Algarve January 2018

Portugal, Spain, Andorra

Algarve January 2018

Postby Kevin Byrnes » Tue Jan 30, 2018 1:07 am

After reading peoples trip reports for the last few years ,I had always wanted to visit the Algarve in winter for the amphibian breeding season, Suzanne however prefers spending time somewhere warm. Once again I mentioned a December trip but she said it was not possible due to her chemotherapy but maybe we could go in January :D . The trip was very quickly sorted out and we spent the next few weeks watching the weather report for the Algarve and waiting for Bobby and Laura's trip report. I had also been contacting a photographer near Monchique who had seen Iberian midwife toads on his evening walks with his dog. Unfortunately, as the weeks passed the sightings grew less and less as the area dried out.

Thursday 18th.
We caught an early flight from Bristol and landed at 10am in Faro on a beautiful sunny day, we collected our hire car and drove to Lagos to stock up on supplies for the week. This was my first time in Portugal although Suzanne was familiar with the area so we enjoyed a quick walk round the town, as we crossed a road a man approached us and asked if we wanted to buy some sunglasses, we said no and he then said " Do you want some Hash, good solids?" "No thanks"
Our next stop was at the fort at Sagres where we searched among the undergrowth for Western Psammodromus Psammodromus occidentalis but despite a good search we failed to find any reptiles and watched the waves crashing into the cliffs instead.

Image001 by Kevin Byrnes, on Flickr

Image019.JPG by Kevin Byrnes, on Flickr

Image002 (2).JPG by Kevin Byrnes, on Flickr

Leaving here we drove to our base for the week at Carrapateira and drove along a track to a ruined house with an abandoned swimming pool that I had spotted on Google earth, unfortunately the house was now lived in and the ponds alongside the track had now dried up. The stream was reduced to small pools and I decided to visit in the dark with a headtorch. We booked into our lovely Airbnb house right on the beach and then drove along the coast road admiring the scenery. In the evening I returned to the stream but there was no sign of any amphibians with the pools holding a few small crayfish and a small eel. I then turned to a nearby pool that I had logged into the satnav but it was inaccessable, I drove down a rough track and the car dropped into a rut bashing the underneath, the radio went off and the display said Help, with a warning voice talking in Portugese. I switched the engine off, waited a moment and then switched it back on, that seemed to fix it.
Friday 19th.
I walked along the boardwalk and through the nearby sand dunes in the morning sunshine hoping to find lizards but once again no sign of life. We drove to a nearby pond finding our first herps of the trip, some young Iberian water frogs Rana perezi

Image034 by Kevin Byrnes, on Flickr

Image036 by Kevin Byrnes, on Flickr

Image065.JPG by Kevin Byrnes, on Flickr

Image043 by Kevin Byrnes, on Flickr


We left here and drove up the road to another pond and were very happy to find a flooded area in a field, surely this is what we came to Portugal for, we had a quick look but once again found only some water frogs. Moving along the track we stopped at a ruined farmhouse where I turned over every stone, log and railway sleeper but could only find a Moorish gecko Tarentola mauritanica. 24 hrs in Portugal and all we could find were water frogs and Moorish gecko, our luck had better change soon :? Back at the house I searched the dunes again but still no sign of anything apart from a few adult water frogs in a deep well.
In the evening we returned again to the flooded area and soon spotted our first ever Southern marbled newts Triturus pygmaeus plus a few Bosca's newts Lissotriton boscai. I walked across the field to another flooded section but it held no herps, I turned my torch off and headed back to the car, after a few minutes I switched it back on to get my bearings and there in the grass was our first Sharp ribbed newt Pleurodeles waltl



Image051.JPG by Kevin Byrnes, on Flickr


Image044 by Kevin Byrnes, on Flickr


Image073.JPG by Kevin Byrnes, on Flickr


Image002.JPG by Kevin Byrnes, on Flickr

Image004.JPG by Kevin Byrnes, on Flickr

Image006.JPG by Kevin Byrnes, on Flickr

Saturday 20th
We photographed the newts, returned them to their pond and then checked an area I had again spotted on Google earth, it looked as though there were depressions in the ground and we were happy to find a small pool in the scrubby ground. There was even a sign explaining the importance of the pools and what species use them (despite it's obvious mistake)

Image017.JPG by Kevin Byrnes, on Flickr

Image018.JPG by Kevin Byrnes, on Flickr

We left here and drove north to the Monchique area to try and find Geniez's wall lizard Podarcis virescens in an area with many stone walls. We followed the satnav through some narrow lanes and Suzanne spotted a lizard sitting on a wall. We pulled over and walked back but it had disappeared so I took a slow walk up the lane scanning all the walls but saw only a Moorish gecko. Stopping again in a likely spot I soon saw a pair of lizards sitting on a rock by a building, I crept in closer but one of them quickly climbed up the side of the house and onto the roof, with the other looking as if it was about to follow I managed to take a very hurried picture of what I guess must be P virescens

Image020 - Copy.JPG by Kevin Byrnes, on Flickr

We drove on up to the peak at Foia and leaving Suzanne to read her book in the sunshine I walked around the area for a couple of hours once again finding nothing. We left here and headed down to a spot featured a few times in trip reports which I had found with Google earth, a quick photo in the daylight with a lucky t-shirt and a quick look around to familiarise myself with the place before returning later.We had arranged to meet Craig the photographer later this evening and it meant driving a further half hour with only a slim chance of finding the Iberian midwife toad Alytes cisternasii, Craig hadn't heard any for weeks and I was extremely close to cancelling the meeting but Suzanne said she was ok to carry on and it would be stupid to turn back now. Half an hour later we were driving through the narrow streets looking for the town centre but took a wrong turn and ended up parking on some waste ground next to a dry river bed. We contacted Craig and he said he would be half an hour so I had a little walk about to pass the time, I flipped a stone and found my first Iberian painted frog Discoglossus galganoi

Image025.JPG by Kevin Byrnes, on Flickr

Image032.JPG by Kevin Byrnes, on Flickr

Craig soon turned up and after a brief chat we started to walk up the river bed looking in the remaining pools, once again there was no sign of life so we decided to leave here and try further upstream. As we got back to the car Craig said he could here a toad calling, I could only here dogs barking an the clatter of Stork's bills but then I also heard one a lot closer. We stood there for a moment listening to a few toads calling and I climbed up the riverbank thinking it would be impossible to find one but as my torch light hit the floor, there was my first Iberian midwife toad :D :D . We had succeeded in our mission and had a long drive ahead of us and so thanked Craig for his help and left. We stopped at the picnic site again and after a short search found a Fire salamander S salamandra ssp crespoi.
We got back to our house and had a cup of tea to celebrate our success and then I went out again to check the pool by the wind turbine. The pond looked ideal but once again was empty, I was rather annoyed about this and lost my bearings slightly while walking back to the car. I turned my torch in the cars direction and my thoughts immediately turned to Paul Lambourne's Madrid trip, there is the scrubby grass were two small lights shining back at me OMG! it's a Western spadefoot toad, my 4th lifer of the day, I looked over to the car and there was another one. I crossed the road here and checked out a small muddy pond below a farm which just two Spiny toads Bufo spinosus This fabulous day was rather spoilt by the only Tree frog of the trip throwing itself under the wheels of the car as I returned to the house.

Image042 by Kevin Byrnes, on Flickr

Image052.JPG by Kevin Byrnes, on Flickr


Image001 (2) by Kevin Byrnes, on Flickr

Image012.JPG by Kevin Byrnes, on Flickr


Sunday 21st
This morning was cold and grey and not the ideal conditions for looking for Carbonell's wall lizard Podarcis carbonelli but I was running out of time. The river separating us from the beach looked too deep and wide so I drove out of town and walked across the dunes onto the beach.I didn't really know where I was going so I walked this very big beach for a very long time looking for stones etc where lizards could be hiding. There was a strong wind blowing and every stone found seemed to be half buried with sand and not suitable at all. I moved off the beach slightly behind a dune and carried on my search but eventually I just stopped at a random place, said to myself " This is f*****g stupid" and gave up, as I turned for home I kicked a random stone over to reveal two lizards which due to their habitat must be Carbonell's wall lizards.

ImageFw: by Kevin Byrnes, on Flickr

Image031.JPG by Kevin Byrnes, on Flickr

Image024.JPG by Kevin Byrnes, on Flickr

Image033.JPG by Kevin Byrnes, on Flickr

In the afternoon we drove again to Sagres but despite the afternoon sunshine we found no lizards so after lunch in town we drove to a coastal spot suggested by Matt Wilson. One side of the road was a flooded field which looked promising and the other side held a small pond, I turned many stones here and noted that somebody else had done this recently judging by the amount not returned to their original position. I was hoping to find a Parsley frog Pelodytes sp here but found only a Viperine snake Natrix maura
. On checking I could find no life but there was a strange creaking noise, at first I thought it was a branch blowing in the wind but it became more regular and I tracked it down to a bush in the pond. I checked on my laptop later and was pleased to find it was the call of the Parsley frog, returning to the pond at night time I crept around the pond while many frogs called from across the road in the flooded section. I found nothing in the pond until the last moment when I returned to my starting place and there was a Parsley frog hiding in the shallows.

Image046 by Kevin Byrnes, on Flickr

Image042 (2) by Kevin Byrnes, on Flickr


Image064.JPG by Kevin Byrnes, on Flickr

Monday 22nd
I had found all my amphibian targets for the trip except the Iberian Parsley frog Pelodytes ibericus and as the reptiles had proved very difficult to find we decided to have a relaxing day in the sunshine and visit a few local beaches although of course a few stones were turned here and there.

Image012 (2).JPG by Kevin Byrnes, on Flickr

Image048.JPG by Kevin Byrnes, on Flickr

Image027.JPG by Kevin Byrnes, on Flickr


Image022.JPG by Kevin Byrnes, on Flickr

We had a lovely time in Portugal despite the drought and it was strange how many of our sighting were down to just lucky encounters with single individuals. We managed to find 15 species with 7 of them being new ones for us ( maybe 8 if you count the Parsley frogs in that area). I was really looking forward to finding a Blanus mariae but I guess that will be another time
Kevin Byrnes
 
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Re: Algarve January 2018

Postby Bobby Bok » Tue Jan 30, 2018 10:01 am

What a lucky winter getaway! Happy you got your lifers Kev! And it sure looks as if there has been some rain in between our trips, these small stagnant puddles were absent when we were there :(
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Re: Algarve January 2018

Postby Ray Hamilton » Thu Feb 01, 2018 9:54 pm

Enjoyed your report Kevin. Thanks for posting.

The timing of my reading it is especially relevant as I arrived in Lagos a couple of hours ago. It has been grey and cold since our arrival with little chance of reptile activity. Strangest thing of all - a chubby middle aged man approached us in town holding out two pairs of sunglasses, I heard him ask if we wanted to buy any. I didn't quite catch what he offered us when I turned down his offer, but now I know :lol:

Cheers, Ray.
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