Central Spain

Portugal, Spain, Andorra

Central Spain

Postby Kevin Byrnes » Sun Sep 23, 2018 7:05 pm

Life has been very difficult since the death of my wife Suzanne in June but I know she would want me to carry on travelling and herping and so I began to plan a trip somewhere away from all these reminders. During our travels together, Suzanne saw over 120 species with me and there was no way I was leaving her behind so I set a pinch of her ashes into a resin pendant to carry with me everywhere I go and to introduce her to every new species I find. I narrowed it down to three locations, Montenegro, for the Mosor rock lizard and Prokletije rock lizard, Pyrenees for the three endemic rock lizards or Central Spain for Galan's rock lizard, Cyren's rock lizard and of course the Pena de Francia rock lizard. It was now September and I was unsure of the potential weather conditions in these areas so after some advice I chose Spain.
Sunday 9th Sept
Flying from Birmingham to Madrid I arrived at my airbnb house at 10:30 pm, the door was unlocked as promised but I had to search for the fusebox in the dark to switch the electricity on. I also found the bathroom floor was flooded and there was no wifi, I had left behind the owner's details as I would have of course emailed him via the wifi. Leaving these problems until the morning I sat outside on a sofa, drank a bottle of wine and listened to Midwife toads calling in the distance. It felt very strange to be travelling alone.
Monday 10th Sept
I left the house early and drove south to La Platforma in the Sierra de Gredos where I hoped to find Cyren's rock lizard Iberolacerta cyreni, following the information in another trip report I checked the rocks around the car park area but found nothing so began to climb the cobbled path towards Laguna Grande.

ImagePath by Kevin Byrnes, on Flickr
I searched the boulders and rocks alongside the path but was very disappointed and just as I said to myself "This is rubbish" I spotted a bright green lizard on the pathside. I quickly raised my camera and managed to take a couple of photos before it slid away into the grass. I sat down on a rock feeling very happy with myself that I had seen such a well coloured male Cyren's and almost returned to the car in triumph but decided to carry on along the path to see if there were any others. I reached a small stream crossed by a bridge and decided to stop here for a bite to eat and a cold drink as the morning was beginning to warm up. I checked my camera and found that the previous lizard was in fact a small Schreiber's green lizard Lacerta schreiberi, feeling like a fool but glad that I had carried on up the path I explored this stream section of small pools and waterfalls.

ImageSchreiber's green lizard by Kevin Byrnes, on Flickr

ImageStream by Kevin Byrnes, on Flickr

I stepped down onto the rocks and a small frog jumped into a little pool, I took a step towards it hoping it may be an Iberian stream frog Rana iberica and then noticed a lizard basking on a nearby rock, I took a few photos of what I assume is a female Cyren's rock lizard and then pulled the frog out of the pool to find it was a small Iberian water frog Pelophylax perezi. I searched this area finding a lot more perezi and another two Cyren's.

Image4 by Kevin Byrnes, on Flickr

ImageIberian water frog by Kevin Byrnes, on Flickr

ImageJuvenile Cyren's rock lizard by Kevin Byrnes, on Flickr

ImageCyren's rock lizard by Kevin Byrnes, on Flickr
Moving on upstream I saw the usual tide of Iberian water frogs leaping into the water ahead of me but soon found what I assume to be an Iberian stream frog Rana iberica a target species for the trip. I sat it upon a rock to take a photo but of course it leapt into the grass and when I reached down to pick it up I put my hand straight onto a small Viperine snake Natrix maura
. Walking on gave another Schreiber's green lizard and another Iberian stream frog so I returned to the car very happy.
Image074 by Kevin Byrnes, on Flickr

Image068 by Kevin Byrnes, on Flickr

ImageSchreibers by Kevin Byrnes, on Flickr
I stopped on my return journey to watch 35 Griffon vultures Gyps fulvus circling very low on a thermal and then pulled into a riverside picnic area where I saw lots of Iberian water frogs, Schreiber's green lizards and some Guadarrama wall lizards Podarcis guadarramae

Imageguadarrama wall lizard by Kevin Byrnes, on Flickr
I drove out of town at night to check a local pond , lot's of Midwife toads calling, a freshly killed Viperine snake on the road and then on the return journey I had to stop to avoid a Western spadefoot toad
Pelobates cultripes


ImageWestern spadefoot by Kevin Byrnes, on Flickr
Tuesday 11th Sept
Big day today in my herping life, a trip to Pena de francia to attempt to find the critically endangered Pena de francia rock lizard Iberolacerta martinezricai. I arrived at 09:30 on a very warm morning and began my search at the rear of the buildings but found nothing. Moving round the complex I got very excited when I spotted a lizard coming headfirst down a wall towards me just as I had seen the Sharp snouted rock lizards Dalmatolacerta oxycephala do in Montenegro. Sadly it turned out to be a Guadarrama wall lizard and so did the others in this corner of the site. I wandered around the site for a few hours checking piles of boulders , rock formations and walls but once again found nothing so returned to the wall lizard spot. There was the head of a large lizard looking out from a large rock but he retreated when he saw me and so I sat in the shade and waited for him to reappear. After a few minutes he came back out into the sunshine and I was able to take a few pictures and identify him as an Ocellated lizard Timon lepidus

ImagePena de francia in distance by Kevin Byrnes, on Flickr

ImagePena de francia peak by Kevin Byrnes, on Flickr

Imagewall lizard by Kevin Byrnes, on Flickr

ImageOcellated lizard at Pena de Francia by Kevin Byrnes, on Flickr

Of course, no visit here is complete with an Ibex photo.
ImageIbex by Kevin Byrnes, on Flickr.
Disappointed and fed up with the heat I returned home

Wed 12th Sept
An early start today of 5 am and a 3.5 hour, 170 mile drive to the Laguna de los pesces to look for Galan's rock lizard Iberolacerta galani.
Imagelaguna de los peces by Kevin Byrnes, on Flickr
I walked down to the lake and soon spotted a snake skin between the stones of the wall quickly followed by a snake heading into the wall, it was a Viperine snake Natrix maura about to shed it's skin.

Imageviperine snake about to shed by Kevin Byrnes, on Flickr

I crept along beside the wall finding a few more Vipeine snakes and then at last a Galan's rock lizard.

ImageViperine snakes in wall by Kevin Byrnes, on Flickr

ImageGalan's rock lizard by Kevin Byrnes, on Flickr

ImageJuvenile Galan's wall lizard by Kevin Byrnes, on Flickr

ImageGalan's wall lizard by Kevin Byrnes, on Flickr

Right then, that's two out of three rock lizards ticked off and three days left to find Pena de Francia.
Imagetwo down , one to go by Kevin Byrnes, on Flickr
A smaller pond near the car park was as suspected full of Iberian water frogs so I moved back down the hill to Lake Sanabria where I hoped to see Bocage's wall lizard Podarcis bocagei.

ImageLake Sanabria by Kevin Byrnes, on Flickr
When I arrived at the lake,most of the area I wanted to look at was still in shade but walking around the shoreline brought me to an area in sunshine and I soon spotted what I took to be Bocage's wall lizards
ImageBocage's wall lizard by Kevin Byrnes, on Flickr

ImageBOCAGE'S WALL LIZARD by Kevin Byrnes, on Flickr
Unfortunately, they later proved to be Guadarrama wall lizards, subspecies lusitanica. A long drive back to a lonely house was only improved by the thought of several cold beers waiting for me in the fridge.

Thursday 13th Sept
Another lovely hot day and a drive back to Pena de Francia with possibly a better idea of where to look. I checked the lower slopes and slowly worked my way to the summit, at one point I saw something poke out from a wall and took a hasty photo but having left my glasses back at the house, I found it hard to focus on what I had seen, later proved to be a lizard!I did the usual sweep of the summit and so dropped down the slope and searched an adjacent hillside for a couple of hours once again finding nothing. Telling myself not to be lazy I returned to the summit and out onto the peak and did another circuit finding just a few wall lizards and Ibex again. I wearily made my way back towards the buildings with a massive feeling of defeat and climbed the steps at the top of which was a small viewpoint almost like a pulpit in a church. I said to myself "One last look at the view", "Don't be stupid Kevin , you have been looking at this view for hours", "Don't be so lazy , it's only two steps" and so I climbed up to have one last look at the view, I then looked down at my feet and couldn't believe my eyes. There , just inches from my feet was surely a juvenile Pena de Francia rock lizard!!!. I looked at the lizard , the lizard looked at me, I looked at my camera, wrong lens "F**K", I told the lizard not to go anywhere and ran back to the car to quickly change my lens. I returned to find it half in the shade but when I put my hand down to gently persuade it to move, it climbed onto my hand.

ImagePena de francia by Kevin Byrnes, on Flickr

ImageIbex on peak by Kevin Byrnes, on Flickr

Imagesearching for lizards by Kevin Byrnes, on Flickr

ImagePena de francia by Kevin Byrnes, on Flickr

ImagePena de francia rock lizard by Kevin Byrnes, on Flickr

ImageSuccess by Kevin Byrnes, on Flickr
Friday 14th Sept
I was n't really sure what to do with the rest of my holiday now I had found my target species so returned to an area I had visited unsuccessfully with Suzanne in 2016. I started by searching a grassy hillside with lots of terrace walls hoping to find a Lataste's viper basking in the morning sun but found nothing but a few quick and noisy unidentified lizards. Going back to the valley bottom I soon spotted a Large Psammodromus Psammodromus algirus and a few Iberian water frogs along the stream edge. I searched a boulder scree slope in a nearby woodland for vipers but as usual found nothing so headed for some ponds a few miles away hoping for an Iberian tree frog Hyla molleri. I walked though the shallows of the almost dried up pond flushing hundreds of Iberian water frogs before me and as I stood in front of a large reed bed with a feeling of failure hanging over me I said to myself " This is stupid, I don't even know how high they, OOOOH look there's one !" I was very happy with this situation as the alternative was to stay until dark and play calls through my laptop speaker and hope for a reply and so I began a very happy 2 hr drive back.
ImageRobledondo stream by Kevin Byrnes, on Flickr

ImageLarge psammodromus by Kevin Byrnes, on Flickr

ImageZarzalejo pond by Kevin Byrnes, on Flickr

ImageIberian tree frog by Kevin Byrnes, on Flickr

ImageIberian tree frog by Kevin Byrnes, on Flickr

Saturday 15th Sept
Drove to some nearby ponds and walked around the area checking bushes and walls, lifted a stone and found a small Natterjack toad Epidalea calamita, a few Large psaammodromus and lots of Iberian water frogs. Returned to the house and packed ready for the journey home in the morning.
ImageNatterjack toad by Kevin Byrnes, on Flickr
Overall a good trip with 7 new species seen but very strange to be travelling alone, good to be out and about looking for stuff but the downtime was not too good. Thanks to Paul Lambourne for some advice and Peter Oefinger for some help with ID.
Species seen
Iberian tree frog
Iberian stream frog
Iberian water frog
Guadarramma wall lizard
Occelated lizard
Large psammodromus
Cyren's rock lizard
Galan's rock lizard
Pena de Francia rock lizard
Viperine snake
Natterjack toad
Schreiber's green lizard
Western spadefoot
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Re: Central Spain

Postby Neil Rowntree » Sun Sep 23, 2018 10:14 pm

Hi Kevin,

Some nice species spotted - and really good to see you managed to snaffle those endemics!
Thank you for sharing such an interesting and emotional report. The pendant is a lovely idea, and I thought your words about it were delightful.

All the best,
Neil
http://northumberlandexplorer.weebly.com/
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Re: Central Spain

Postby Ray Hamilton » Mon Sep 24, 2018 10:45 am

Hi Kevin,

So sorry to hear of the loss of your wife and long term herping partner. It must have been a difficult trip in many ways for you, I can't begin to imagine. The trip report must also have been a difficult one to sit down and type, thanks for taking the time and effort.



took a hasty photo but having left my glasses back at the house, I found it hard to focus on what I had seen,

Ha- sounds familiar.

Congratulations on hitting all your targets. The final of the Galan's rock lizard photographed is a stunner. Also loved the Ibex portrait.

Your report has inspired me to get out and be more proactive in my herping rather than the usual 'just see what I come across' approach.

Thanks, Ray.
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Re: Central Spain

Postby Clive Brignull » Mon Sep 24, 2018 3:22 pm

Hi Kev, Good report. Sorry to hear of your loss. Your continued dedication to the herping hobby is to be recommended. All the best. Clive
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Re: Central Spain

Postby Jeroen Speybroeck » Mon Sep 24, 2018 7:44 pm

Good job! Nothing better than to be out herping when life tries to kick you down. Well done!
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Re: Central Spain

Postby Thomas Reich » Tue Sep 25, 2018 10:49 pm

Thank you for your report, Kevin. Great to see that you found 7 of your missing species. This brings me back some memories from my trip to more or less the same areas in June 2014. I was more lucky with I. martinezricai (several adults), possibly because of the season.

I feel sad and commiserate with you about the death of Suzanne. I enjoyed meeting her last year and will never forget our common trip to Pori.
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Re: Central Spain

Postby Niklas Ban » Wed Sep 26, 2018 11:50 am

Looks very succesful, ncie report!
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Re: Central Spain

Postby Rafa Carmona » Thu Sep 27, 2018 12:23 pm

good report, I was in the Peña de Francia just two days before you and we did not see many martinezricai, it was in the afternoon and it had rained in the morning, even so it seems that it is not the best date to observe them
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Re: Central Spain

Postby Laura Bok » Thu Sep 27, 2018 6:08 pm

Lovely report Kevin! I especially like the in situ Viperine Snakes on the rocks and (of course) the Pelobates.
Thanks for sharing your experience during your trip with us, with all its ups and downs.
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Re: Central Spain

Postby Bobby Bok » Mon Oct 01, 2018 5:53 pm

Great trip Kevin although I can't imagine what you must be going through. Our trip to Pori last year, along with fond memories of meeting Suzanne will always be treasured. Really admire that you are back in the field, doing what we herpers do best!
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