Eifel 2023

Images from a long weekend to the German eifel, looking for snakes, lizards, butterflies and orchids.


6/12/20233 min read

Last year I spent the ascension weekend in the German Eifel, looking for butterflies and orchids together with my girlfriend. Considering last years success, we were due for a repetition. We stuck another 2 days onto the end of the weekend and drove a little further to the south than we did last year. This addition was for a single reason, the area we we went to is home to an ancient introduction site of Aesculapian snake (Zamenis longisimmus). We started the trip of here, and would then drive a little further north, to the area with chalk rich grasslands where we spent the weekend last year. Starting off, we had great weather, resulting in finding 7 aesculapian snakes in just 1,5 days. We found 6 subadults and a single snake that would be considered an adult, sadly the feisty adult got away, but I still managed some decent pics of the subadults, although there is definitely space for some more creative pics or improvements to the pics I got. A good reason to return, which isn't an issue as it's an easy 3,5 hour drive. 

Following the Aesculapian snakes we were due to drive north, but not before spending some time doing some touristy things to keep my travel companion happy. So after seeing Rudesheim am Rhein, we drove back to the accommodation. I decided to spend the evening looking for an adult Aesculapian snake, but fairly quickly realised it wasn't going to be a success. I decided to cut my losses and go a very different route, the day before I had found a badger sett very close to the site I was at, so I walked over there, set up and waited. I figured it would take some time for the badgers to come out, considering the fact that it was still 45 minutes until sunset. To my surprise however, within 10 minutes, two badgers walked about the sett and then crossed into the field. It was amazing seeing these animals, while there was still enough light for some pictures. I didn't want to cause any disturbance, so after some shots I quickly went back to the car, drove to the accommodation and had a lovely nights sleep dreaming of badgers. The next day, we drove north via Burg Eltz, and then via Cochem. Here we made a stop hoping to see the first Apollo's of the year, which was sadly unsuccessful, despite great weather, we were probably a little too early in the year. This was quickly forgotten however, as the better of the two targets did show themselves. We first found a subadult western green lizard (Lacerta bilineata) and several beautiful adult males and an adult female followed suit soon after. These lizards were absolutely rapid, massive and rather shy, but I did manage a few nice pics. At this site we also saw several common wall lizards (Podarcis muralis), including a successful mating attempt which was cool to witness. Satisfied with the fact that this butterfly trip had become a herping trip, we drove on.

Moving on, the remainder of the trip was mostly spent looking for butterflies and orchids. Sadly, some of the areas appeared to have been affected rather harshly by droughts and the cold, wet spring wasn't beneficial for butterflies either. Some areas that were beautiful last year and produced multiple fritillary species, had no butterflies and orchids to show this year. Luckily a few areas were still rather nice, although we were definitely too early for the fritillaries, as these remained completely absent, despite high effort searches. An orchid I didn't see last year was the man orchid (Orchis anthropophora), but I found several this year, without specifically targeting this species, so that was a nice surprise. I also spent some time trying to get a wide angle of a bird's-nest orchid (Neottia nidus-avis), which turned out to be my favorite orchid picture of the trip.  Nice butterflies were wood white (Leptidae sinapis), duke of Burgundy (Hamaeris lucina) and small blue (Cupido minimus). 

Finishing off, I spent the last evening near an industrial site looking for green toads. After missing this species and it's Balearic cousin in Greece and Mallorca respectively, I was extra eager to find some. This time, I was successful, finding several of these beautiful toads under rocks while the sun was setting. Sadly no calling activity, but still a great time with these little stunners. After sunset I tried for spadefoot toads, but the habitat didn't look too great, and I was unsuccesfull. A long-eared owl hunting very low overhead made for a nice consolation prize, and satisfied I made the trip back home the next morning, very satisfied and already eager to return next year.