Lorraine, 2024

Photos from a short weekend trip with good friends to the Lorraine in France, to look for reptiles and amphibians.


5/16/20243 min read

For the first time since breaking my leg (see: Italy 2023), I got a chance to go on a dedicated nature weekend trip. Filled to the brim with excitement I prepared several good sites in northern France. I was joined by three very good friends and we had several reptile and amphibian targets. After a birthday party Thursday night, the alarm went off fairly early and we met up at a parking lot, continuing on together to our first site. This stop just over the French border delivered me with a new butterfly species that was briefly seen, but not photographed. The target here was a reptile however, on a nice stop halfway to France. After a bit of effort to find a good spot to flip some rocks, we found a wonderful south facing slope, where I pretty quickly flipped 2 adult smooth snakes (Coronella austriaca) and a single subadult, probably last years baby. The sun was burning hot however and the snakes fairly uncooperative, so aside from 2 somewhat mediocre images, no luck yet. The species was a lifer for all of us, so no reason to feel disappointed especially as many snakes were still to come.

After crowning me herping king, we drove on to France, arriving around the afternoon at an old quarry. We found several nice orchids and a few wall lizards before moving on to a spot besides the quarry with some artificial cover. Pretty quickly we flipped our first baby asp viper (Vipera aspis) and continuing to find several more, including 2 rather unhappy adult individuals. Some decent shots this time, although the sunny weather made for some rather active snakes once again. This same sunny weather made finding basking snakes very hard, although we would succeed the next day. Moving on towards our accommodation, we made a simple meal and got out again after sunset, to look for midwife toads (Alytes obstetricans). Three individuals were found (including 2 males with the characteristic egg clumps). Several salamanders where found in a small stream, a tawny owl was heard and several roe deer were seen in the beam of our flashlights. The biggest surprise when someone mentioned the odd looks of the night sky and it turned out we were witnessing one of the biggest northern lights shows of the past years. I quickly grabbed a shot and we moved on to the car, tired and satisfied. In hindsight I wish I had invested a little more time into a better image, but the results were better than I gave myself credit for the next morning.

The next day we visited several more sites, starting off with a site to look for green whip snakes (Hierophis viridiflavus). Aside from a single subadult shooting off into the vegetation, we saw none of these beauties sadly. We did find a large basking grass snake (Natrix helvetica), but the harsh sun made it flee rather quickly, before any good images. This site used to be a former railway, but has been turned into a cycling path, probably making the chances to see snakes much worse and the conditions weren't helping. If only we were regular tourists, we would've loved the weather ;). The next site delivered a few subadult grass snakes, but again no green whips. Cutting our losses, we went to look for yellow-bellied toads (Bombina variegata) and parsley frogs (Pelodytes punctatus). We found several of the former, but no sign of the latter. Ever so slightly disappointed, having missed my two main targets at the best sites at this point, we moved on towards another quarry. After some difficulty finding a good way in, we saw several great crested newts, getting a good look at these beauties, taking a break for some orchid shots as well. After that, quite a few more flipped asp vipers and some better images. The next morning, a last try for green whip snake, without success. To round of the blog, some nice pictures of a new butterfly species for me, the green underside blue (Glaucopsyche alexis). A very succesful trip to a beautiful, nice and quiet area, well  worth returning to.