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Introduction

 

Already in 2007 three members of our group went on a trip to Georgia. We have always wished to come back and travel through this fantastic countryside since. This time also Armenia was on our plan but therefore we had to cancel Western Georgia. Contrary to 2007 we completely managed the trip ourselves without a local driver. It turned out to be the right choice in terms of independency. Also the accommodation situation in both countries had improved and we hardly had any problems to find a room for the night. Concerning Georgia we already had quite a lot of experience, but we also received help for some spots from David Tarkhnishvili, which was highly appreciated! Armenia was new to us, but of course we received excellent information by the Armenian – Italian coproduction book of the Armenian Herpetofauna. After getting in touch with the Klooiplek group from Holland we decided to contact Marine Arakelyan from Yerevan. This was a lucky strike, because Marine supported us really a lot in several matters like organizing permits for sanctuaries, showed us fantastic spots and habitats and organized lodging, food and an interesting spa. She is a kind pleasant and hospital lady, to whom we are indeed very thankful for.


Our journey took place exactly one year and one month later than out trip to Oman. We were a little bit concerned, that I might be too late but at the end it turned out to be the perfect time. Spring was very rainy and the steppe was highly vegetated and still blooming.

 

Kaukasus Route

route through the Caucasus 

  

Day 1 – 28th of May: Tbilisi - David Gareja

 

After our disaster with the Georgian airline in 2007, which cancelled our flight, decided to take the longer Turkish Airways flight via Istanbul and so we arrived in Tbilisi at about 10.00 p.m. The first night we booked a hostel near down town. The access to the hostel and our rooms was not in accordance to our engineering standards (no light, skew stair) and before we fell asleep we heard some green toads calling in the backyard in a pond of a leaking water pipe. We agreed to take over the car early in the morning but the agent called us, that there is a problem with the car, which they have to fix first. We decided to have breakfast and do a sightseeing tour in the city center. The touristic area of the town has been restored and the city center shows a nice combination of beautiful old and architectural modern buildings. It is really worth visiting. Next to the public baths in the Abanotubani district we entered a valley and found several Darevskia portschinskii on the steep rocks near the stream and a water fall. About half past ten we received our Nissan Pathfinder and we started driving southwards. The car was quite old and we had to refill some oil in a regular interval but except of one tire damage everything went well.


Our first stop was a well-known canal between Rustawi and Gardabani, where we found Xerotyphlops vermicularis, Natrix tessellata, Lacerta strigata, Mauremys caspica, Pelophylax bedriagae and a dead Dolichophis schmidti. Compared to 2007 no Emys was spotted this time. Further south-east the steppe begins and the fauna changes completely: Bufotes variabilis, Pseudopus apodus, Paralaudakia caucasia, Eirenis modestus, Eirenis collaris and Testudo graeca are typical species for steppe habitats. We decided to take a less frequently used road through the steppe and stopped at a stone cairn to check it. It was quite cloudy and humid and beside the stones a big Macrovipera lebetina was foraging. Some astonished Azeri watched us handling the snake and immediately approached. A bit up the hill a beautifully colored female Malpolon insignitus was observed, also active during this tempered afternoon. Nearby some Lacerta media and Eirenis modestus and Eirenis collaris were found.


After this great start we drove to the Gareja valley, which glowed in fantastic colors. The main monastery had its open house and we could enter everywhere, which was awesome. Also the avifauna is worth mentioning with several buntings, shrikes, rose starlings, many raptors etc.


The sun went down and we made our way back via the eastern route along the Lori River. Unluckily we took a very bad secondary road but on the way we heard and observed Hyla orientalis and P. bedriagae. A very successful and interesting first day with already 17 observed species!

 

Images to this section
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Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 01 Tiblisi & Dawit Garedscha

The route of the first day - Die Route des ersten Tages - Tbilissi - Davit Gareji

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 01 Tiblisi & Dawit Garedscha

Courtyard of our accommodation in Tbilissi - Innenhof unserer Unterkunft in Tiflis

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 01 Tiblisi & Dawit Garedscha

The city center is restored and very attractive - Das Stadtzentrum wurde renoviert und ist nun sehr reizvoll

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 01 Tiblisi & Dawit Garedscha

Historic center with castle - Altstadt mit Burg

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 01 Tiblisi & Dawit Garedscha

Abanotubani - Persian bath quarter - Der Stadtteil mit den persischen Bädern

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 01 Tiblisi & Dawit Garedscha

A small valley with a waterfall and our first Darevskia species - Ein kleines Tal mit Wasserfall und unserer ersten Darevskia Art

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 01 Tiblisi & Dawit Garedscha

Plugged rocks - dicht verbaute Felsen

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 01 Tiblisi & Dawit Garedscha

Darevskia portschinskii - female - Weibchen

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 01 Tiblisi & Dawit Garedscha

Darevskia portschinskii - male - Männchen

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 01 Tiblisi & Dawit Garedscha

Mauremys caspica - Caspian turtle along a canal near Gardabani - Kaspische Bachschildkröte an einem Graben nahe Gardabani

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 01 Tiblisi & Dawit Garedscha

Pelophylax bedriagae - water frogs are very common everywhere along water courses - Wasserfrösche sind überall häufig entlang von Wasserläufen

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 01 Tiblisi & Dawit Garedscha

Defence tower near a river - Wehrturm am Fluß - Bufotes variabilis, Pelophylax bedriagae, Natrix tessellata, Xerotyphlops vermicularis, Lacerta strigata, Mauremys caspica

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 01 Tiblisi & Dawit Garedscha

Natrix tessellata - occurred in high numbers - kommt in hohen Dichten vor

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 01 Tiblisi & Dawit Garedscha

Xerotyphlops vermicularis - Portrait

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 01 Tiblisi & Dawit Garedscha

Xerotyphlops vermicularis - found under stones, as always - wie immer unter Steinen gefunden

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 01 Tiblisi & Dawit Garedscha

Natrix tessellata - Portrait

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 01 Tiblisi & Dawit Garedscha

Lacerta strigata - the most common lizard during our trip - die häufigste Eidechse während unserer Reise

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 01 Tiblisi & Dawit Garedscha

European roller - Blauracke

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 01 Tiblisi & Dawit Garedscha

Rosy starlings are always in swarms - Rosenstare kommen immer in Schwärmen vor

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 01 Tiblisi & Dawit Garedscha

Woodchat shrike - Rotkopfwürger

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 01 Tiblisi & Dawit Garedscha

Sheep flock in the southern steppe - Schafherde in der südlichen Steppe

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 01 Tiblisi & Dawit Garedscha

Landscape south of Gardabani - Landschaft südlich von Gardabai - Bufotes variabilis, Pseudopus apodus, Paralaudakia caucasia, Eirenis modestus, Eirenis collaris, Testudo graeca

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 01 Tiblisi & Dawit Garedscha

Eresus sp.

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 01 Tiblisi & Dawit Garedscha

Pseudopus apodus

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 01 Tiblisi & Dawit Garedscha

Testudo graeca ibera

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 01 Tiblisi & Dawit Garedscha

Bufotes variabilis

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 01 Tiblisi & Dawit Garedscha

Eirenis modestus

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 01 Tiblisi & Dawit Garedscha

Isabelline wheatear - Isabellensteinschmätzer

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 01 Tiblisi & Dawit Garedscha

Hoopoe - Wiedehopf

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 01 Tiblisi & Dawit Garedscha

Near ruins it is always promising, in the back the industry of Rustawi - in der Nähe alter Gebäude ist die Suche oft erfolgversprechend, im Hintergrund die Industriestadt Rustawi

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 01 Tiblisi & Dawit Garedscha

Short grass steppe near Davit Gareji - kurzrasige Steppe in der Nähe von Davit Gareji

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 01 Tiblisi & Dawit Garedscha

Bee eater - Bienenfresser

Eirenis collaris

Eirenis collaris 

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 01 Tiblisi & Dawit Garedscha

One of the northern monasteries in the Gareji valley - eines der nördlichen Klöster im Gareji Tal - Pseudopus apodus, Testudo graeca, Macrovipera lebetina

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 01 Tiblisi & Dawit Garedscha

Calandra lark - Kalanderlerche

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 01 Tiblisi & Dawit Garedscha

Macrovipera lebetina - in situ

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 01 Tiblisi & Dawit Garedscha

Macrovipera lebetina - well camouflaged on clay underground - gut getarnt auf Lehmuntergrund

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 01 Tiblisi & Dawit Garedscha

Macrovipera lebetina - Portrait

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 01 Tiblisi & Dawit Garedscha

Steppe ridge - Grat in der Steppe - Lacerta media, Malpolon insignitus, Testudo graeca

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 01 Tiblisi & Dawit Garedscha

Lacerta media - juvenile - Jungtier

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 01 Tiblisi & Dawit Garedscha

Malpolon insignitus - female, found in a bush - Weibchen, wurde in einem Busch gefunden

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 01 Tiblisi & Dawit Garedscha

Malpolon insignitus - Portrait

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 01 Tiblisi & Dawit Garedscha

Many ticks on a Testudo carapax - viele Zecken auf einem Schildkrötenpanzer

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 01 Tiblisi & Dawit Garedscha

The ridge is the border to Azerbaijan - der Grat ist die Grenze zu Aserbaidschan

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 01 Tiblisi & Dawit Garedscha

Badlands just in front of Davit Gareji monastery - Felsabhänge vor dem Kloster Davit Gereji

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 01 Tiblisi & Dawit Garedscha

Davit Gareji monastery - Kloster Davit Gareji 

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 01 Tiblisi & Dawit Garedscha

Many ponds in the steppe are evidence for high precipitation in winter and early spring - Viele Gewässer zeugen von viel Niederschlag während des Winters und des Frühjahres

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 01 Tiblisi & Dawit Garedscha

Traditional cattle breeding - traditionelle Viehzucht

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 01 Tiblisi & Dawit Garedscha

Corn bunting, very common - Grauammer, sehr häufig

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 01 Tiblisi & Dawit Garedscha

Udabno - the most lonely village on earth - die einsamste Ortschaft der Welt

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 01 Tiblisi & Dawit Garedscha

Woodchat shrike - Rotkopfwürger

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 01 Tiblisi & Dawit Garedscha

Udabno shopping center

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 01 Tiblisi & Dawit Garedscha

Elaphe sauromates - DOR

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 01 Tiblisi & Dawit Garedscha

Sundown after a successful first day - Sonnenuntergang nach einem erfolgreichen ersten Tag

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 01 Tiblisi & Dawit Garedscha

Hyla orientalis schelkownikowi

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 01 Tiblisi & Dawit Garedscha

Hyla orientalis

 
 
 

Day 2 – 29th of May: Kojori – Stepanawan 

 

Early in the morning we left our flat and drove to the location, where W. Bischoff discovered Darevskia dahli near a stream below the village of Kojori. When we arrived, it was a bit too early and still too cold. After a while the first Darevskia dahli and Darevskia portschinkskii came out. They live on a sloping rock plate, whereas Lacerta strigata inhabits the bushes aside. In the torrent we found Rana macrocnemis and in some ponds Pelophylax bedriagae. After a while we took a path down the mountain towards the Kumisi Lake and checked some rock slopes with Eirenis modestus (one was bright grey), Paralaudakia, Pseudopus, Testudo and Lacerta media. Because of the wet spring our search along the slopes near the Kumisi Lake was not productive at all, whereas in 2007 it was one of the best spots!

 

After the repair of our flat tire and the record of a big dead Elaphe sauromates on the road we started our way to the border of Armenia. The main road from Bolnisi to the Gogavan border was one of the worst roads we traveled (so far). Anyway, the landscape in this area on Georgian side is fantastic; a very natural woodland. We saw our first wildcat ever but couldn’t get a picture. We checked several rocks along the road and found strong populations of (parthenogenetic) Darevskia dahli, while Darevskia portschunskii nigrita was much rarer.

 

The crossing of the border was a kind of a procedure and lasted about one hour. Although the car hiring company prepared all required papers we had to fill out additional documents. Entering Armenia the landscape changed drastically from woodland to moist highland steppe. We met with Marine Arakelyan and her student Rasmik in the village of Tashir, where we changed some money and completed a mandatory car insurance for Armenia. We checked out some habitats in Stepanavan but it was already too late and so we went for a very nice Armenian dinner. Afterwards we had some problems to find an accommodation, because the planned one was already fully booked and so we took an old soviet hotel hosted by a severe and bearded Russian landlady.  

  

Images to this section
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Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 02 Kojori – Stepanawan

The route of the second day - Die Route des zweiten Tages - Kojori - Stepanavan

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 02 Kojori – Stepanawan

Leaving Tbilissi - wir verlassen Tiflis

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 02 Kojori – Stepanawan

Kojori stream - Kojori Bach - Rana macrocnemys, Lacerta strigata, Darevskia portschinskii, Darevskia dahli

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 02 Kojori – Stepanawan

Darevskia portschinskii - male - Männchen

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 02 Kojori – Stepanawan

Darevskia dahli - parthenogenetic species - parthenogenetische Art

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 02 Kojori – Stepanawan

Darevskia dahli - Portrait

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 02 Kojori – Stepanawan

Darevskia dahli

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 02 Kojori – Stepanawan

Rana macrocnemis macrocnemis

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 02 Kojori – Stepanawan

Darevskia portschinskii - femoral pores - Femoralporen

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 02 Kojori – Stepanawan

Drevskia portschinskii portschinskii

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 02 Kojori – Stepanawan

Red backed shrike - Neuntöter

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 02 Kojori – Stepanawan

Hills north of Kumisi - Hügel nördlich von Kumisi - Eirenis modestus, Paralaudakia caucasia, Lacerta media, Pseudopus apodus, Testudo graeca

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 02 Kojori – Stepanawan

Eirenis modestus - grey colored - grau gefärbt

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 02 Kojori – Stepanawan

Eirenis modestus - typically colored juvenile - typisch gezeichnetes Jungtier

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 02 Kojori – Stepanawan

dangerous beast! - gefährliche Bestie!

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 02 Kojori – Stepanawan

Buzzard swallowing an Eirenis modestus - Bussard frisst Eirenis modestus

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 02 Kojori – Stepanawan

Lacerta media - inhabits drier habitats than L. strigata - besiedelt trockenere Habitate als L. strigata

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 02 Kojori – Stepanawan

Lacerta media media - male - Männchen

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 02 Kojori – Stepanawan

Photo session

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 02 Kojori – Stepanawan

Laudakia caucasia - female, posing on a rock in front of its shelter - Weibchen, posiert auf einem Stein vor ihrem Versteck

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 02 Kojori – Stepanawan

Lesser grey shrike - Schwarzstirnwürger

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 02 Kojori – Stepanawan

Elaphe sauromates - second one dead on the road - zweites überfahrenes Exemplar

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 02 Kojori – Stepanawan

Franz' method to open a beer - Franz' Art ein Bier zu öffnen

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 02 Kojori – Stepanawan

Main road to Armenia, many more sheep than cars - Hauptstraße nach Armenien, viel mehr Schafe als Autos

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 02 Kojori – Stepanawan

Paralaudakia caucasia

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 02 Kojori – Stepanawan

Aggregation of Darevskia dahli - Ansammlung von Darevskia dahli

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 02 Kojori – Stepanawan

Darevskia dahli - feeding - fressend

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 02 Kojori – Stepanawan

Darevskia dahli

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 02 Kojori – Stepanawan

Darevskia portschinskii nigrita - female - Weibchen

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 02 Kojori – Stepanawan

Darevskia dahli

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 02 Kojori – Stepanawan

Darevskia portschinskii nigrita - male - Männchen

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 02 Kojori – Stepanawan

Main road between Armenia and Georgia - Hauptstrasse zwischen Armenien und Georgien

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 02 Kojori – Stepanawan

House near the border - Haus nahe der Grenze

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 02 Kojori – Stepanawan

Townscape - Ortsbild

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 02 Kojori – Stepanawan

Armenian village - armenische Ortschaft

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 02 Kojori – Stepanawan

Yellow wagtail - Schafstelze

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 02 Kojori – Stepanawan

Marsh harrier - Rohrweihe

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 02 Kojori – Stepanawan

In Tashir we changed some money and concluded a car insurance contract - In Tashir wechselten wir Geld und schlossen eine Versicherung für das Auto ab

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 02 Kojori – Stepanawan

River near Stepanavan with high water level - Fluß nahe Stepanavan mit Hochwasser

 

 

 

Day 3 – 30th of May: Spitak – Dilijan


After a nice breakfast we started our observation tour for Darevskia. Rasmik was working on (parthenogenetic) Darevskia rostombekovi, which is by far the rarest of all Darevskias because of a very low reproduction rate and its low assertiveness compared to other congeners. Our first spot was a stone pit near Spitak, where Marine knew a small population of Darevskia rostombekovi. She was very happy to find out, that they were still there. We found about five individuals and some (parthenogenetic) Darevskia unisexualis. Nearby also Lacerta strigata, Coronella austriaca and Natrix tessellata were present. Thomas spotted one Ablepharus bivittatus but couldn’t guide it towards the wet meadow.

 

Afterwards we drove up the mountains to find some other species. The first place was a habitat of Lacerta agilis brevicaudata, Lacerta strigata and Darevskia armeniaca, another parthenogenetic species. The second spot was inhabited by Darevskia dahli, Darevskia unisexualis, Darevskia rostombekovi, Lacerta strigata and one more lizard species, which was believed to be extinct or at least extremely rare in Armenia. The dwarf lizard Parvilacerta parva had been recorded the last time about 10 years ago by Marine near Mets Parni, some km west of Spitak. It was only one individual and it was the only one Marine had ever seen. Christoph found a female Parvilacerta parva and made Marine very happy with this record. After a while Thomas discovered also a male. They were found in eroded meadow habitats which we know from Turkey to be quite typical for this species.

 

After this success we drove to the Dilijan national park, a well-known spot for Ablepharus bivittatus, but it was already too late to find this species. The habitats consist of woodland with some smaller meadows and also rocks and some historic buildings, where we found Darevskia armeniaca, three Coronellas and we heard Hyla orientalis. For the night we drove quite a long way to Hankavan, which is a valley farther south. It was a quite new highly comfortable and modern accommodation, where we had dinner and afterwards we enjoyed “Armenian style wellness” which was recommended by Marine. 

 

Images to this section
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Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 03 Spitak – Dilijan

Spitak - Dilijan - Route Day 3 - Reiseroute Tag 3 - Spitak - Dilijan

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 03 Spitak – Dilijan

Soviet style hotel with bedraggled sport facilities - Sowjetisches Hotel mit heruntergekommenen Sportanlagen

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 03 Spitak – Dilijan

Colorful rooms - farbenfrohe Räume

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 03 Spitak – Dilijan

Diverse habitat with a quarry, stream, meadows and rocks - vielseitiges Habitat mit Steinbruch, Bach, Wiesen und Felsen - Pelophylax bedriagae, Ablepharus bivittatus, Darevskia unisexualis, Darevskia rostombekovi, Lacerta strigata, Coronella austriaca, Natrix tessellata, Paralaudakia caucasia

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 03 Spitak – Dilijan

Natrix tessellata - first record of the day in a quarry - erster Fund des Tages in einem Steinbruch

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 03 Spitak – Dilijan

Paralaudakia caucasia - omnipresent

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 03 Spitak – Dilijan

Paralaudakia caucasia - males and females often live together in couples - Männchen und Weibchen leben oft als Paar zusammen 

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 03 Spitak – Dilijan

Wheatear - Steinschmätzer

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 03 Spitak – Dilijan

Lacerta strigata - very common in northern Armenia - sehr häufig in Nordarmenien

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 03 Spitak – Dilijan

Darevskia unisexualis - parthenogenetic species - parthenogenetische Art 

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 03 Spitak – Dilijan

Darevskia unisexualis - Portrait

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 03 Spitak – Dilijan

Coronella austriaca - a steady attenant of the genus Darevskia - ein ständiger Begleiter der Gattung Darevskia

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 03 Spitak – Dilijan

Armenian highland steppe - armenische Hochlandsteppe

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 03 Spitak – Dilijan

Typical Northern Armenian village - typische Nordarmenische Ortschaft 

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 03 Spitak – Dilijan

Habitat in the Armenian highlangs steppe with a torrent, basalt rocks and meadows - Habitat in der armenischen Hochlandsteppe mit einem Wildbach, Basaltfelsen und Wiesen - Lacerta agilis, Lacerta strigata, Darevskia armeniaca

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 03 Spitak – Dilijan

Traditional farming all over the country - Traditionelle Viehhaltung im ganzen Land

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 03 Spitak – Dilijan

Diverse mountain habitat - nischenreiche Gebirgslandschaft

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 03 Spitak – Dilijan

Lacerta agilis brevicaudata

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 03 Spitak – Dilijan

Lacerta agilis - Sand lizard live in syntopy with Caspian Green lizards - Zauneidechsen leben hier gemeinsam mit Streifensmaragdeidechen

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 03 Spitak – Dilijan

Darevskia armeniaca - parthenogenetic species - parthenogenetische Art

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 03 Spitak – Dilijan

Lacerta strigata - Caspian Green lizard - Streifensmaragdeidechse

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 03 Spitak – Dilijan

Crag martin - Felsenschwalbe

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 03 Spitak – Dilijan

Darevskia dahli - from a cemetry - beobachtet auf einem Friedhof

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 03 Spitak – Dilijan

Darevskia rostombekovi - parthenogenetic species - parthenogenetische Art

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 03 Spitak – Dilijan

Darevskia rostombekovi - is highly endangered, because of its low reproduction rate and fierce competition by its congeners - ist stark gefährdet auf Grund ihrer geringen Reproduktionsrate und ihrer Konkurrenzschwäche

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 03 Spitak – Dilijan

Darevskia rostombekovi

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 03 Spitak – Dilijan

Darevskia dahli - at this location we observed 5 lizard species - an dieser Stelle beobachteten wir 5 Eidechsenarten

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 03 Spitak – Dilijan

Darevskia dahli - all 5 parthenogenetic species occur together at the same place or at least very near to each other - alle 5 parthenogenetische Arten kommen gemeinsam oder in geringer Distanz voneinander vor

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 03 Spitak – Dilijan

Habitat north of Spitak in about 1.850 m elevation - Habitat nördlich von Spitak in etwa 1.850 m Seehöhe

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 03 Spitak – Dilijan

Marine and Rasmik working on Darevskia rostombekovi - Marine und Rasmik arbeiten mit Darevskia rostombekovi

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 03 Spitak – Dilijan

Darevskia unisexualis - the blue spot and the pattern are typical for this easily distiguishable species - der blaue Fleck und das Muster sind typisch für diese leicht zu identifizierende Art

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 03 Spitak – Dilijan

Darevskia rostombekovi - dark metallic gloss is typical for this species - dunkler metallischer Glanz kennzeichnet diese Art

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 03 Spitak – Dilijan

Marine can't believe, what she is holding in her hands - Marine kann nicht glauben, was sie in ihren Händen hält

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 03 Spitak – Dilijan

Parvilacerta parva - female dwarf lizard, this species was observed for the last time in Armenia about 10 years ago - Weibchen, diese Art wurde in Armenien vor etwa 10 Jahren das letzte mal beobachtet

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 03 Spitak – Dilijan

Parvilacerta parva - male, the rediscovery of this species made us all very happy - Männchen, die Wiederentdeckung dieser Art machte uns alle sehr glücklich

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 03 Spitak – Dilijan

Habitat north of Spitak - Habitat nördlich von Spitak - D. rostombekovi, D. dahli, D. unisexualis, L. strigata, P. parva

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 03 Spitak – Dilijan

Coffee break in the Dilijan national park - Kaffeepause im Dilijan Nationalpark

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 03 Spitak – Dilijan

Historic temple in the Dilijan NP - Historischer tempel im Dilijan NP

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 03 Spitak – Dilijan

Coronella austriaca - in a meadow we found three individuals - auf einer Wiese fanden wir drei Exemplare

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 03 Spitak – Dilijan

The group is taking pictures of the smooth snakes - die Gruppe fotografiert die Schlingnattern

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 03 Spitak – Dilijan

Preparation for our thermal adventure - Vorbereitung für unser thermales Abenteuer

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 03 Spitak – Dilijan

Wellness, spa and recreation on its best! - Wellness, Therme und Entspnnung pur!

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 03 Spitak – Dilijan

Moisture proof electrical installation - Elektrische Feuchtrauminstallation

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 03 Spitak – Dilijan

Farnz can't get enough - Franz kriegt nicht genug

 
 
 

Day 4 – 31st of May: Hankavan – Sevan Lake


During the whole morning we searched at natural mountain meadows for Vipera eriwanensis. Unfortunately we couldn’t find this target species, although we (5 of us) spent several hours at the mountain. Only high numbers of Lacerta agilis and some Rana macrocnemis camerani were found. The habitat was excellent and Marine had regularly found 2-3 snakes in recent years with a larger student group. A pity…

 

We now decided to check out the last existing population of Eremias arguta transcaucasica near the Sevan Lake. Marine has taken several measures for the protection of this rare species and is now thinking about a captive breeding program. Immediately under the first stone Franz found two males and so we thought the species to be quite abundant, but it was not! In total we only saw about 5 individuals, one was a juvenile. In the same habitat Bufotes variabilis, Lacerta strigata and an astonishing Natrix natrix were found. We were very happy that this rare species still can be seen and we wish all the best for its survival. A short stop at Hayravank castle above the Sevan Lake brought a numerous population of the colorful Darevskia nairensis. Afterward we drove to Yerevan, where Marine recommended us to take a hostel near the center, which was a good and a reasonable choice for the next few days. At the evening we made a sightseeing tour in the center and we were impressed by the huge Ararat just behind the city on the other side of the border to Turkey.

 

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Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 04 Hankavan – Sevan Lake

Daily route of Day 4 - die Reiseroute des 4. Tages - Hankavan - Sevan - Yerevan

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 04 Hankavan – Sevan Lake

Mountain meadow habitat - Gebirgswiesen - Rana macrocnemis camerani, Lacerta agilis brevicaudata, Vipera eriwanensis - which we didn't find - die wir nicht gefunden haben

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 04 Hankavan – Sevan Lake

Lacerta agilis brevicaudata - males are much greener than the nominate form - Männchen sind viel grüner als jene der Nominatform

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 04 Hankavan – Sevan Lake

Lacerta agilis - youngsters are very rich in contrast with stripes and dots - Jungtiere sind sehr kontrastreich mit Punkten und Streifen gezeichnet

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 04 Hankavan – Sevan Lake

Rana macrocnemis camerani - with its typical dorsal stripe - mit seinem typischen Rückenstreifen

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 04 Hankavan – Sevan Lake

Rana macrocnemis - Portrait

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 04 Hankavan – Sevan Lake

The frogs were found directly along the stream - die Frösche wurden direkt am Bach gefunden

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 04 Hankavan – Sevan Lake

Fantastic natural Alpine scenery - fantastische naturbelassene Gebirgslandschaft

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 04 Hankavan – Sevan Lake

Perfect weather conditions but no trace of a snake - perfekte Wetterbedingungen, aber keine Spur einer Schlange

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 04 Hankavan – Sevan Lake

Lacerta agilis - sand lizard with completely green back - Zauneidechse mit einfärbig grünem Rücken

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 04 Hankavan – Sevan Lake

Lacerta agilis - basking on a rock, all pictures of the lizards were taken in situ - sonnt sich auf einem Felsen, alle Bilder dieser Eidechsen wurden in situ fotografiert

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 04 Hankavan – Sevan Lake

Also no success in shrubby vegetation, so we gave up - auch kein Erfolg in den Büschen, daher gaben wir auf

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 04 Hankavan – Sevan Lake

Graveyard near the Sevan lake - Friedhof nahe des Sevan Sees

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 04 Hankavan – Sevan Lake

Dead volcano in front of the Sevan lake - erloschener Vulkan vor dem Sevan See

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 04 Hankavan – Sevan Lake

Eremias arguta transcaucasica - only occurs here, after all other populations became extinct on the southern part of the lake - kommt nur noch hier vor, nachdem alle anderen Populationen am Südrand des Sevansees erloschen sind

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 04 Hankavan – Sevan Lake

Eremias arguta - This population was founded by I. Darevsky, who translocated lizards from its former area to here because of massive construction activity in their former distribution area - Diese Population wurde von I. Darevsky begründet, der Eidechsen aus ihrem ursprünglichen Verbreitungsgebiet im Süden umgesiedelt hat, da dieses Gebiet durch Bautätigkeit zerstört wurde

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 04 Hankavan – Sevan Lake

Eremias arguta - Transcaucasian steppe runner, on the verge of extinction, Marine is thinking about a captive breeding program - der Transkaukasischer Steppenrenner steht am Rande der Ausrottung, daher denkt Marine über ein Nachzuchtprogramm in Gefangenschaft nach

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 04 Hankavan – Sevan Lake

Natrix natrix persa - a beautiful specimen - ein wunderschönes Exemplar

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 04 Hankavan – Sevan Lake

Natrix natrix - grass snakes feed mainly on the numerous green toads in this area - Ringelnattern ernähren sich hier hauptsächlich von den zahlreichen Wechselkröten

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 04 Hankavan – Sevan Lake

well deserved coffee break - eine wohlverdiente Kaffeepause

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 04 Hankavan – Sevan Lake

Hayvarank castle - die Burg Hayvarank am Sevan See

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 04 Hankavan – Sevan Lake

weasel looking for prey - Mauswiesel auf der Jagd

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 04 Hankavan – Sevan Lake

weasel with captured vole - Mauswiesel mit erbeuteter Wühlmaus

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 04 Hankavan – Sevan Lake

Rock nuthatch - Felsenkleiber

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 04 Hankavan – Sevan Lake

The castle and the surrounding boulders are home of another Darevskia species - Die Burg und die Blöcke sind Lebensraum einer weiteren Darevskia Art

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 04 Hankavan – Sevan Lake

Darevskia nairensis - a member of the D. raddei group - ein Mitglied der D. raddei Gruppe

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 04 Hankavan – Sevan Lake

Darevskia nairensis - adults have nicely colored flanks - Adulte haben schön gezeichnete Flanken

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 04 Hankavan – Sevan Lake

Darevskia nairensis - compared to D. raddei their color is more bluish than greenish - verglichen mit D. raddei ist die Färbung mehr bläulich als grünlich

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 04 Hankavan – Sevan Lake

Sight seeing in the center of Yerevan - Sight Seeing im Zentrum von Yerevan

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 04 Hankavan – Sevan Lake

The central plaza is very modern and endowed with high quality art - der Hauptplatz ist sehr modern gestaltet und mit qualitativ hochwertiger Kunst ausgestattet

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 04 Hankavan – Sevan Lake

The Ararat mountains seem to be so near but the political distance is unfortunately far away - Die Ararat Berge scheinen so nahe zu sein und doch sind sie politisch sehr weit entfernt

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 04 Hankavan – Sevan Lake

The situation in Yerevan was a positive surprise in terms of a modern and young ambitious city - Yerevan als junge moderne und aufstrebende Stadt war eine positive Überraschung für uns

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 04 Hankavan – Sevan Lake

The youth hostel directly in the city center was a perfect starting point for both excursions and sight seeing - Die Jugendherberge direkt im Stadtzentrum war ein perfekter Ausgangspunkt für sowohl für Exkursionen als auch für Sight Seeing

 
 

 

Day 5 – 1st of May: Arailer – Aragats

  

As Marine had to teach at the university, we decided to climb up some mountains for vipers. We left our car at the foothills of the Arailer Mountain and hiked from about 1600m up to about 2000m. The mountain is known to be the home of Vipera erwianensis and Montivipera raddei. On the way we saw Bufotes variabilis, Lacerta media, Darevskia nairensis and Ophisops elegans, which seemed to be much rarer than further south. Richard was our lucky hero, because when he stopped for taking a picture of a Lacerta media, he suddenly spotted a couple of Montivipera raddei lying on shrubs. Both snakes tried to escape but we could catch the female and after a while also the male came back and we could take pictures of both specimens. It was interesting to see the difference of the colors between the brown female and the black male. It was for sure one of the highlights of our trip. Unfortunately again we couldn’t find a single Vipera eriwanensis.

 

After this success we also drove up the highest mountain of Armenia, the volcano Aragats (elevation 4095m). First we visited the Amberd Castle, where Franz spotted a Zamenis hohenackeri, which unfortunately escaped. The road leads up to an elevation of 3200m where still a lot of snow was present.  On about 2800 m we found mating Bufotes and Rana and freshly laid eggs of both species.  

 

 

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Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 05 Arailer – Aragats

Day Nr. 5 - Tag 5 - Arailer - Aragats

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 05 Arailer – Aragats

Arailer mountain - The target species were Vipera eriwanensis and Montivipera raddei - Die Zielarten dieses Tages waren Vipera eriwanensis und Montivipera raddei

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 05 Arailer – Aragats

We hiked up from 1.700 m up to 2.000 m and found - Wir wanderten von 1.700 m auf über 2.000 m hinauf und fanden - Bufotes variabilis, Lacerta media, Ophisops elegans, Darevskia nairensis, Montivipera raddei

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 05 Arailer – Aragats

Lacerta media - male - Männchen

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 05 Arailer – Aragats

Darevskia nairensis - this species can tolerate also drier conditions - diese Art verträgt auch trockenere Bedingungen

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 05 Arailer – Aragats

The Armenian viper can be found in the shrubs and in higher vegetation - die armenischen Bergvipern können in Büschen und höherer Vegetation gefunden werden

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 05 Arailer – Aragats

Ararat - the holy mountain of Armenia - der heilige Berg der Armenier

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 05 Arailer – Aragats

Lacerta media - juvenile - Jungtier

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 05 Arailer – Aragats

Stonechat - Schwarzkehlchen

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 05 Arailer – Aragats

caterpillar - Raupe

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 05 Arailer – Aragats

Montivipera raddei - female - Weibchen

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 05 Arailer – Aragats

We had to catch the vipers for the pictures, because it would be to risky losing them - Für die Fotos mussten wir die Schlangen fangen, da es zu gefährlich gewesen wäre, sie zu verlieren, wenn wir sie nur in situ fotografiert hätten 

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 05 Arailer – Aragats

Montivipera raddei - a very attractive snake - eine sehr hübsche Schlange

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 05 Arailer – Aragats

Montivipera raddei - Portrait

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 05 Arailer – Aragats

Montivipera raddei - male, length about 1 m or more - Männchen mit einem guten Meter Länge 

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 05 Arailer – Aragats

Montivipera raddei - one of the highlights on our tour - einer der Höhepunkte auf unserer Reise

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 05 Arailer – Aragats

Montivipera raddei - the couple was basking together on a shrub, at the first attempt we could only catch the female and the male escaped, but it came back 3 times until we could also catch the him - das Paar sonnte sich auf einem Busch, beim ersten Versuch konnten wir nur das Weibchen fangen, aber das Männchen kam immer wieder zurück bis wir es schließlich auch fangen konnten

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 05 Arailer – Aragats

Montivipera raddei - Portrait

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 05 Arailer – Aragats

Lacerta media - female - Weibchen

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 05 Arailer – Aragats

Our next target: Aragats volcanao - unser nächstes Ziel: der Aragats Vulkan

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 05 Arailer – Aragats

Amberd castle on mount Aragats - Schloss Amberd am Aragats

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 05 Arailer – Aragats

Lunch break - Mittagspause

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 05 Arailer – Aragats

We drove up to 3.200 m - wir fuhren hinauf bis 3.200 m Seehöhe

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 05 Arailer – Aragats

On this elevation there is a meteorological station and a hotel, but it was still closed - hier wird eine meteorologische Station betrieben und ein Hotel, das noch geschlossen hatte

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 05 Arailer – Aragats

Alpine accentor - Alpenbraunelle

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 05 Arailer – Aragats

Winter wonderland

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 05 Arailer – Aragats

Bufotes variabilis - Mating activity, beginning of June - Laichaktivität Anfang Juni

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 05 Arailer – Aragats

Bufotes variabilis - male - Männchen

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 05 Arailer – Aragats

Pond at 2.800 m - Teich auf 2.800 m - Bufotes variabilis, Rana macrocnemis

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 05 Arailer – Aragats

Back in Yerevan, day of the child - Zurück in Jerevan, Tag des Kindes

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 05 Arailer – Aragats

City center of Yerevan - das Stadtzentrum in Jerevan

 
 

 

Day 6 – 2nd of June: Goravan Sands – Khosrov Reserve

 

Marine organized permits for us to enter the Goravan Sands Sanctuary, southeast of Yerevan. It is one of the last sandy habitats, which has not yet completely changed to agricultural use and therefore it is one of the last strongholds for many psammophile species. Our target species were Eremias strauchi, Eremias pleskei, Testudo graeca armeniaca and Phrynocephalus persicus horvathi (which unfortunately we couldn’t find).

 

After getting the permit we entered the area and were a bit surprised that some trucks and cars were driving around and that sand mining was performed at higher elevation. But still there were some nice habitats, but the sun didn’t come out and therefore we had to wait a bit until the lizards became active. First we observed several Eremias strauchi, a beautiful colored lizard, which is still quite abundant in southern Armenia. At about half past 10 also Eremias pleskei appeared on the surface. At the moment Goravan is the only left place for this species in Armenia, in all other previous known locations this species has become extinct. The failure for Phrynocephylus persicus horvathi was worrying, because four people were searching (Christoph was sick) for more than two hours without success. Even though the species is well camouflaged, we also found no tracks. Marine is now thinking about a captive breeding program for this species, which is only known from two more locations in Armenia. We also failed to find Testudo graeca armeniaca, contrary to Testudo graeca ibera. This taxon is very rare with low reproduction rates and it also needs urgent conservation measures. Our next stop was the southern part of the Khosrov reserve, entering from Urtsadzor.

 

The Khosrov reserve is the largest protected area in Armenia with rare species like leopards. Entering is only permitted with permission by the ministry in Yerevan and the local office, which Marine organized for us. She was a great help and a lovely and funny guide, which we really appreciated. It was shortly after midday when the guard opened the gate for us, and so we didn’t expect highlights during this time, because suddenly it became quite warm. A new species for us was Eirenis punctatolineatus, which is the most common snake in the reserve. We found several individuals, of which one was completely without a pattern. Darevskia raddei is the only Darevskia in Armenia, which occupies the dry and warm southern steppe mountains, but here it is mostly found in moist microhabitats. We observed a male, which was tightly focused on predating on the tail of a juvenile and finally the tail was swallowed. Franz found a big Eumeces schneideri, but it escaped before he could take a picture. Although in the reserve, several local people were arround and Marine was not surprised, when we found two killed Pseudopus near a picnic place. Other species were Xerotyphlops vermicularis, Lacerta media, Ophisops elegans, and two dead snakes on the road: Dolichophis schmidti and Malpolon insignitus, which a local woman proudly claimed to be its killer.

 

The acceptance for reptiles is still very low in Armenia. Marine once found a single Rhynchocalamus satunini in the reserve. Khosrov has a fantastic landscape and we should have spent much more time in this reserve, but it was absolutely not on our route, so we drove back to Yerevan to continue our tour in northwestern direction. For sure we must come back in this area, especially to visit Tatev monastery farther southeast.

 

 

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Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 06 Goravan Sands – Khosrov Reserve

Day 6 - Tag 6 - Gorovan Sands - Khosrov Reserve

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 06 Goravan Sands – Khosrov Reserve

Marine organized permits for us for the Goravan Sands sanctuary, in the background the Ararat - Marine organisierte für uns die Berechtigungen, um das Goravan Sands Schutzgebiet betreten zu dürfen, im Hintergrund der Ararat

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 06 Goravan Sands – Khosrov Reserve

Although protected, mining is still ongoing - Die Abbautätigkeit geht trotz Schutzstatus weiter

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 06 Goravan Sands – Khosrov Reserve

Goravan Sands is the last stronghold for several reptiles and insects in Armenia - Goravan Sands ist der letzte Verbreitungspunkt für viele Reptilien und Insekten in Armenien 

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 06 Goravan Sands – Khosrov Reserve

The sandy patches are of enormous importance for psammophile species like Eremias pleskei and Phrynocephalus persicus horvathi - Die sandigen Bereich sind von enormer Bedeutung für psammophile Arten wie Eremias pleskei und Phrynocephalus persicus horvathi

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 06 Goravan Sands – Khosrov Reserve

Eremias strauchi - male, this species occured prior to its congener - Männchen, diese Art tauchte früher auf als sein Verwandter

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 06 Goravan Sands – Khosrov Reserve

Eremias strauchi - inhabits gravel plains as well as sandy substrates - besiedelt sowohl Schotterfelder als auch Sandlinsen 

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 06 Goravan Sands – Khosrov Reserve

Later during the morning, also Eremias pleskei came out, searching for disengaged sand patches - Später am Morgen kamen auch Eremias pleskei heraus und suchten sich unbesetzte Sandlinsen

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 06 Goravan Sands – Khosrov Reserve

Eremias pleskei - critically endangered, occurs only in sandy habitats - vom Aussterben bedroht, besiedelt nur Sandflächen

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 06 Goravan Sands – Khosrov Reserve

Spectacular different locusts occur in high numbers - bemerkenswerte verschiedene Heuschrecken kommen in hoher Zahl vor

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 06 Goravan Sands – Khosrov Reserve

Only a stone's throw away - Ararat - nur einen Steinwurf entfernt

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 06 Goravan Sands – Khosrov Reserve

Gate to the Khosrov Reserve, by far the largest protected area in Armenia - Schranken zum Khosrov Reserve, dem mit Abstand größten Schutzgebiet Armeniens

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 06 Goravan Sands – Khosrov Reserve

Khosrov offers a high diversity of different landscapes - Khosrov beherbergt eine Vielzahl an verschiedenen Landschaftstypen

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 06 Goravan Sands – Khosrov Reserve

Xerotyphlops vermicularis

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 06 Goravan Sands – Khosrov Reserve

Habitat in Khosrov Reserve - Xerotyphlops vermicularis, Paralaudakia caucasia, Eumeces schneideri, Darevskia raddei, Eirenis punctatolineatus, Ophisops elegans, Pelophylax bedriagae, Pseudopus apodus, Dolichophis schmidti, Malpolon insignitus

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 06 Goravan Sands – Khosrov Reserve

Though protected, land use is not completely forbidden - obwohl geschützt, ist doch nicht jegliche Nutzung untersagt

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 06 Goravan Sands – Khosrov Reserve

Eirenis punctatolineatus - a new species for us, very common in Khosrov - eine neue Art für uns, sehr häufig in Khosrov

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 06 Goravan Sands – Khosrov Reserve

Pseudopus apodus - Scheltopusik

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 06 Goravan Sands – Khosrov Reserve

Eirenis punctatolineatus - completely patternless, a rare variant of this snake species - komplett zeichnungslos, eine seltene Morphe dieser Art

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 06 Goravan Sands – Khosrov Reserve

Khosrov Reserve houses a high number of leopards and other big carnivores - Das Khosrov Reserve beherbergt eine hohe Anzahl an Leoparden und anderen großen Raubtieren

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 06 Goravan Sands – Khosrov Reserve

Armenians fear snakes and slay reptiles at any occasion, also Glass lizards - Armenier fürchten Schlangen und erschlagen Reptilien bei jeder Gelegenheit, auch den  Scheltopusik

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 06 Goravan Sands – Khosrov Reserve

Along the river we recognised a high diversity of species - entlang des Flusses beobachteten wir eine hohe Anzahl an Arten

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 06 Goravan Sands – Khosrov Reserve

Darevskia raddei - tolerates very dry and hot climate - toleriert ein sehr heißes und trockenes Klima

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 06 Goravan Sands – Khosrov Reserve

Darevskia raddei - we observed an adult preying on a juveniles tail - wir beobachteten ein Adulttier, das den Schwanz eines Jungtiers abbiss und fraß 

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 06 Goravan Sands – Khosrov Reserve

Malpolon insignitus - male DOR - überfahrenes Männchen

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 06 Goravan Sands – Khosrov Reserve

Yerevan is worth visiting, you can discover lots of secrets - Jerevan ist einen Besuch wert, kulturell kann man einiges entdecken

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 06 Goravan Sands – Khosrov Reserve

If you are not able to walk up the stairs to the city hill, you can also use the escalator inside - Wenn man nicht die vielen Stiegen auf den Hügel im Zentrum hinaufsteigen kann, gibt es auch eine eingebaute Rolltreppe

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 06 Goravan Sands – Khosrov Reserve

Modern art everywhere - moderne Kunst überall

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 06 Goravan Sands – Khosrov Reserve

our last walk through the center - unser letzter Spaziergang durch das Zentrum

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 06 Goravan Sands – Khosrov Reserve

High quality restaurants with German beer - Gut bürgerliche Gasthäuser mit deutschem Bier

 


Day 7 – 3rd of June: Armawir – Gjumri

 

The two other occurrences of Phrynocephalus persicus horvathi are located near Armawir in southwest Armenia. We visited one hilly dry stony place, which is still untroubled by agriculture, but surrounded by intensive farming. This hill was probably one of the best locations during our trip, because we found five snake species within a short time. The second Macrovipera lebetina was found under a stone, while Christoph rescued a Natrix tessellata that was caught in an irrigation canal. The only observed lizard was Eremias strauchi. Two quite big Eryx jaculus and a very beautiful Hemorhois ravergieri were added to the list of records, while a quick Platyceps najadum escaped into a wheat field. After a short side trip to the Turkish border where the river Araz enters the country, we drove northwards to Gjumri. The number of white storks in this area is enormous. On one building 7 nests were counted.

 

After leaving the southern Araz plain the landscape immediately changed from a semi desert to a humid steppe. Wejust stopped once near an artificial lake on the Turkish border and only found Lacerta strigata, one of the most common lizards in the country. We arrived in Gjumri, the 2nd largest city in Armenia and checked in at the nice hotel Berlin, which cooperates with German health institutions.

 

Images to this section
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Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 07 Armawir – Gjumri

Day 7 - Tag 7 - Yerevan - Armawir - Gjumri

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 07 Armawir – Gjumri

Republic square, History Museum

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 07 Armawir – Gjumri

Republic square, Marriot Hotel

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 07 Armawir – Gjumri

what's up? - Was ist los?

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 07 Armawir – Gjumri

100 years after the Armenian genocide people remember this cruel time - Der Genozid an dem armenischen Volk jährt sich zum 100 sten mal

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 07 Armawir – Gjumri

Nuclear power station Mezamor, built according to Chernobyl, in the middle of a seismic unstable region - Kernkraftwerk Mezamor in Chernobyl Bauweise, mitten in einem seismisch instabilen Gebiet

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 07 Armawir – Gjumri

Natural habitat near Armawir - natürliches Habitat nahe Armawir - Bufotes variabilis, Pelophylax bedriagae, Eremias strauchi, Natrix tessellata, Eryx jaculus, Platyceps najadum, Hemorhois ravergieri, Macrovipera lebetina 

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 07 Armawir – Gjumri

Scorpion feeding on Eremias strauchi - Skorpion frisst Eremias strauchi

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 07 Armawir – Gjumri

Macrovipera lebetina

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 07 Armawir – Gjumri

Macrovipera lebetina obtusa - found under a stone - unter einem Stein gefunden

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 07 Armawir – Gjumri

Shelter of Macrovipera lebetina - Versteck der Levanteotter

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 07 Armawir – Gjumri

Natrix tessellata - this dice snake was rescued out of a canal - diese Würfelnatter wurde aus einem Bewässerungskanal gerettet

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 07 Armawir – Gjumri

Flat habitats without agricultural use became rare in the intensive used lowland of the Araz - Flache Habitate ohne landwirtschaftliche Nutzung sind selten geworden im dicht besiedelten Araz Tiefland

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 07 Armawir – Gjumri

Camel spider - Solifuge

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 07 Armawir – Gjumri

Eremias strauchi male

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 07 Armawir – Gjumri

Eremias strauchi - still distributed in southern Armenia - noch recht verbreitet in Südarmenien

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 07 Armawir – Gjumri

Eremias strauchi female

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 07 Armawir – Gjumri

Fight between two Eremias strauchi males - Kampf zwischen zwei Eremias strauchi Männchen

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 07 Armawir – Gjumri

Eryx jaculus familiaris - male - Männchen

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 07 Armawir – Gjumri

Hemorhois ravergieri - always a highlight - immer ein Highlight

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 07 Armawir – Gjumri

Hemorhois ravergieri - was found under a big stone - wurde unter einem großen Stein gefunden

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 07 Armawir – Gjumri

Hemorhois ravergieri - Portrait

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 07 Armawir – Gjumri

Curious local - Neugieriger Einheimischer

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 07 Armawir – Gjumri

Eryx jaculus familiaris - female - Weibchen

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 07 Armawir – Gjumri

Eryx jaculus - The sand boa is a constant companion on our excursions - Sandboas sind treue Begleiter auf unseren Exkursionen  

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 07 Armawir – Gjumri

Women at field work - Frauen bei der Feldarbeit

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 07 Armawir – Gjumri

Long legged buzzard - Adlerbussard

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 07 Armawir – Gjumri

The river Araz forms the Turkish border - Der Araz Fluss bildet die Grenze zur Türkei

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 07 Armawir – Gjumri

Stork - Storch

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 07 Armawir – Gjumri

Finsch's Wheatear - Felsensteinschmätzer

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 07 Armawir – Gjumri

Hoopoe - Wiedehopf

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 07 Armawir – Gjumri

Lada tuning

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 07 Armawir – Gjumri

Small village in north western Armenia - Dorf in Norwestarmenien 

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 07 Armawir – Gjumri

Maybe a young herpetologist is growing up - vielleicht wächst hier ein junger Herpetologe heran

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 07 Armawir – Gjumri

Lacerta strigata - male - Männchen

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 07 Armawir – Gjumri

Gjumri - center - Zentrum

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 07 Armawir – Gjumri

Townhall by day - Rathaus bei Tag

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 07 Armawir – Gjumri

Townhall after dinner and rain - Rathaus nach dem Abendessen und Regen

 


Day 8 – 4th of June: Dschawacheti Highlands – Borjomi

 

The next day was dedicated to explore the Dschawacheti highlands in Georgia. After one hour at the border we could finally enter Georgia. We wanted to visit the area near the border, where Vipera darevskii was found in Georgia, but unfortunately there was a storm blowing over the highland and it was clear, that we wouldn’t climb up to 2500m to search this species. So we limited our search to some stone heaps near the lake Madatapa, where we found many beautiful Darevskia valentini and Darevskia armeniaca, protected from the wind between the blocks. Darevskia valentini seems to be the most colorful Darevskia and beside Darevskia rudis the largest one. In this quite high habitat in 2200m Darevskia valentini was the dominant species, whereas Darevskia armeniaca was in the majority under 2000m elevation near the lake Khanjali, a location for Vipera eriwanensis, which we couldn’t find. Beside the lizards we saw Rana macrocnemis and Bufotes variabilis as well as Natrix natrix.

 

We drove down from the highland via Achalkalaki towards Khertvisi along the upper Kura river to the Borjomi canyon, where we stopped in front of the Kvabishkevi entrance into the National Park. Just before the sun went down we checked out the dry southern rock slopes for Darevskia rudis macromaculata, whereas Darevskia parvula adjarica was present in the moist glades of the forest. In the evening we tried to get a permit for the Borjomi-Kharaghauli National Park, but it was already closed. We checked in to a very modern and nice hotel where we stayed for the next days.

 

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Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 08 Dschawacheti Highlands – Borjomi

Day 8 - Tag 8 - Dschwacheti - Borjomi

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 08 Dschawacheti Highlands – Borjomi

Road to the Georgian border - Straße zur georgischen Grenze

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 08 Dschawacheti Highlands – Borjomi

Javakheti ridge, home of Vipera darevskii - Javakheti Berge, Heimat von Vipera darevskii

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 08 Dschawacheti Highlands – Borjomi

Goose, possible lunch - Gans, potenzielles Mittagessen

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 08 Dschawacheti Highlands – Borjomi

Armenian border - Armenische Grenze

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 08 Dschawacheti Highlands – Borjomi

Georgian border - Georgische Grenze

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 08 Dschawacheti Highlands – Borjomi

Lake Madatapa, Javakheti - Madatapa See, Dschawachetien

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 08 Dschawacheti Highlands – Borjomi

Cattle breeding, dinner - Viehzucht, Abendessen

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 08 Dschawacheti Highlands – Borjomi

Madatapa lake and mountain, the only known spot for Vipera darevskii in Georgia - Madatapa See und Berg, der einzige bekannte Fundort von Vipera darevskii in Georgien

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 08 Dschawacheti Highlands – Borjomi

Boulders near Madatapa lake - Steinblöcke am Madatapa See - Darevskia valentini, Darevskia armeniaca, Natrix natrix

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 08 Dschawacheti Highlands – Borjomi

Darevskia armeniaca

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 08 Dschawacheti Highlands – Borjomi

Darevskia valentini - male - Männchen

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 08 Dschawacheti Highlands – Borjomi

Darevskia armeniaca

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 08 Dschawacheti Highlands – Borjomi

Darevskia valentini & Darevskia armeniaca - sometimes foult matings happen and triploid sterile male hybrids develop - manchmal kommt es zu Fehlpaarungen, wodurch männliche triploide sterile Hybriden entstehen

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 08 Dschawacheti Highlands – Borjomi

Darevskia valentini

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 08 Dschawacheti Highlands – Borjomi

Fault mating - Fehlpaarung

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 08 Dschawacheti Highlands – Borjomi

Darevskia armeniaca

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 08 Dschawacheti Highlands – Borjomi

Common rock thrush - Steinrötel

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 08 Dschawacheti Highlands – Borjomi

Farms in the Djawacheti highlands - Bauernhöfe auf dem Djawacheti Hochland

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 08 Dschawacheti Highlands – Borjomi

Some houses are insulated by soil, we wonder how the roof can stand the loads of the soil and the snow - Manche Häuser wurden mit Erde isoliert, wie können die Dächer die Auflast von dem Material und Schnee aushalten?

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 08 Dschawacheti Highlands – Borjomi

Slope near the Khanjali lake, the only known spot for Vipera eriwanensis in Georgia - Hang nahe dem Khanjali See, dem einzigen bekannten Fundpunkt von Vipera eriwanensis in Georgien

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 08 Dschawacheti Highlands – Borjomi

Rana macrocnemyx - which looks like a Pelophylax bedriagae - der wie ein Wasserfrosch aussieht

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 08 Dschawacheti Highlands – Borjomi

Darevskia aremeniaca - much more common on lower elevation than D. valentini - viel häufiger als D. valentini in tieferen Lagen

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 08 Dschawacheti Highlands – Borjomi

Khanjali lake - D. armeniaca, D. valentini, R. macrocnemis, B. variabilis

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 08 Dschawacheti Highlands – Borjomi

Rana macrocnemis camerani

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 08 Dschawacheti Highlands – Borjomi

Darevskia valentini

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 08 Dschawacheti Highlands – Borjomi

Rana macrocnemis camerani

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 08 Dschawacheti Highlands – Borjomi

Natrix tessellata

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 08 Dschawacheti Highlands – Borjomi

Kura valley - Kuratal

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 08 Dschawacheti Highlands – Borjomi

Darevskia parvula adjarica

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 08 Dschawacheti Highlands – Borjomi

Dry slope in the Kura valley - Trockener Hang im Kuratal - D. parvula adjarica, D. rudis macromaculata, L. media

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 08 Dschawacheti Highlands – Borjomi

Darevskia rudis macromaculata

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 08 Dschawacheti Highlands – Borjomi

Darevskia rudis macromaculata - in its typical habitat, rock cracks - in seinem Lebensraum, Felsspalten

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 08 Dschawacheti Highlands – Borjomi

Along the dry cracks in the rocks we found many D. rudis macromaculata, while only few 100 m away in the moist valley we found D. rudis obscura, (sub)species? - Entlang der trockenen Felsspalten fanden wir viele D. rudis macromaculata, während im nahen feuchten Talboden D. rudis obscura vorkommt, (Unter)art? 

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 08 Dschawacheti Highlands – Borjomi

Darevskia rudis macromaculata

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 08 Dschawacheti Highlands – Borjomi

Darevskia rudis - Portrait

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 08 Dschawacheti Highlands – Borjomi

Jaunty children in Borjomi - unbeschwerte Kinder in Borjomi

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 08 Dschawacheti Highlands – Borjomi

Borjomi

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 08 Dschawacheti Highlands – Borjomi

Road market sale - Straßenverkauf

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 08 Dschawacheti Highlands – Borjomi

fresh fruits - frische Früchte

 

Day 9 – 5th of June: Kvabishkhevi – Nedzvi Reserve
 
On the next day we entered the NP office on time, but we had to wait, because the manager was late. We used the time to inspect the exhibition. On a board where amphibians are listed we found the chapter about Mertensiella and a picture of Salamandra salamandra was placed instead. However, the Salamandra picture was stolen, it wastaken by Gerald and it was presented some years ago for an exhibition in Austria for another museum! We found some more mistakes and recommended a review of the shown text.  At the end we received our permit for a small donation and we drove to the entrance of Kvabishkhevi and entered the National Park, where we already knew some good spots for Vipera ammodytes transcaucasiana. First we discovered some Anguis colchica and after a short time Franz found a nice male horned viper in its typical habitat. After a while Thomas found a large pregnant female viper lying in the sun. Further up the valley Darevskia derjugini, Natrix natrix, Rana macrocnemis and Pelophylax bedriagae were seen. During lunch it started to rain, while we entered Banishkevi valley, so we had to stop and made a nip in our hotel.

 

In the evening we started our well planned night excursion into another reserve, east of Borjomi. It is the easternmost range for Mertensiella caucasica and also Pelodytes caucasicus is occurring there. The reserve is managed by the NP office in Borjomi, although they officially don’t belong together. When we entered the reserve it was still bright, but the officer was not in his hut. It was an endless walk up the mountain road and suddenly it became dark just when we received a point, where we had to cross the river. By chance the officer of the reserve was coming down and asked us for our permit. He believed we must be crazy but after a discussion (nobody understood each other), we could pass. By chance we saw that he had crossed the torrent by a tree trunk lying 2 m above the stream and it was rather an adventure to cross this torrent during darkness. Suddenly many amphibians occurred, because it still was the main breeding season for Bufo verrucosissimus, which was the most common species by far. But also many Rana macrocnemis, Bufotes variabilis, Hyla orientalis schelkownikowi and huge Pelophylax bedriagae were seen. In some ponds we found Ommatotriton ophryticus, but unfortunately we didn’t expect this species, so we couldn’t take good pictures without a cuvette. Once or twice we heard Pelodytes, but we didn’t find adult specimens, only tadpoles from the last year. We assume that Pelodytes starts its breeding when the main Bufo breeding has ended. Maybe this year the whole season was later than in other years. We saw two active Natrix at night, one predating for Pelodytes tadpoles, one for the newts.

 

After more than three hours walking we reached the dedicated area, supposedly a perfect spot for Mertensiella and it really looked perfect but there were no salamanders! It was an exciting but also exhausting night with perfect observations so far, but the highlights were missing. When we already went back and nobody expected a surprise suddenly Richard found an adult Mertensiella crossing the road just in front of him. Relieved and happy we came back to our car after 6 hours of intense mountain walking. We all slept well…
 
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Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 09 Kvabishkhevi – Nedzvi Reserve

Day 9 - Kvabishkhevi - Nedzvi Reserve

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 09 Kvabishkhevi – Nedzvi Reserve

Borjomi Canyon

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 09 Kvabishkhevi – Nedzvi Reserve

Salamandra starring as Mertensiella, picture by Gerald Ochsenhofer - Salamandra in der Rolle als Mertensiella, Foto von Gerald Ochsenhofer

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 09 Kvabishkhevi – Nedzvi Reserve

NP entrance of Kvabishkevi, well known to us - Eingang in den NP bei Kvabishkevi, ist uns gut bekannt 

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 09 Kvabishkhevi – Nedzvi Reserve

Anguis colchica

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 09 Kvabishkhevi – Nedzvi Reserve

Vipera ammodytes transcaucasiana - male - Männchen

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 09 Kvabishkhevi – Nedzvi Reserve

Vipera ammodytes - Portrait

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 09 Kvabishkhevi – Nedzvi Reserve

Vipera ammodytes transcaucasiana - according to Ursenbacher et. al 2007 it is a clear subspecies of ammodytes, no seperate species - Ursenbacher et al. 2007 folgend handelt es sich klar um eine Unterart von ammodytes

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 09 Kvabishkhevi – Nedzvi Reserve

Vipera ammodytes transcaucasiana

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 09 Kvabishkhevi – Nedzvi Reserve

Habitat - V. ammodytes, A. colchica, D. derjugini, D. parvula

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 09 Kvabishkhevi – Nedzvi Reserve

Vipera ammodytes transcaucasiana - female - Weibchen

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 09 Kvabishkhevi – Nedzvi Reserve

Vipera ammodytes transcaucasiana - Portrait

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 09 Kvabishkhevi – Nedzvi Reserve

Habitat - Vipera ammodytes

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 09 Kvabishkhevi – Nedzvi Reserve

Darevskia derjugini derjugini

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 09 Kvabishkhevi – Nedzvi Reserve

Rock in the Kvabishkevi valley - Felsen im Kvabishkevi Tal

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 09 Kvabishkhevi – Nedzvi Reserve

Darevskia rudis macromaculata

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 09 Kvabishkhevi – Nedzvi Reserve

Darevskia rudis macromaculata

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 09 Kvabishkhevi – Nedzvi Reserve

Habitat - D. rudis macromaculata

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 09 Kvabishkhevi – Nedzvi Reserve

Swallowtail - Schwalbenschwanz

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 09 Kvabishkhevi – Nedzvi Reserve

Swallowtail - Schwalbenschwanz

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 09 Kvabishkhevi – Nedzvi Reserve

Chitakhevi

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 09 Kvabishkhevi – Nedzvi Reserve

The Green Monastery - das grüne Kloster - Chitakhevi

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 09 Kvabishkhevi – Nedzvi Reserve

Mertensiella searchers? - Mertensiella Sucher?

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 09 Kvabishkhevi – Nedzvi Reserve

Borjomi

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 09 Kvabishkhevi – Nedzvi Reserve

Ommatotriton ophryticus - female - Weibchen

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 09 Kvabishkhevi – Nedzvi Reserve

Dangerous crossing of a torrent at night - gefährliches Überqueren eines Wildbaches bei Nacht

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 09 Kvabishkhevi – Nedzvi Reserve

Bufo verucosissimus - male - Männchen

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 09 Kvabishkhevi – Nedzvi Reserve

Hyla orientalis schelkownikowi

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 09 Kvabishkhevi – Nedzvi Reserve

Bufo verucosissimus

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 09 Kvabishkhevi – Nedzvi Reserve

Bufo verucosissimus - couple - Paar

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 09 Kvabishkhevi – Nedzvi Reserve

Natrix natrix - hunting during the night - in der Nacht auf der Jagd

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 09 Kvabishkhevi – Nedzvi Reserve

Hyla orientalis

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 09 Kvabishkhevi – Nedzvi Reserve

Ommatotriton ophryticus - male - Männchen

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 09 Kvabishkhevi – Nedzvi Reserve

Mertensiella caucasica

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 09 Kvabishkhevi – Nedzvi Reserve

Mertensiella caucasica

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 09 Kvabishkhevi – Nedzvi Reserve

Mertensiella caucasica

 

Day 10 – 6th of June: Banishkhevi – Gori – Stepanzminda

 

After a short night we decided to make our way to the High Caucasus. But first again, we entered the Banishkevi valley for the still missing Darevskia mixta. Although Darevskia rudis obscura was there in higher numbers, we also found some Darevskia mixta not far from the entrance of the National Park. Coronella austriaca was again a companion of the lizards.
 
After this short stop we drove to Gori – home of Stalin – which is on the way to the High Caucasus and made a short sightseeing stop. The birthplace of the son of a shoemaker is now placed in an assembly hall and the surroundings are changed to a park, which is now the center of Gori. Several monuments show the local value of this cruel man, who was the only Grusinian, who ever ruled the Soviet empire.
 
On our way up we passed the old capital Mtskheta, where the military road towards Russia starts. This road is the most important transportation route in north – south direction and accordingly it is full of trucks from Russia, Iran and several other surrounding countries. On the way you can see some sights, as Chinti tower, Ananuri castle or the touristy village of Gudauri, which is famous for helicopter skiing, and therefore it looks like an alpine tourist village, abandoned during the summer time. During our journey the weather became worse and it started to rain. We made a big mistake not to check the weather forecast before we started and got punished for that. After crossing the Cross Pass we drove along the river Terek down to the city Stepanzminda, better known by the old and used name Kasbegi under the massive Kasbek, the third highest peak in Georgia with an elevation of 5047m. When we finally reached our hotel after a drive between many trucks and police controls it was pouring down and no one thought about searching for reptiles. We knew good spots for both vipers, Vipera dinniki and Vipera lotievi at the northern side of the Caucasus ridge, whereas the distribution in many areas south of the ridge is questionable. In the afternoon we drove up to the Trinity Church, which was embedded in clouds and also the peak of Kasbek was not visible. The road up to the church was like a streambed. Only during a short period in the night we could see the peak and afterwards it started to rain again. The weather forecast for the northern side of the ridge was rather bad and so we decided to drive back. 

 

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Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 10 Banishkhevi – Gori – Stepanzminda

Day 10 - Tag 10 Banishkhevi - Gori - Stepanzminda

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 10 Banishkhevi – Gori – Stepanzminda

Ruin in Banishkhevi, the valley of the lizards - Ruine in Banishkhevi, dem Tal der Eidechsen

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 10 Banishkhevi – Gori – Stepanzminda

Darevskia rudis obscura

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 10 Banishkhevi – Gori – Stepanzminda

Darevskia rudis obscura

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 10 Banishkhevi – Gori – Stepanzminda

Darevskia mixta

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 10 Banishkhevi – Gori – Stepanzminda

Darevskia mixta

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 10 Banishkhevi – Gori – Stepanzminda

Darevskia rudis vs. Darevskia mixta

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 10 Banishkhevi – Gori – Stepanzminda

Darevskia rudis obscura

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 10 Banishkhevi – Gori – Stepanzminda

Darevskia mixta - detail of head - Kopfdetail

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 10 Banishkhevi – Gori – Stepanzminda

Darevskia mixta - lateral scales - Flankenbeschuppung

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 10 Banishkhevi – Gori – Stepanzminda

Coronella austriaca - rich food source - reichhaltiges Futterangebot

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 10 Banishkhevi – Gori – Stepanzminda

Coronella austriaca

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 10 Banishkhevi – Gori – Stepanzminda

Josef Stalin - the Georgian who ruled the Russians - der Georgier, der die Russen regiert hat

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 10 Banishkhevi – Gori – Stepanzminda

Stalins parental home, now a museum in the middle of the Gori central park - Stalins Vaterhaus ist jetzt ein Museum im Stadtpark von Gori

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 10 Banishkhevi – Gori – Stepanzminda

Stalin's private train - Stalins Privatwaggon

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 10 Banishkhevi – Gori – Stepanzminda

Georgian beer tastes well - Georgisches Bier schmeckt gut

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 10 Banishkhevi – Gori – Stepanzminda

On the way to the high Caucasus - auf dem Weg in den großen Kaukasus

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 10 Banishkhevi – Gori – Stepanzminda

Ananuri

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 10 Banishkhevi – Gori – Stepanzminda

Chapel near Gudauri - Kapelle in der Nähe von Gudauri

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 10 Banishkhevi – Gori – Stepanzminda

Valley to be explored on our way back - dieses Tal wird auf dem Rückweg erforscht

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 10 Banishkhevi – Gori – Stepanzminda

Ski resort Gudauri - Schigebiet Gudauri

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 10 Banishkhevi – Gori – Stepanzminda

Sheep farming - Schafzucht

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 10 Banishkhevi – Gori – Stepanzminda

Street sale - Straßenverkauf

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 10 Banishkhevi – Gori – Stepanzminda

Weather becomes worse - Wetter wird schlechter

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 10 Banishkhevi – Gori – Stepanzminda

North side of the Caucasus ridge - Nordseite des Kaukasushauptkammes

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 10 Banishkhevi – Gori – Stepanzminda

Heavy rain at the arrival in Kasbegi - starker Regen bei unserer Ankunft in Kasbegi

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 10 Banishkhevi – Gori – Stepanzminda

Kasbegi - Stepanzmida

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 10 Banishkhevi – Gori – Stepanzminda

Bad road up to the trinity church - schlechte Straße hinauf zur Dreifaltigkeitskirche

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 10 Banishkhevi – Gori – Stepanzminda

Trinity church - Dreifaltigkeitskirche

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 10 Banishkhevi – Gori – Stepanzminda

Kasbek in clouds - Kasbek in den Wolken

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 10 Banishkhevi – Gori – Stepanzminda

no chance for reptiles - keine Aussicht auf Reptilien

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 10 Banishkhevi – Gori – Stepanzminda

During the night we caught a short view of the Kasbek - während der Nacht erhaschten wir einen kurzen Blick auf den Kasbek

 

Day 11 – 7th of June: – Southern High Caucasus

 

The morning was still very rainy in Kasbegi but as soon as we reached the Cross Pass the sun came out and the weather changed completely. We entered the valley below Gudauri, which looked very promising, also for vipers. Darevskia caucasica populates talus in the valleys more than rocks. It is an attractive green lizard, which can look very variable and sometimes has a middle stripe. They occur only down to about Passanauri and lower altitudes are inhabited by other congeners. Other species in this highland valley were Anguis colchica and Rana macrocnemis. No vipers were found. In Ananuri Darevskia rudis chechenica is the dominating rock lizard, also a Coronella was present.

 

In the hilly Caucasus foreland we stopped once for Darevskia praticola, Darevskia derjugini orlowae and Lacerta agilis ioriensis, which we all found during our last trip there. This time we couldn’t find the latter species and it seemed that also the number of Darevskia praticola has decreased. Darevskia praticola inhabits the meadows, whereas Darevskia derjugini live on the edge of the forests. Last time we could make a very good picture of a corncrake, this time it was a wryneck, which crossed our way. After this detour we drove in eastern direction and took an old style accommodation in Sagaredscho as a basis for the exploration of the eastern steppe in the Kacheti region, where we started our tour.

 

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Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 11 Southern High Caucasus

Day 11 - Southern Caucasus slope & Caucasus outland - Tag 11 - Südlicher Kaukasusabhang & Kaukasusvorland

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 11 Southern High Caucasus

Still bad weather and heavy traffic on the North side of the Caucasus military road - Noch immer schlechtes Wetter und Lastverkehr auf der nördlichen Seite der Kaukasusheeresstraße

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 11 Southern High Caucasus

Slalom on the road - Slalom auf der Straße

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 11 Southern High Caucasus

Miserable road quality - Miserable Straßenqualität

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 11 Southern High Caucasus

At the ridge the weather suddenly changed - auf dem Kamm änderte sich plötzlich das Wetter

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 11 Southern High Caucasus

Blue sky, snow capped mountains - blauer Himmel, schneebedeckte Gipfel

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 11 Southern High Caucasus

Our next stop: Aragvi gorge - unser nächster Punkt - Aragvi Schlucht

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 11 Southern High Caucasus

sounds familiar - klingt vertraut

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 11 Southern High Caucasus

Gudauri hotel

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 11 Southern High Caucasus

Upper Aragvi river - Oberlauf des Aragvi

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 11 Southern High Caucasus

Darevskia caucasica

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 11 Southern High Caucasus

Stone avalanche - Geröllhalde - Darevskia caucasica, Anguis colchica, Rana macrocnemis

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 11 Southern High Caucasus

Darevskia caucasica

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 11 Southern High Caucasus

searching for vipers was in vain - die Suche nach Vipern war umsonst

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 11 Southern High Caucasus

Anguis colchica - with blue dots - mit blauen Punkten

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 11 Southern High Caucasus

Darevskia caucasica

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 11 Southern High Caucasus

Good looking habitat - gut aussehender Lebensraum

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 11 Southern High Caucasus

Rhododendron luteum

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 11 Southern High Caucasus

Aragvi

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 11 Southern High Caucasus

Darevskia rudis chechenica - Ananuri

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 11 Southern High Caucasus

Darevskia rudis chechenica

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 11 Southern High Caucasus

Darevskia rudis chechenica

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 11 Southern High Caucasus

Darevskia rudis chechenica

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 11 Southern High Caucasus

Darevskia rudis chechenica

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 11 Southern High Caucasus

Darevskia rudis chechenica

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 11 Southern High Caucasus

Common redstart - Gartenrotschwanz

Darevskia rudis chechenica

Darevskia rudis chechenica 

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 11 Southern High Caucasus

Coronella austriaca - what else?

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 11 Southern High Caucasus

Strange monument - seltsames Denkmal

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 11 Southern High Caucasus

Darevskia praticola

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 11 Southern High Caucasus

Wryneck - Wendehals

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 11 Southern High Caucasus

Darevskia derjugini orlowae

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 11 Southern High Caucasus

Darevskia derjugini orlowae

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 11 Southern High Caucasus

Darevskia derjugini orlowae

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 11 Southern High Caucasus

Darevskia derjugini orlowae

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 11 Southern High Caucasus

Tbilissi North - Nordtiflis

 

Day 12 – 8th of June: – Eastern Kacheti Steppe – Alazani Lowland

 

The famous Vashlovani NP was too far away so we confined our search to the area of Dedospliszkaro. Unfortunately the landscape is used for intensive farming and only around some hills natural habitats are left. We found the typical steppe reptiles like Lacerta strigata, Lacerta media, Eirenis modestus, Pseudopus apodus, Paralaudakia caucasia and Testudo graeca. The highlight was an adult Dolichophis schmidti, which was the first living specimen during this trip, while we had found several dead on the road up to now.

  

We made our way back down to the Alazani River, which forms the border to Azerbaijan. Near the river it was nearly impossible to search because of mosquitos. On our way we observed our first and only Emys orbicularis beside several Mauremys caspica. The road along the Alazani was more like a tractor track than a street and it lasted a long time to come back. From Sagaredscho we made our way down to David Gareja, which is by far our favorite steppe area. At the Lori River we observed Natrix tessellata, Pelophylax bedriagae, Bufotes variabilis and Lacerta strigata. Further south we stopped once more at an Acacia forest, where we had seen a dead Elaphe sauromates on the road on our first day. This time we found an Elaphe exhuvie, but again no living specimen. The main prey for this snake beside mice must be Lacerta strigata, which occurs in high numbers as well as birds, nesting in the trees. A dead golden jackal was lying on the road near Rustavi, where we came back at night for Hyla savignyi. The last days we slept in a motel on the main road to Armenia.

 

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Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 12 Eastern Kacheti Steppe – Alazani Lowland

Day 12: Eastern Kacheti steppe - Alazani 

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 12 Eastern Kacheti Steppe – Alazani Lowland

Old style hotel Kacheti - altmodisches Hotel in Kachetien

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 12 Eastern Kacheti Steppe – Alazani Lowland

Inside the hotel, the only one without Wifi - im Hotel, dem einzigen ohne Wlan

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 12 Eastern Kacheti Steppe – Alazani Lowland

Rose starlings - Rosenstare

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 12 Eastern Kacheti Steppe – Alazani Lowland

Eirenis modestus modestus

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 12 Eastern Kacheti Steppe – Alazani Lowland

Most of the Eirenis are found like this, but few are also active moving - Die meisten Eirenis werden so gefunden, manche sind aber auch unterwegs anzutreffen

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 12 Eastern Kacheti Steppe – Alazani Lowland

Eastern Kacheti steppe - Ostkachetische Steppenlandschaft

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 12 Eastern Kacheti Steppe – Alazani Lowland

Paralaudakia caucasia

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 12 Eastern Kacheti Steppe – Alazani Lowland

Paralaudakia caucasia

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 12 Eastern Kacheti Steppe – Alazani Lowland

Paralaudakia caucasia - Portrait

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 12 Eastern Kacheti Steppe – Alazani Lowland

Lacerta strigata

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 12 Eastern Kacheti Steppe – Alazani Lowland

Dolichophis schmidti

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 12 Eastern Kacheti Steppe – Alazani Lowland

Dolichophis schmidti - Portrait

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 12 Eastern Kacheti Steppe – Alazani Lowland

Alazani lowland, border to Azerbaijan - Alazani Tiefland, Grenze zu Aserbaidschan

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 12 Eastern Kacheti Steppe – Alazani Lowland

Irrigitation canal - Bewässerungskanal

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 12 Eastern Kacheti Steppe – Alazani Lowland

Emys orbicularis

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 12 Eastern Kacheti Steppe – Alazani Lowland

European roller - Blauracke

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 12 Eastern Kacheti Steppe – Alazani Lowland

Public transport - öffentliches Verkehrsmittel

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 12 Eastern Kacheti Steppe – Alazani Lowland

Lacerta strigata

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 12 Eastern Kacheti Steppe – Alazani Lowland

Natrix tessellata

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 12 Eastern Kacheti Steppe – Alazani Lowland

Iori

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 12 Eastern Kacheti Steppe – Alazani Lowland

White wagtail - Bachstelze

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 12 Eastern Kacheti Steppe – Alazani Lowland

Lacerta strigata

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 12 Eastern Kacheti Steppe – Alazani Lowland

Udabno hostel was left alone - das Udabno Hostel war verlassen

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 12 Eastern Kacheti Steppe – Alazani Lowland

Back in our favourite steppe, Davit Gareji - zurück in unserer Lieblingssteppe, Davit Gareji

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 12 Eastern Kacheti Steppe – Alazani Lowland

Golden jackal, run over - Goldschakal, überfahren

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 12 Eastern Kacheti Steppe – Alazani Lowland

Dinner in a booth - Abendessen im Separee

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 12 Eastern Kacheti Steppe – Alazani Lowland

Hyla savignyi

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 12 Eastern Kacheti Steppe – Alazani Lowland

Hyla savignyi

 

Day 13 – 9th of June: – Southern Kacheti Steppe – Rustawi

 

On our last full day we went back to the area of our first day, but not as far as David Gareja, but further North. We checked out so far unexplored valleys in our favorite steppe landscape, because some species were still missing. Beside the common species we found Eirenis collaris and then finally also some Eremias velox caucasia. One female was observed while coming out of its egg burrow. In a lake many Mauremys caspica with blue eyes were seen. During midday it got really hot and some tortoises used a dug shelter to protect themselves from the sun. The highlight of this last full day was the record of a Telescopus fallax iberus, found in a small ruinous herder hut under a stone. The hills near Rustawi weren’t that spectacular but we still made some interesting observations. Mostly Testudo including juveniles and Lacerta strigata were found and for the first time we saw a mating Scheltopusik couple. The last record of the day was a big Siberian Tarantula. 

 

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Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 13 Southern Kacheti Steppe – Rustawi

Day 13 - Tag 13 - Davit Gareji - Rustawi

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 13 Southern Kacheti Steppe – Rustawi

Whiskered tern in front of the industrial city of Rustawi - Weißbart-Seeschwalbe, im Hintergrund die Industrieanlagen von Rustawi

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 13 Southern Kacheti Steppe – Rustawi

High density of Mauremys caspica - Hohe Dichte an Mauremys caspica

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 13 Southern Kacheti Steppe – Rustawi

Mauremys caspica

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 13 Southern Kacheti Steppe – Rustawi

Mauremys caspica

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 13 Southern Kacheti Steppe – Rustawi

Little owl - Steinkauz

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 13 Southern Kacheti Steppe – Rustawi

Honey buzzard - Wespenbussard

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 13 Southern Kacheti Steppe – Rustawi

The steppe is now drier than 10 days before - die Steppe ist jetzt trockener als vor 10 Tagen

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 13 Southern Kacheti Steppe – Rustawi

Galeodes - camel spider - Walzenspinne

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 13 Southern Kacheti Steppe – Rustawi

Paralaudakia caucasia

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 13 Southern Kacheti Steppe – Rustawi

Eremias velox caucasia - female - Weibchen

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 13 Southern Kacheti Steppe – Rustawi

Diverse steppe habitat - vielfältiges Steppenhabitat

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 13 Southern Kacheti Steppe – Rustawi

Hummingbird moth - Taubenschwänzchen

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 13 Southern Kacheti Steppe – Rustawi

Herpers heaven - Ein Paradies für Herpetologen

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 13 Southern Kacheti Steppe – Rustawi

Eremias velox - male - Männchen

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 13 Southern Kacheti Steppe – Rustawi

Lake in the steppe - See in der Steppe

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 13 Southern Kacheti Steppe – Rustawi

Mauremys caspica - with blue iris - mit blauer Iris

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 13 Southern Kacheti Steppe – Rustawi

Climbing Agama - Kletternde Agame

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 13 Southern Kacheti Steppe – Rustawi

Testudo graeca - parking in the garage - parkt in der Garage

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 13 Southern Kacheti Steppe – Rustawi

Telescopus fallax (iberus)

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 13 Southern Kacheti Steppe – Rustawi

It is difficult, shooting good pictures of a nocturnal species during the day - es ist schwierig, gute Fotos einer nachtaktiven Art während des Tages zu machen

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 13 Southern Kacheti Steppe – Rustawi

Telescopus fallax

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 13 Southern Kacheti Steppe – Rustawi

Telescopus fallax

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 13 Southern Kacheti Steppe – Rustawi

Telescopus fallax

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 13 Southern Kacheti Steppe – Rustawi

where is it? - wo ist sie?

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 13 Southern Kacheti Steppe – Rustawi

Western yellow wagtail, propably subspecies lutea - Schafstelze, vermutlich Unterart lutea

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 13 Southern Kacheti Steppe – Rustawi

Pseudopus apodus - mating - Paarung

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 13 Southern Kacheti Steppe – Rustawi

Tarantula - Tarantel

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 13 Southern Kacheti Steppe – Rustawi

Car wash - Autowäsche

 

Day 14 – 10th of June: – Turtle Lake

 

Our flight back home was in the late afternoon so we decided to drive to the Turtle Lake above Tbilisi for a relaxing finish of our trip. However, we hoped to find a living specimen of Zamenis hohenackeri, which we know in this area to occur. After a drink and breakfast at the lake bar we went for a walk above the lake and entered a confined area around an old tower, where a Dolichophis schmidti escaped. Suddenly Franz proclaimed to have found a Zamenis, which made us very happy on our last day. After the photo shooting we enjoyed a cool swim in the Turtle Lake before we went off to the airport.

 

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Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 14 Turtle Lake

Last day, Turtle lake, airport - Letzter Tag - Schildkrötensee. Flughafen

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 14 Turtle Lake

Habitat above the turtle lake - Lebensraum oberhalb des Schildkrötensees

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 14 Turtle Lake

Turtle lake, Tbilissi - Schildkrötensee, Tiflis

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 14 Turtle Lake

Stadium - Stadion - Uefa Super Cup Final 2015

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 14 Turtle Lake

Zamenis hohenackeri

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 14 Turtle Lake

Zamenis hohenackeri - Portrait

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 14 Turtle Lake

Zamenis hohenackeri - Highlight of the last day - Höhepunkt des letzten Tages

Kaukasus 2015: 28. Mai - 10. Juni: Tag 14 Turtle Lake

Second highlight of the day, swimming during the heat of the day - Zweites Highlight des Tages, ein Bad während der Mittagshitze

 

 

Resume

 

It was an amazing trip. Of course we couldn’t find all desired species but in fact we really found a lot and traveled through these wonderful countries was without major problems to find accommodations or nice dishes and drinks. We also felt safe during our whole trip. Many thanks to Marine Arakelyan and her student Rasmik (Yerevan), who were fantastic guides in Armenia. Our thanks also goes to David Tarkhnisvili (Tbilissi) and Norbert Frotzler (Vienna) for good tips in Georgia.

 

What we missed: We searched for Vipera eriwanenis at four spots in vain. For Vipera dinniki and Vipera lotievi the weather was too bad along the Caucasus ridge, same for Vipera darevskii in the Low Caucasus. Adult Pelodytes caucasicus were another disappointment, although they should occur in high numbers at some visited spots. And finally Phrynocephalus persicus horvathi seems to be very rare in Armenia and we missed it too. Nevertheless the trip was a success for us and we are very happy about the results.


Observed Species, approx. number

 

1 Mertensiella caucasica 1
2 Ommatotriton ophryticus 10
3 Pelodytes caucasicus only larvae
4 Bufotes variabilis 30
5 Bufo verrucosissimus 50
6 Hyla savignyi 5
7 Hyla orientalis 20
8 Pelophylax bedriagae 100
9 Rana macrocnemis 30
10 Testudo graeca 20
11 Emys orbicularis 1
12 Mauremys caspica 40
13 Darevskia armeniaca 15
14 Darevskia caucasica 10
15 Darevskia dahli 50
16 Darevskia derjugini 10
17 Darevskia mixta 5
18 Darevskia nairensis 30
19 Darevskia parvula 5
20 Darevskia portschinskii 10
21 Darevskia praticola 5
22 Darevskia raddei 3
23 Darevskia rostombekovi 20
24 Darevskia rudis 40
25 Darevskia unisexualis 3
26 Darevskia valentini 20
27 Lacerta agilis 30
28 Lacerta media 30
29 Lacerta strigata 50
30 Eremias arguta 4
31 Eremias pleskei 10
32 Eremias strauchi 10
33 Eremias velox 4
34 Eumeces schneideri 1
35 Ablepharus bivittatus 1
36 Ophisops elegans 2
37 Parvilacerta parva 2
38 Paralaudakia caucasia 50
39 Anguis colchica 5
40 Pseudopus apodus 40
41 Xerotyphlops vermicularis 5
42 Eryx jaculus 2
43 Dolichophis schmidti 5
44 Hemorrhois ravergieri 1
45 Platyceps najadum 1
46 Coronella austriaca 8
47 Eirenis modestus 10
48 Eirenis collaris 3
49 Eirenis punctatolineatus 5
50 Elaphe sauromates 3 (d.o.r.)
51 Zamenis hohenackeri 2
52 Natrix natrix 5
53 Natrix tessellata 5
54 Malpolon insignitus 2
55 Telescopus fallax 1
56 Macrovipera lebetina 2
57 Montivipera raddei 2
58 Vipera ammodytes 2