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Lacerta Bilineata / 35 items

N 1.5K B 19.0K C 393 E Sep 2, 2021 F Nov 10, 2021
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Western Whip Snake (Hierophis Viridiflavus), 09-2021, Monteggio TI (CH)

If you like this photo, please take a moment to visit my best new galleries here: www.lacerta-bilineata.com/other-fauna

If you think this snake looks kind of angry, I'd say you're right: it certainly wasn't happy to see me. This type of snake - a western whip snake (Hierophis viridiflavus) is normally very shy; in my experience it flees as soon as it senses or sees a human approaching - unless it thinks it's already too late for fleeing (like when you surprise it in your cellar and it can't get away, which happened to a neighbor once).

In those latter instances, it's very aggressive: it hisses loudly and gets into an upright position like a cobra, and if that doesn't help it will bite you and sometimes not let go (but to be clear, although a bite may be very painful and people with a phobia of snakes might die of fear, this snake is completely harmless ;-) The German name for the snake alludes to its short-tempered character: it's called "Zorn-Natter", which means as much as "anger-snake" (although "Natter" is the German word for non-venomous snakes in Euorpe, not snakes in general). It's one of the biggest snakes to be found in Switzerland, and can grow to a length of almost 2 meters.

Now this snake DID see me approach (probably long before I myself saw the snake) - still, it didn't flee. It was early September, and I was looking for western green lizards in the fly honeysuckle shrub right outside my garden, when I suddenly realized a big branch stretching over the leaves wasn't a branch at all. Because the snake didn't flee I believed it hadn't seen me, and I wrongly assumed its head was on the far end (both ends of the snake's body were hidden in the foliage), so I tried to find an angle where I could see the head in the hope of a usable photo.

No such luck: because it was the wrong end. Now the other end of the snake's body was pretty close to me and only maybe 1.5 meters away, but from my elevated point of view it was hidden under the leaves. When I slowly went down to my knees to look, I suddenly saw a pair of eyes that fixated me with the not very friendly stare you see in this photo. But why didn't the snake flee? This was strange (though I was grateful since it's not easy to get such a shot of an animal that is normally so shy).

And then I saw the reason: only 40 centimeters away from the snake there was a huge male western green lizard, basking in the sun. Now it all became clear: I had obviously interrupted the "biacco" (which is the snake's local name) just as it was getting ready to have a juicy lizard lunch. Much as my presence caused the snake discomfort and certainly fear, it just wasn't ready to let go of such a whopper of a meal. The lizard was blissfully unaware of either me or its impending doom, and thus I found myself faced with a terrible dilemma.

You see, western green lizards are my favorite animals, and although I adore snakes too, the tiny local western green population - already under permanent siege by the many cats in the village and always on the verge of perishing - has grown close to my heart. After observing these lizards for so long, I know most individuals by their color patterns, and the loss of any of them really gets to me. But unlike with the cats (which is a human problem that the cats - whom I love dearly - aren't to blame for), this snake was a natural enemy, and it also had to eat, so I knew the right thing to do was to let nature run its course.

But knowing what the right thing to do is, and actually DOING the right thing, are two different pair of shoes. To my shame I decided to interfere (I honestly, REALLY am not proud of that, and I'm not kidding, but it is what it is). Once that decision was made, I quickly acted. I didn't want to chase the snake away because that seemed mean (and the fella hadn't done anything wrong), so rather than that I hoped I could catch the lizard's attention. What I actually did (and I promise that is the honest-to-God truth): I made a wave-like movement with my arm and hand. This was - obvisously - the sign for "Snaaake!!!" that I was sure would transcend the human-lizard communication barrier - and I'm sure it WOULD have, had the lizard not had its eyes closed.

So I whispered: "Duuuude, there's a huuuuge snake right next to you!" Naturally, I said this in Italian (these lizards have never been outside our village, so I knew they didn't speak English ;-). No reaction. So in a final desperate attempt I shook the branch the lizard sat on, and now it dazedly openend its eyes. It took the target of my clumsy rescue attempts maybe a second to realize a two-legged, giant monster was shaking its residence, but then it quickly dove for cover and disappeared in the foliage - but not alone: the snake disappeared right behind it! Western whip snakes are extremely agile hunters, so through my idiotic action I might have doomed my green friend (who had no idea there even was a snake lurking when I caused him to move) after all.

Truth is, I don't know what happened. Hunter and prey disappeared at the same time, and then it was all quiet; I didn't hear the slightest noise that would have hinted at a struggle. When I came back an hour or so later I spotted a male Lacerta bilineata that I'm pretty sure was the one I had tried to save. It didn't move when I approached and was either paralized with fear (or shock after a narrow escape), or it just thought I didn't see it and relied completely on its camouflage. Either way, this fella allowed me to make the best close-up and even macro shots I was ever able to make of the species (you can find those on my website here: www.lacerta-bilineata.com/new-photos )

Who knows, I keep telling myself the little fella decided to pose like that out of gratitude... ;-)

N 1.3K B 13.3K C 671 E May 14, 2021 F Oct 21, 2021
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Egyptian grasshopper | Anacridium aegyptium | Monteggio (CH) | May 2021


A couple of years ago I started noticing huge insects around my vacation home in the lovely community of Monteggio (Ticino, Switzerland) that I knew I hadn't seen before in the area. The first one I ever saw was when I was hosing the garden; it suddenly flew up from a bush in order to get away from the water, but it was of such an impressive size that I at first mistook it for a small bird. When I realized it was a giant grasshopper, I was immediately intrigued and wanted to find out why I hadn't seen this species before.

It didn't take me long to find the answer to my question on the internet; since these hoppers are "whoppers" and hard to overlook, there was already an abundance of information about them from various excited local entomologists available. As it turned out, the species is none other than "Anacridium aegyptium" otherwise known as Egyptian locust or Egyptian grasshopper. These insects are originally from the Mediterranean region and North Africa, but due to climate change, they've been steadily making their way north these past decades until they eventually arrived in Switzerland.

The species reaches a size of up to 7 cm and a wingspan of up to 14 cm and is absolutely harmless to humans. It feeds on plants, but does not tend to swarm, which is why it causes hardly any significant damage, at least in Europe. This is in contrast to the "classic" migratory locust (Locusta migratoria), which can cause biblical plagues, but only occurs very rarely in Central Europe. Anacridium aegyptium is easily identifiable by its characteristic vertically striped eyes.

So far, these Egyptian guests are not considered a threat to native species, and some biologists even argue they could be a benefit as they provide an excellent food source for various animals that rely on an ever dwindling insect supply (most insect species, as you probably know, are in steep decline worldwide). So as there won't be any extermination campaigns against them, and average temperatures aren't likely to drop anytime soon, these (as I find) very photogenic insects are probably here to stay.

This fella here I photographed last May as it was sitting on the electric fence that guards the horse pasture right across from my garden. It was in a spot underneath the fly honeysuckle shrub where "my" western green lizards usually reside (in fact, I had at first thought it WAS a baby green lizard, as I had photographed one in the exact same spot the day before: www.lacerta-bilineata.com/post/western-green-lizard-sleep... )

As always, thank you so much for visiting and have a lovely weekend everyone!

Oh by the way, as a bit of fun for me and - hopefully - you, I'll let you guys decide what kind of photo I'll upload next. You may choose between the following subjects:

- lizard
- snake
- insect
- spider
- landscape

Let me know in the comments which one you'd prefer, and I shall upload whatever the majority decides ;-)

Tags:   nature wildlife bokeh close-up macro animal insect grasshopper outdoors outside colorful sony fence Switzerland Ticino 2021 Anacridium aegyptium Sony DSC-RX10 Mark IV

N 2.1K B 40.1K C 1.1K E May 13, 2021 F Oct 2, 2021
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A Misty Sunrise After A Rainy Night In Spring - Aka "Lacerta Bilineata Habitat No 4", Monteggio (CH), May 2021

IN CASE YOU'RE INTERESTED, PLEASE TAKE A MOMENT TO VISIT MY BEST NEW GALLERIES HERE: www.lacerta-bilineata.com/western-green-lizard-lacerta-bi...

The theme of my gallery is - obviously - Lacerta bilineata (otherwise known as the western green lizard), but partly out of fear to bore the Flickr community with too many photos of the same subject (albeit a very pretty one as far as I'm concerned), I'll try to mix things up a little by uploading other flora and fauna from the lizard kingdom every once in a while.

That includes photos from said kingdom itself, the Lacerta bilineata habitat, which in case of our local western green lizard population consists of my garden and its immediate surroundings.

This particular photo was taken right outside my garden: in the foreground to the left you can see the leaves of the fly honeysuckle shrub where most of "my" little green dragons now reside after my garden has been overrun by my neighbors' cats; clearly visible in the center of the photo is the fence that guards the horse pasture (yes, THAT horse pasture which, as some might remember, caused me so much misery when it attracted some horse-friendly kids at the worst possible moment: www.flickr.com/photos/191055893@N07/51405389883/in/datepo... ), all framed by the beautiful woods that surround our little village.

I took this shot on a spring morning in 2021 after it had been raining all night. By dawn it had cleared up, but the valley below our village had filled with mist, which started to rise as soon as the sun came up behind the mountains. I grabbed my camera and ran out of the house to catch the moment when the mist reached our village just as the sunrise sent the first rays of light through the trees.

It was as gorgeous a morning as you can imagine; the meadows were still wet from the rain, and tiny droplets of water were sparkling everywhere in the grass, illuminated by the sunbeams cutting through the trees. This photo doesn't really do the beauty of the moment justice, but I hope you still get a bit of an impression of what it was like.

Let me know if you want to see more photos of a similar kind or if I should stick to just fauna. Greetings to you a all and have a lovely Sunday!

Tags:   Sunbeams Rain Mist Misty Sunrise Green Leaves Horse Pasture Morning Raindrops Sparkling Nature Outside Sun Tree Trees Grass Meadow Foliage Drops Droplets Woods Light Landscape Fence Switzerland Ticino Monteggio Spring Forest 2021 May Sony DSC-RX10 Mark IV Sony

N 1.6K B 22.7K C 845 E May 15, 2021 F Sep 12, 2021
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Blue Blow Fly | Calliphora vicina | Monteggio (CH) | May 2021


At first I wanted to title this photo "My Portrait In A Fly's Vomit" because upon closer inspection of the photo I discovered my own reflection on the tiny droplet of (what I assumed to be) puke that hangs out of the fly's mouth - and also because I just thought this was a really cool title (as you might have guessed, I'm probably not the most mature of people ;-)

But then I wanted to know what that droplet really was, because I photographed quite a few flies with this kind of "bubble" in front of their mouths, and since I wasn't sure about the puke, and scientists are adamant that flies don't chew gum, I had to get to the bottom of this (sligthly disgusting but still very intriguing) mystery.

Turns out, researchers only discovered relatively recently why certain flies and other insects like to have a droplet of saliva (because that's what it actually is) hanging out their mouths, and it's for a really interesting and quite practical reason: they use that "spit bubble" to cool themselves.

Here's a summary of an article published in the journal "Scientific Reports" from 2018: "Humans sweat to cool their heated bodies. blow flies have developed a different, unusual method for this purpose, but it is based on the same physical principle: They let a large drop of saliva hang from their mouths, which cools as some of it evaporates. By then reabsorbing the drop, they lower the temperature in the front part of the body.

It was already known that some flies temporarily secrete a drop of saliva, let it hang out of their mouths and then take it up again - repeating the whole process up to six times. But for most, this process was related to the digestive process.

Now temperature measurements by infrared imagers showed that a drop hanging from the "lick trunk" of a fly can cool as much as eight degrees below ambient temperature within 15 seconds. After the droplet is sucked in for the first time, the temperature in the head region drops by about one degree. If the process is repeated, the temperature there drops by as much as three degrees, and in the chest region by another 1.6 degrees.

"The large amount of energy required to evaporate water provides living creatures with highly effective ways to lower their body temperature," write the researchers led by Guilherme Gomes of the University of São Paulo and Denis Vieira de Andrade of São Paulo State University. For example, sweating evaporates water from the moist surface of the body, cooling the skin.

And by panting, dogs and other animals release excess heat by increasing water evaporation on the mucous membranes of the upper respiratory tract. The chitinous exoskeleton of insects, on the other hand, makes effective sweating difficult. Their tracheal system, which serves respiration, is also less suitable for cooling."

But apparently, letting a large bubble of drool hang out of their mouths, then sucking it in only to let it out again, and then constantly repeating that process, works perfectly well for flies. I tried to apply this cooling technique myself the other day (I work at an airport, the air condition was down, and it was really hot - and I was bored... what can I say). Well, I do not recommend it; it might have worked, but the horrified looks on the passengers' faces (not to mention my superiors') were enough to convince me to end my "fly-cooling-technique" experiment somewhat prematurely and put my mask back on ;-)

ABOUT THE SPECIES (from Wiki slightly abbreviated by me):
Calliphora vicina - the blue bottle fly - is a member of the family Calliphoridae, which includes blow flies and bottle flies. These flies are important in the field of forensic entomology, being used to estimate the time of a person's death when a corpse is found and then examined. It is currently one of the most entomologically important fly species for this purpose because it arrives at and colonizes a body following death in consistent timeframes.

The species predominates in Europe and the New World, but has found its way into other countries via harbors and airports. It was first recorded in South Africa in 1965 when a specimen was collected near Johannesburg, but specimen collections have been few and sporadic since then. It also occurs as an exotic in Australia and New Zealand.

Tags:   blue macro cool nature fly insect science Switzerland portrait Sony DSC-RX10 Mark IV reflection closeup outside

N 2.2K B 37.8K C 1.5K E May 22, 2021 F Aug 26, 2021
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Western Green Lizard (Lacerta Bilineata) | Male In "Wedding Suit" During Mating Season | Monteggio (CH) | May 2021

IF YOU LIKE THIS PHOTO, PLEASE VISIT MY BEST NEW GALLERIES (NOT - YET - ON FLICKR ;-) HERE: www.lacerta-bilineata.com/western-green-lizard-lacerta-bi...


When male western green lizards are in love, their face turns blue. This doesen't happen instantly (they can't change color at will like chameleons); the lizards need to shed their old, slightly less colorful (but also very pretty) skin first, and once that is accomplished, they appear in the beautiful "wedding suit" you can see in this photo.

With this look they try to impress the lady lizards during mating season, which lasts approximately from May to June, but the colors are the most striking in the immediate aftermath of the lizards losing their "old coat". I was very lucky to capture this gorgeous male at this very moment; in fact, you can still see parts of the old, dark skin covering the top of its head and other parts of the body where it hadn't quite come off yet.

But I was lucky in more than one sense with this photo. Let me explain (I have an idea some photographer or other here on Flickr will be able to sympathize with the anecdote that follows ;-). This year in May when I hoped to photograph the green lizards around my vacation home with my newly purchased camera, I soon realized something was different from the years before, because I couldn't find a single one of my green friends in their usual spots in my garden.

As I would learn over the next few days, the entire western green lizard population had relocated from my garden into a huge fly honeysuckle shrub just outside my garden next to an empty horse pasture where they were relatively safe from the growing number of cats in our village that had specialized in lizard hunting. Up in that shrub, not only was it hard for ground predators to get at them, but the lizards also had an excellent 360° view of their surroundings.

Western green lizards are naturally very shy, but this apparently traumatized group now had become hyper-alert to anything approaching them, and they immedately fled into the thickest of the leaves whenever I tried to get near enough for a usable photo. It took me another several days until I had finally figured out at what times of the day the males usually left the fly honeysuckle shrub; I wanted to know their "schedule" so I could be there before them and blend in with the environment, ready to photograph them as soon as they would show up on the ground.

And all my meticulous, hard work seemed to pay off: the first day I took this appraoch a gorgeous male showed up just where I expected it to (although Mr Lizard had me waiting for alomst two hours!). Alas, I hadn't considered where the sun would be and had installed myself in such a stupid angle that the lizard was backlit; in all the photos the little devil appeared only as a mostly black silhouette against the bright morning sun. I cursed my stupidity, tore out my hair and was close to throwing my expensive new camera against a wall in anger and frustration. Then I remembered the cold beer in the fridge and realized that life was still worth living, and I promised myself to do better next time.

The next day I was smart enough to make camp in a spot form where the object of my photographic desire would be perfectly lit (from the lizard's perspective, now I would be the black silhouette against the sun ;-). I waited. And I waited some more. And it was hot and getting hotter by the minute. After nearly 3 hours during which my neighbors started to give me very funny looks (in fact, they had already decided the day before that I must be crazy, what with standing motionless in front of a bush for several hours in the burning sun), around noon, I'd had enough. And that's when I heard something moving in the grass.

And there he was: barely visible through the thick green carpet, but definitely coming towards me. A few seconds later a virtual lizard king appeared, in all his gorgeous green and blue glory, and perfectly lit - and that's when I heard loud, happy voices approaching. Two young boys came running - and the lizard stopped dead in its tracks (unfortunately, it was still a bit too far away for a good photo). I'm not religious, but I started a quick prayer then and there (please God, please: let these kids not be running towards me - PLEASE!!!).

But nope, God apparently remembered that I usually refer to myself as agnostic, and surely enough the two boys ran right to where I was - and where Mr Lizard now wasn't. All that yelling and running was too much for my lizard king: goodbye and "auf Wiedersehen"; see ya next year - and off he went. And that was that. I couldn't believe it; I felt a frustration so intense wash over me I regretted ever having picked up a camera.

As for the kids, don't worry: both boys are alive and well ;-) It was the first day of their Pentecost holiday, and they had just arrived in the village. I was standing next to the empty horse pasture, and the two little boys now innocently asked me where the horsies went (they had obviously been looking forward to seeing them and now were very disappointed). I took a deep breath and muttered that I had no idea.

I don't know how other photographers would have felt in that situation, but I only wanted to be left alone (and possibly tear out what was left of my hair and reconsider that wall and what nice noise it would make upon collision with my camera ;-). Needless to say, the kids had other plans. Now that it was clear that there were no horsies, I had become the main attraction, and they weren't going anywhere. So I swallowed my anger, accepted that - obviously - the kids didn't do anything wrong (and also that I would probably never ever be able to get that desired shot with my new camera).

The boys were eager to know what I was photographing, and so I told them everything about western green lizards, about their amazing colors and how rare and shy they were, and that they were among the largest lizards in Europe and a protected species - and my two new friends became instantly fascinated. Now they wanted to wait and see this magical creature with their own eyes. I assured them there was no chance the lizard would come back after all the noise "we" had made, and just as I said this, one of the boys yelled "I see it!"

And sure enough, he was right. Apparently my lizard king had decided that a little yelling and running wasn't gonna get between him and his favorite sun-basking spot, a little heap of cut, dry grass underneath the fence of the horse pasture. I told the kids to be very still - which they were - and then we all got to see how this beautiful creature emerged from the grass, very, very slowly and carefully, and positioned itself on the heap of dry grass in such a way that it got the perfect amount of sunlight.

So in the end I got my portrait shot - and quite a few more in the weeks that followed (which you can find on my website www.lacerta-bilineata.com ). During the remainder of their holiday the two kids would run into me every now and then, and every time they excitedly talked about this fantastic, blue-headed reptile they had seen with me that day. I guess only time will tell, but I hope this encounter has sparked an interest in nature in them (I have a feeling the next time they spend their holiday in our little village, the horsies will have some reptilian competition ;-)

Tags:   love green blue animals nature bokeh wildlife close-up gros plan flickr lacerta bilineata western green lizard outside beautiful environment fauna vert verde grün blau bleu blu protected species rare color colorful portrait azul lacerta bilineata western lizard lézard occidental ramarro occidentale lagarto westliche male maschio mâle macho Männchen wedding suit mating season smaragdeidechse reptile reptiles herp wild herps herps switzerland Ticino Malcantone Swiss suisse svizzera animal westliche smaragdeidechse lagarto verde occidental lézard vert occidental ramarro occidentale Sony DSC-RX10 Mark IV