natrix in the Netherlands, so that's wrong? It's a pretty widespread species (Grass Snake) across Europe, the most common in both Czech Republic and Poland, is it really absent from Netherlands?

I am probably not able to reasonably join another forum, as I am following too many things, but thanks for the invitation!
 

janvanderbrugge

Well-known member
Jan O.:
Now I am confused, my Field guide (Speybroeck et. al, most authors have pretty Dutch sounding names!) shows only Natrix natrix in the Netherlands, so that's wrong?

Yes, apparently. There have been several splits in the European Grass Snake complex. In the actual views the Grass Snake of the United Kingdom and the Netherlands is not Natrix natrix, but Natrix helvetica, and the form of Spain has also been subject to a split-off. The discussion I remember started in 2017, I think, with ideas about subspecies. Problems are of course, that Grass snakes are variable in appearance, so for posting observations in Holland there was a suggestion to use the term Natrix natrix/helvetica in Holland, because the real N.natrix had been introduced on several places and hybrids might be expected. The real N.helvetica should be called: Eastern Grass Snake or Spotted Grass Snake. Our Dutch name is Ringslang, which then should be lengthened to Oostelijke Ringslang of Gevlekte Ringslang (but if chosen for Oostelijke, which would be: Westelijke?! None.)
Well, for what it's worth, the nomenclature in every field is shifting and I only follow some steps in ornithology, stating that a great deal of my birdbook collection nearly makes it necessary to have new name lists at hand when using it, and old taxonomic/nomenclatorial views are restored sometimes as well . . ., e.g. Mixornis, quite an appropriate generic name for a lot of the species (;^)!
Enjoy, Jan van der Brugge
 

jurek

Well-known member
They are map species. Creatures which are identified by place on a map.

I fail to see a difference between seeing two identical grass snakes of two identical species, rather that two identical grass snakes of one species.

Green frogs are the same. Whenever you go to a pond in Europe, a green frog will hop and splash. But hurra! You can see about 10 different species this way across Europe.
 

opisska

Jan Ebr
Poland
Interesting! I expect that as herping gets more popular, we'll get the same attempts on making an order in it as ij birding. But it is true that a lot of herps are identified on range, since they don't migrate and are extremely similar. Regarding green frogs even range doesn't help in the Marsh/Pool/Edible problem...
 

janvanderbrugge

Well-known member
Just a nice personal memory: during a birding trip in Rumania (Danube delta) we walked on a wet meadow where big frogs were hunting, probably on everything which their maw could contain. Doubtless those were specimens of the species which in Holland is called Meerkikker (meer = lake), so Marsh Frogs. Apart from the esculenta-complex in Holland the Pool Frog is common, which can turn beautiful yellow in spring. There at the Rumanian locality in a pool one Marsh Frog of a golden-yellow colour was swimming, without any green on its skin! I walked back to get other members of the group for sharing the observation, but as so often, the animal did not show up again. Somehow the thought of a prince in disguise came up (;^), and maybe some ladies in our company would have been thrilled at the sight . . . There were also Treefrogs crossing that meadow, quite a risky walk for them! Wonderful details that stick in your mind . . .
Enjoy, Jan van der Brugge
 

opisska

Jan Ebr
Poland
Going through the backlog of photos and adding new species is slower and slower, as the more difficult ones are mostly the ones left. Sometime I find myself reading papers about newly found species ... herping feels much more like the "frontier" than birding, there is so much stuff yet not well described - looking at the papers, it's clear that there is a group of people that scours random valleys in the Andes and once in a while they just find yet another species, which seems incredible in comparison with birds, where new species are quite hard nowadays.

I am clearly not at the point when I could ID a new species, but an interesting thing was when I found this

https://www.inaturalist.org/observations/62491474

which is the first record of this lizard on iNaturalist if I IDed it correctly (which is quite hard to know as the original paper about the species is apparently missing from the archive of the journal). At 122 herp species now, maybe a dozen or two max is still in the photos - and a few newts should be waiting for me outside in spring :) Then I seriously need travel to open back up, because I wanna start actually world-herping!
 

jurek

Well-known member
Hi Jan,
Certainly it is relatively easy to find an unknown tropical reptile or amphibian. Friends went to Madagascar for a week, and simply moved a day distance from the tourist circuit and got some gecko previously known from only one specimen.

If you want a new frontier, try harvestmen/opilionids/daddy-long-legs. Apparently half of harvestmen were described by only one person, the only scientist in history which bothered to specialize in harvestmen.
 

Mysticete

Well-known member
United States
I haven't been browsing these other forums that much lately, so just happened on this thread.

IF you want a herp forum comparable to birdforum, I would try fieldherpforum.com. It's mostly US based, but there are posts from people elsewhere in the world, and at the very least a lot of herping advice scattered through the forum, plus you get a sense of the community.

In the US, Herping is far far bigger than Europe, largely because we have such a higher diversity. I haven't done a tally, but I would guess there are multiple states which have a higher reptile and amphibian diversity than all of Europe. Wikipedia tells me there are 226 species of reptiles and amphibians, in contrast to the likely underestimate of 456 species for North America.

Even though herping is more popular though, I find it a lot more difficult. It's hard to keep an eye out for birds at the same time as herps unless they are very obvious species like some diurnal lizards and turtles. Endlessly flipping rocks and logs isn't the funnest activity, nor do I enjoy endlessly driving up and down backwood roads at night looking for snakes. And due to concerns about collecting, Herpers are incredibly incredibly secretive about where they encounter species or helping new folks. So basically you are completely on your own other than the most basic advice.
 

opisska

Jan Ebr
Poland
So driving backwood roads is good for snakes? Good advice! Not that we don't do that alread for mammals :) - but now that we are looking for mammals with IR instead of light, we may easily miss some snakes ... That's actually a problem in general, that looking for mammals you want to keep your light down, but herps just aren't really visible in IR (except sometimes as unsually cold objects.
 

Mysticete

Well-known member
United States
So driving backwood roads is good for snakes? Good advice! Not that we don't do that alread for mammals :) - but now that we are looking for mammals with IR instead of light, we may easily miss some snakes ... That's actually a problem in general, that looking for mammals you want to keep your light down, but herps just aren't really visible in IR (except sometimes as unsually cold objects.
Depends on the region.

In many areas, especially the tropics and arid areas, snakes and geckos will frequently come out on the asphalt to warm themselves, and during breeding season you can get migrations of amphibians across roads. It doesn't work everywhere, and I am not familiar with folks having much success at night in temperate wooded environments (marshy areas maybe).
 
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