Israel 2019: tent, herping, photo

Israel is a country with the advantage of hosting a large number of species on a small area. It is ideal for short herpetological trips. And the country is home to several mythical species… So here we are on the road for a short journey of a week!

La team Israël 2019

Team Israel 2019

Tel-Aviv surrounding

After some adventures to get our visa (my previous trip to Iran has led some additional control procedures), we are finally on the road to reach a first spot near Tel Aviv. Our first target is “simply” Daboia palaestinae, the largest viper in the country, and widely distributed in the northern half of the country. Night falls quickly when we begin our prospection, and the first reptiles are observed, including Mediodactylus kotschyi, Stenodactylus sthenodactylus, Chalcides sepsoides, or Lytorhynchus diadema (which we will then see almost every day!), But also a Macroprotodon cucullatus hunting. The environment is sandy, and many traces show a strong activity in reptiles (turtles, snakes and lizards). Finally, a last trace fresh before going to bed allows us to observe a magnificent male Daboia palaestinae! First prospection, and first magic meeting …

When we wake up, some Acanthodactylus schreiberi and Laudakia stellio watch us dismount the bivouac site. It’s time to reach the south of the country!

 

 

Daboia paleastinae

Daboia paleastinae

North of Negev

We are on our way to the dune desert of northern Negev. This area is home to two vipers in the country: Cerastes cerastes and Cerastes vipera. The area also seems to be home to a large population of our “Grail”: the desert monitor, Varanus griseus, which we have try to photograph for many years. Our surveys under the overwhelming heat quickly confirm it: there are tracks everywhere!
But unfortunately, impossible to observe an active animal, and the night falls quickly. Night that allows us to easily observe many species of reptiles: Lytorhynchus diadema, Stenodactylus sthenodactylus, Stenodactylus petrii. Above all, we find a first Cerastes vipera, and a young Cerastes cerastes with extraordinary colors (what a blue!). The observations of a desert hedgehog, and especially a striped hyena Hyaena hyaena (who will follow one of us for several hundred meters!) will punctuate an unforgettable evening.

In the morning, Acanthodactylus aegyptius and Acanthodactylus scutellatus, Chamaeleo chamaeleon and the rare (but not shy!) Trapelus savignii are observed, but still no Varanus griseus … Again, we will miss!

We leave for the rest of the trip. On the road, a Walterinnesia aegyptia is sadly dead…

 

Cerastes cerastes

Cerastes cerastes

Dead sea

A trip to Israel without a visit to the Dead Sea seems hardly conceivable. So we leave for the mountains of Judea. No vipers here (Echis coloratus is certainly abundant), but other equally interesting species are waiting for us: the tiny Tropiocolotes nattereri, Stenodactylus sthenodactylus, Ptyodactylus guttatus and his special fingers, but also the elegant Telescopus dhara, and last but not least, two Atractaspis engaddensis! This very powerful venomous snake has a very particular morphological characteristic. It can poison prey or predator with its hooks without opening the mouth. The hook is long and comes out on one side of the jaws. Here is a snake that stings but does not bite (for once, the expression is right!). On the way we also meet a Rüppell’s fox (Vulpes rueppellii).

The next morning, some lizards complete our observations: Hemidacylus turcicus, Chalcides ocellatus, Mesalina bahaeldini, Laudakia stellio.

 

Ps: we confirm, in the dead sea … we float!