Since Lennart and I had a pretty good time in Slovenia and Croatia we planned our next trip while hibernation. The big plan was to find lowland ursiniis. Simple as that we did a lot of research to find the right spot for a short easter trip. It wasn't easy to find something fitting, cause many of the populations aren't easy to come by and almost all of them are threatened by extinction in cause of habitat loss. During our research process it was pretty clear that we had to go to Romania for our goal. So flights and car booked, off to Romania. We arrived at Thursday evening with a huge cultural shock. The Romanian traffic is pretty chaotic or not to say mental. It needed a little while to find the road to our hotel, cause the road looked more like one big pothole. Furthermore we had instant contact with the Romanian police, cause Lennart wasn't sure with the speed limits.. We thought well now we will pay all our money for the ticket, but it turned out in a complete different way. In the moment the officer noticed we are dumb tourists from Germany he just said with a funny accent "Welcome to Romania" and let us go. When we arrived our hotel the local street dogs said hello to us in form of barking like crazy, but after this short encounter we threw our stuff in the cabine went to a little shopping tour for the essentials like "Morgen Tau" and drove straight to the ursinii habitat to check the site for a first look. The surroundings around the habitat looked just like a shithole and we thought .. hmm maybe this population is dead. All in all the first impression was very very bad in all ways. We knew Romania would be much different but the area was so so poor and the prefabricated buildings which fall apart, the traffic, the street dogs and trash everywhere in the landscape let us just think: "what have we done". The first herps didn't made our mood much better cause there were just little mount of Bombinas, Pelophylax ridibundus and some calling Hylas in the ponds, nothing else. Well, better than nothing and there is always a next day.
Sebastian Dörnemann (the maniac) told us in the night that he will come with the next possible flight to join us in the next evening and so the next morning started with fresh motivation. New morning, new luck the first herps started coming out with the sun and we had some fun with our first Lacerta viridis. Since it was quite cold they were still very calm and slow. After that the next stunner.. Lacerta agilis chersonensis definetly one of the most beautiful lizard ssp. in Europe. It took us a lot time and we walked walked and walked through the steppe and after a few encounters with the shepherd suddenly I spotted it. The first tiny Vipera ursinii moldavica, what a moment of glory! To bad for Sebastian since he was to late for this little beauty. The weather in this kind of habitat is very unstable and changes a lot, in the next 30min we had a big thunderstorm and had to leave the spot. If we wouldn't have done that the "street" would have been impassable for our car. We drove back to our hotel and waited for Sebastian to arrive. During that the weather started to brighten up and after he arrived we drove straight back in the steppe, but this time without any luck. After a short pizzabreak we started to search amphibians in the night hours, with success! Perfect ending, perfect day.
For the next day another viper species was on our to-do list, Vipera nikolskii.
Therefore we drove to a little forest, that should be full of those berus-type vipers. It was still cool when we arrived the spot, but the sun was out so it was about time to start searching for our target. After a few meters I had the first big, fat male that was much much bigger than our vipers at home. It didn't took long and the sun became very strong.. we searched and searched and searched and with the heat the snakes came out. We found another two vipers, 4 Coronellas and 1 Natrix. We were quite happy and changed to the steppe again. This turned out to be a mistake since we couldn't find any herp anymore. After the typical pizzabreak we returned to the amphibian site and had a lot fun. Always good when you have some alternatives than searching snakes.
The last full day we drove straight in the steppe highly motivated to find more ursiniis. We searched searched and searched and since I already were very exhausted from the last days I was able to run in the hot sun anymore. Lennart felt same so we took a break in the shadow of the only bush there. Sebastian who didn't saw the first ursinii capitulated also after a while and so we just went back to the nikolskii spot to find some snakes. After we spotted our snakes from the day before we called it a day and went back to the hotel, very tired and demotivated. We thought one ursinii was more luck than enough for one trip, nonetheless the next morning should be the last one to search before heading home. For the last evening we decided to stay in the hotel and drink some beer and chill. Not the best herping day but at least nice to be somewhere else.
Last day, last chance. After checking out of our hotel we drove back in the steppe. Same game as the other days, just with better (colder)weather -> search search search search. We searched in a sepcieal type of grass for quite long until Lennart found a stunning male moldavica! After that the last thing we found was a skin of another moldavica, which gave us hope that the population isn't dead already. What an end to a nice short trip! We left the meadow and drove to the airport to start our way back home. We thought our rentalcar guy would be very angry about the dirt at the car, but he didn't even mentioned it. I guess it's quite normal there, with streets looking like mudpuddles. Our journey back was very stressfull cause of little time to get the next flight, but finally we were back in Germany.
Conclusion: Romania is a country which is very very different from the ones I have seen yet. The whole area looks very poor, dirty and full of trash. There are many many things that were very sad to look at, but there is one big thing which stuck out, the people there are so so friendly and no one was ever unfriendly to us. These conditions aren't very good for our scaly friends. When people are poor they don't have the luxury to conservate the nature. If you see the habitat of the Moldavian Meadow Viper (Vipera ursinii moldavica) in real life you know (even if it looks big) that there are just small, isolated areas where they can live. The area we visited has just a few hundred of them left and the habitat is shrinking through the agriculture, so I feel even more blessed that I had the chance to see them. All in all we found around 16 species of herps and only missed Anguis colchica and Lissotrion vulgaris, which doesn't bothered us at all. Thanks Lennart Schmid and Sebastian Dörnemann for the nice travel!
- Lacerta agilis chersonensis
- Lacerta viridis
- Coronella austriaca
- Natrix natrix natrix
- Vipera ursinii moldavica
- Vipera (berus) nikolskii