After a great trip to Tavira (Portugal) I did not have to wait long for my next trip. On Friday 1 May, a little more than a day later, I left home for another adventure. This time I went with friends and wildlife fanatics Dieuwertje Smolenaars, Jasper Boldingh, Bart Misana, and Sander Schagen.
The Iberian Lynx was the most wanted animal for all of us. We saw the rarest cat in the world during our last visit to Sierra de Andújar back in August 2013. I wanted to make a better photo. On my best photo they were too far away to be considered a good photo.
On the reptiles and amphibians department I wanted the photograph a Montpellier Snake (Malpolon monspessulanus) and a Lataste’s Viper (Vipera latastei gaditana). Besides that I wanted to make in situ photographs of lizards like the Occelated Lizard, Large Psammodromus, and Podarcis hispanicus.
Before going to Sierra de Andújar I already had some locations where I could possibly find Lataste’s Vipers (Vipera latastei gaditana). I was already warned that they are not very often seen in this area. I really hoped to find one, but even with known locations we did not succeed.
We also searched for the Montpellier Snake (Malpolon monspessulanus) at very suitable habitats, but with little success. Sander saw a snake that got away from him. He thought that it was a Montpellier Snake, but he was not entirely sure. As he said he was not sharp enough at that very moment.
We just saw a lot of dead snakes (mostly Latter Snakes) on the road. Also very fresh roadkills. We were not lucky enough and it is also very sad that so many snakes get killed in Sierra de Andújar.
We did see some Viperine Snakes (Natrix maura) and a swimming Horseshoe Whip Snake (Hemorrhois hippocrepis). The last one was new for me.
I did no really expect to find a Lataste’s Viper, but being so unsuccessful with snakes was a bit disappointing. Monday and Friday were good days, but on the other days the temperatures were already very high at the end of the morning.
In situ lizards
Monday and Friday were also the best days to photograph lizards in situ. On the other days they were hiding or very shy. On Monday and Friday there were more clouds during the day. In my opinion better circumstances for basking and active lizards.
I photographed all the lizards I wanted to photograph and a little more than that.
Occelated Lizards (Timon lepidus) are always hard to photograph. They are big, but when they hide, it takes a long time before they show themselves again. You have to be very lucky to see them out in the open and not running away to the smallest cracks between rocks or in trees. They are big lizards but it always surprises me in how small the cracks are in where they disappear. Still I managed to get some in situ shots this time.
The Large Psammodromus (Psammodromus algirus) was everywhere. They were by far the most common lizard. For me it was the first time that I saw them in spring. The males had a very beautiful colouration with bright orange-red and yellow head and throat and blue spots on the flanks. They were definitely not boring!
The best part is that I saw very gentle courtship by a male and female Large Psammodromus. It looked so cute. It was definitely an act of lizard voyeurism. I used my telelens so I did not have to disturb them.
Also the Iberian Wall Lizard (Podarcis virescens) had the beautiful colouration they have during the breeding season. Podarcis species are as usual a joy to photograph. They are active, good looking and photogenic. They seem shy, but they always return. Keeping your good spot with a lot of sunlight (heat) and insects to eat is more important than escaping from a stalking and probably ‘not scary enough’ photographer.
Geckos, geckos, geckos!
It does not matter how common they are, geckos are cool! Common Wall Geckos (Tarentola mauritanica) were also very common in Sierra de Andújar. Many of them were also present on Camping La Mirada where we stayed for the week.
Bart Misana also found a juvenile one on the Encinerejo Trial. This stunning gecko started to lick his eyes during the photoshoot. Geckos lick their eyeballs to keep them clean. They do not have eyelits like we have. A photo like this was on my wishlist for a long time!
Bart Misana had sharp eyes that day. He also found an Iberian Worm Lizard (Blanus cinereus) under a rock. It is a very mysterious but beautiful lizard.
I did not see many amphibians, but the amphibians I saw were high quality. The first amphibian was a Perez’s Frog (Pelophylax perezi) in the swimming pool of the camping. During the week I saw more of them.
During the first night Dieuwertje found an Iberian Spadefoot Toad (Pelobates cultripes). Thanks for finding!
Sander Schagen, a fanatic birder, was also busy flipping rocks and carbage. No, he was not looking for food. He found a Ribbed Newt (Pleurodeles waltl) under the lid of a paint can. Thanks!
Spanish Pond Turtle
The Spanish Pond Turtles (Mauremys leprosa) were very present in the area and very shy as usual. I also found one walking through the grass.
Most of the time I am not hunting for bird photos. Sometimes when I have the chance to photograph them I definitely will. Many European Bee-eaters (Merops apiaster) were flying around at the end of the afternoon near the Encinerejo Dam. Jasper was also making great shots out there.
I made more bird photos during the week. I added a small collection to this report.
There are many mammals in Sierra de Andújar besides the Iberian Lynx. I found mammals like the Rabbit (Oryctolagus cuniculus), Red Deer (Cervus elaphus) and the Wild Boar (Sus scrofa). I also found several species of bats, but I did not photograph them.
I could get very close to the young Wild Boar, but sometimes when I got too close he was threatening me by doing feinting an attack.
About the Iberian Lynx I can be very short. We did not find one. Sander thought that he saw one during night time. His first feeling was that he saw an Iberian Lynx, but it was not 100% sure and definitely not one for a good photo (too dark). We visited the side where Jasper found them last time multiple times. We found many tracks, but no lynx.
We did not find the most wanted species; the Iberian Lynx, Lataste’s Viper and Montpelier Snake. After all the effort it was a little disappointing. Disappointing or not, it was still a great week. The positive things are that I photographed the lizards I wanted, photographed an eye licking gecko, had good weather, and I was with friends outside in the very beautiful Sierra de Andújar. Failure is a big part of wildlife photography. The animals are wild animals. You can not direct all animals to give the perfect pose and even more important is that not animals are easy to find. We did all the searching ourselves. Sometimes we are lucky and on this trip not so lucky. I am also not satisfied with all photographs I made. While editing the photos at home I felt with many photos: ‘I could have done better with a little bit more patience’. I can learn from it for the next trip to Malawi and Zambia.
I will just add the photographed (or mentioned in the report) species to my list.
- Iberian Spadefoot Toad (Pelobates cultripes)
- Perez’s Frog (Pelophylax perezi)
- Ribbed Newt (Pleurodeles waltl)
- Common Wall Gecko (Tarentola mauritanica)
- Horseshoe Whip Snake (Hemorrhois hippocrepis)
- Iberian Wall Lizard (Podarcis virescens)
- Iberian Worm Lizard (Blanus cinereus)
- Large Psammodromus (Psammodromus algirus)
- Occelated Lizards (Timon lepidus)
- Spanish Pond Turtles (Mauremys leprosa)
- Viperine Snake (Natrix maura)
- Black Vulture (Aegypius monachus)
- European Bee-eater (Merops apiaster)
- Rabbit (Oryctolagus cuniculus)
- Red Deer (Cervus elaphus)
- Wild Boar (Sus scrofa)
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