Spain - Andalucia and beyond.

Portugal, Spain, Andorra

Spain - Andalucia and beyond.

Postby Ray Hamilton » Wed Sep 12, 2018 1:17 pm

My wife and I moved out to Spain in November 2017. Not a permanent move, rather just a chance to see some new areas and try to spot a bit of the local wildlife.

From November to the start of January we moved to the rural area (campo) 42 km to the east of Malaga. The old farmhouse we lived in had stunning views all the way down to the coast. On the minus side the place had no glass in the windows, just metal shutters, which was fine when the sun shone but not so good when the winter blew through the valley.

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View from patio down the valley.

Reptile sightings around the place included;
Large Psammodromus (Psammodromus algirus) – numerous, mainly on trackside walls and nearly all juveniles. The ever present Moorish Geckos (Tarentola mauritanica) – around the exterior lights after dark and Turkish Gecko (Hemidactylus turcicus) – usually found when turning ground cover. The only amphibians seen were Iberian water Frogs (Pelophylax perezi), which inhabited most of the small water reservoirs built into the farm buildings.

In late November we experienced our first drop of night time rain and this resulted in several good sized Spiny Toads (Bufo spinosus) coming out of hiding to sit and enjoy the drizzle.

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The garden and house were home for many species of spider, most spectacular of which were a species of European Huntsman (Eusparassus levantinus), large, speedy arachnids that would appear on the bedroom walls after dark.
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European Huntsman (Eusparassus levantinus)


The birdlife in the valley was dominated by the Black Redstarts. Also several raptors were about, including Peregrine Falcon, Booted Eagle and Kestrel. Somewhere further up the valley an Eagle Owl could often be heard calling but we were never able to track the bird down.

Unfortunately photographs from around this time are few following the theft of my camera bag from the boot of a hire car which was parked in Ikea car park on the outskirts of Malaga. I always knew my insurance company would shaft me somehow and because the car had been unattended when the theft took place I was not surprised to hear they wouldn’t pay out. I ended up borrowing one of my son’s old cameras and a couple of lenses to get me up and running again.

We made several excursions to a nature reserve on the outskirts of Malaga. It had proved a happy hunting ground on previous visits and, back in 2009/10, been a great place to spot reptiles. It once again didn’t disappoint.

Horseshoe Whip Snakes (Hemorrhois hippocrepis), both adult and juveniles, were spotted around the reserve, in particular during the mornings when they could be seen warming up on the flood defence boulders along the side of the path.

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On most visits to the reserve I managed to spot a large male Western Montpellier Snake (Malpolon monspessulanus) which came out to bask on the same clump of vegetation at the back of a bird hide. The first time I noticed it, the snake was moving back into the rocks at some speed as I had walked too close and disturbed it basking. I stood back and waited for about half an hour and the snake’s head kept looking out from between the boulders to see if the coast was clear. It was very wary and seemed to spot other people using the path from some distance away.

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Montpellier peeking out from between the rocks.

On later visits I approached the basking area more carefully and managed to get some nice views of the snake as it lay basking in the base of the plants. I was slightly conscious of the odd looks I was getting from those using the same hide as I appeared to be looking the wrong way.

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A second smaller Montpellier was also seen along the same stretch of pathway but was much harder to observe.

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Red eared Terrapins (Trachemys scripta elegans) were seen on the main waterway through the reserve but Spanish Terrapins (Mauremys leprosa) didn’t appear around the lagoons until the middle of February and at that time many were still caked in winter mud.

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Mediterranean Chameleons (Chamaeleo chamaeleon), adult and juveniles were spotted in the reserve also.

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The Caminito del Rey is now fully reopened having previously been known as “The world’s most dangerous walkway.” The walkway is attached high up on the sides of the canyon at El Chorro. We got to finally walk the 7.7km path on my 60th birthday. As it was a chilly December morning there were no reptiles about but many Griffon Vultures warming their wings and soaring along the canyon walls.

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In early January we moved from the campo to an apartment on the coast at Algarrobo which had proper glass windows.
Vaucher’s Wall Lizards (Podarcis vaucheri) were numerous along the borders and flower beds next to the beach. At that time of year none were that brightly marked.

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Pv – Caleta de Velez

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Pv – Caleta de Velez

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Pv – Torrox

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Pv – Torrox

We took a trip north east along the coast to Roquetas de Mar, a short distance from Almeria, in the hope of finding some Spanish Wall Lizards (Podarcis hispanicus). We found several Podarcis but all looked a little familiar and turned out to be P.vaucheri. The map I’d referred to had now been superseded by an up to date version which moves the border between vaucheri and hispanicus further east towards the Cabo de Gata N.P.

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Pv – Roquetas de Mar

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Pv – Roquetas de Mar


It mattered not as we also took the chance to visit the Tabernas desert. Interesting enough but little found in the way of reptiles during our brief visit.

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Desert sky.

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Fort Bravo main street. Setting for many spaghetti westerns.

More to follow...
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Re: Spain - Andalucia and beyond.

Postby Neil Rowntree » Wed Sep 12, 2018 6:52 pm

Hi Ray - Good to hear from you!

Ah man, those crafty Malpolons...well done with the in-situs - I've never had one sitting still on those rocks before!
Tabernas brings back some memories too - that's on the road to one of my favourite spots.
Looking forward to the next instalment.

Neil
http://northumberlandexplorer.weebly.com/
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Re: Spain - Andalucia and beyond.

Postby Ruggero Morimando » Wed Sep 12, 2018 7:03 pm

You have photographed male Malpolon (the first one) and female (the second one).
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Re: Spain - Andalucia and beyond.

Postby Ray Hamilton » Wed Sep 12, 2018 10:01 pm

Thanks Neil.

The Montpelliers seem to be more frequently encountered on this trip than previously. On the other hand I never spotted any Ladder Snakes in 6 months.

I'd be interested to hear where you were heading when travelling through the desert.


Cheers, Ray
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Re: Spain - Andalucia and beyond.

Postby Ray Hamilton » Wed Sep 12, 2018 10:12 pm

You have photographed male Malpolon (the first one) and female (the second one).


Hi Ruggero, thanks for that. I had noted with interest your previous comments on the forum regarding the sexing of Malpolon. The bigger snake had the dark saddle marking which can't be seen in the posted photo.

Cheers, Ray
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Re: Spain - Andalucia and beyond.

Postby Ray Hamilton » Thu Sep 13, 2018 8:13 am

Back at Algarrobo the river beds were still dry. Rio Seco, a short distance away was an interesting place to walk. One morning I was surprised by a Horseshoe Whip Snake that was moving across some boulders towards me. Luckily I was actually walking with the camera in my hand so was able to fire off a couple of quick photos before it noticed me and moved off between the stones.

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Dried up River Seco.

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Moorish Gecko (Tarentola mauritanica)

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Horseshoe Whip Snake (Hemorrhois hippocrepis)

A viewpoint further along the coast was suggested as a place to find Spanish Ibex (Capra pyrenaica). It proved to be an excellent tip and on each of the half a dozen visits we made Ibex were seen. Sometimes even encountered standing in the middle of the road.

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Spanish Ibex (Capra pyrenaica)

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We took a trip to the west to visit Donana N.P. at the end of January. The area was still parched from low rainfall. Nights were cold and reptiles nowhere to be found. We did find an area to the north of our base at El Rocio where a shallow stream still ran through a sandy area. Returning after dark produced around ten Western Spadefoot Toads (Pelobates cultripes) easily picked out by eye shine. Also Iberian Painted Frogs (Discoglossus galganoi) were found along the bank.
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El Rocio – what a strange place. In January the sandy streets were empty and everything closed by the time it got dark.

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The church of El Rocio, the home of the famous El Roció Virgin (Madonna of the Dew)

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Donana scene

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White Storks nesting in Donana NP, Spain.

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I had never seen Azure winged Magpies before and wondered if I’d manage to glimpse one somewhere in the park. Seems ridiculous now, they were everywhere.

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Western Spadefoot Toad (Pelobates cultripes)

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Iberian Painted Frog (Discoglossus galganoi)

From Donana we decided to add on a few extra miles and drove into Portugal for a couple of nights. Staying in Lagos we explored some of the stunning coastline nearby and around Vila do Bispo. During a night time search at the base of huge wind turbines Sharp ribbed Newts (Pleurodeles waltl) were found and Iberian water Frogs (P. perezi).

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Sharp-ribbed Newt (Pleurodeles waltl)
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Re: Spain - Andalucia and beyond.

Postby Michal Szkudlarek » Thu Sep 13, 2018 8:24 am

Cool chameleons Ray!
Were Waltl's newts found in water?
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Re: Spain - Andalucia and beyond.

Postby Ray Hamilton » Thu Sep 13, 2018 5:25 pm

Hi Michal,

I must agree, chameleons are always great to spot.

The newts were found at night in very cold water which contained virtually no vegetation. They were easy to spot in the water because of that.

Ray
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Re: Spain - Andalucia and beyond.

Postby Ray Hamilton » Thu Sep 13, 2018 6:04 pm

Back at Algarrobo the weather turned decidedly wintery and finally rain arrived, lots of rain. The river beds I had been walking up turned into proper torrents. Spanish terrapins (M.leprosa) began to appear in car parks and on the beach as they were forced out of their hiding places by the rising flow.

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The coastal village of Mezquitilla during one of the storms.

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Algarrobo Costa.

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A year’s worth of rubbish was washed down from the length of the dry river bed and swept out to sea by the first big storm. This included some of the sun beds and furniture from the restaurant on the beach.

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Spanish Terrapin (Mauremys leprosa) searching for a dry place to hide.


During a break in the storms we travelled to the area west of Malaga which we knew well. Checking out some old reptile hotspots last visited in 2010 it was good to find a couple of Iberian False Smooth Snakes (Macroprotodon brevis) under ground cover. Also Iberian Worm Lizards (Blanus cinereus) and a single Psammodromus were found under stones. The area is around the border of distribution between P.edwarsianus and P.occidentalis. Having previously found lizards that I have convinced myself were P.occidentalis at this site I decided the latest find was also that species.

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False Smooth Snake (Macroprotodon cucullatus) – 1

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False Smooth Snake (Macroprotodon cucullatus) – 2

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Iberian Worm Lizard (Blanus cinereus)

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Western Psammodromus (Psammodromus occidentalis)

Rain, fog, snow and giant hailstones made early 2018 in Andalusia an interesting place to be. On the occasional sunny mornings the Vaucher’s Wall Lizards (P.vaucheri) continued to bask along the pathside.

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Pv – El Morche.

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Pv – El Morche.
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Pv – El Morche.

We took a trip north to Oliva, 80 km south of Valencia. A Catalonian Wall Lizard (Podarcis liolepis) was spotted basking on a low wall. In the dunes behind the beach Edwards’s Psammodromus (Psammodromus edwarsianus) were spotted darting between the plants. (Too quick for camera!)

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Catalonian Wall Lizard (Podarcis liolepis) in Oliva, Valencia province.

Towards the end of March the weather slowly began to improve. By then nearby Lake Vinuela had increased capacity from 22% up to 99.7% - great news for the area.
Orchids and wild flowers began to show along the roadsides.

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Pink butterfly orchid (Orchis papilionacea)

In the Sierra Nevada National Park the water channels in the foothills proved to be a productive place to find reptiles and amphibians. Both Horseshoe Whip Snakes and Viperine Snakes (Natrix Maura) were spotted swimming with the flow. Large Psammodromus, both Moorish and Turkish Geckos and Vaucher’s Wall Lizards were also basking along the stone walls. Spiny Toads (Bufo spinosus) were found in mating balls in the water and in amplectant pairs. The odd glimpse of Ibex higher up the slopes added to the enjoyment of the walks.
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Spiny Toads (Bufo spinosus) in amplexus.

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Mountain Path

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Ibex on the edge.

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Pink and Blue. Greater flamingos feeding against the darkening skies of a Spanish sunset at Fuente de Piedra.

At the end of April a minor problem resulted in us having to nip back to the UK. I thought we would be back out to Spain within a month – wrong.

More to follow...
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Re: Spain - Andalucia and beyond.

Postby Michal Szkudlarek » Thu Sep 13, 2018 6:08 pm

Ray Hamilton wrote:The newts were found at night in very cold water which contained virtually no vegetation. They were easy to spot in the water because of that.

Did you find that body of water via google maps?
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