After a last meeting at work on Thursday I finally had an one week holiday. From 26 February to 2 March 2016 we had planned a short trip to Southern Portugal and Southwest Spain. I was really looking forward to this trip, because it was my first trip abroad since Malawi and Zambia last summer. When I got home I felt not so good. After a few hours I felt terrible. After a long night I still did not feel any better.
Packing my bag, while feeling very sick, is not the best way to do it. I only forgot my stuff to shave, but since beards are awesome now, it was not a problem. Getting at the airport by public transport, and being packed like a photographer, was quite challenging.
In Portugal the crew was complete. We had Paul Lambourne and Trevor Willis from Britain and Wouter Beukema, Bobby Bok, Matthijs Hollanders and I from Europe (the Netherlands). After picking up our rental car it was time to go to our first stop in the west at Vila do Bispo.
Portugal is more than searching amphibians and reptiles
I missed the first night out looking for animals. I went to bed early. It worked, the next day I already felt much better.
This report starts with a Moorish Gecko (Tarentola mauritanica), a beautiful gecko I see on most of my Iberian adventures. The Natterjack Toad (Epidalea calamita) is a species that also live near my house, but are great to see!
The view at the coastal cliffs of Carrapateira is also something I did not want to miss. This is not something I see very often.
After the nice scenery we went to a place nearby to search for amphibians and reptiles. It started good with a Parsley Frog (Pelodytes punctatus). A new species for me.
Again I had the joy to photograph another Moorish Gecko (Tarentola mauritanica). This gecko is very common, but I also love photographing very common photogenic animals. When a gecko starts licking the eyes to keep them clean and moist it it makes me a happy man. And please do not think dirty!
New snake species!
We lost Matthijs and Trevor, but they found their own great spot. When the sun came through they found three species of snake: a juvenile Ladder Snake (Rhinechis scalaris), a juvenile Southern Smooth Snake (Coronella girondica), and an Iberian False Smooth Snake (Macroprotodon brevis). Nice!
On our way back to the car we found a great place to flip a corrugated metal sheets. We found some brown rats and mice, but also a juvenile Ocellated Lizard (Timon lepidus).
While photographing the Ocellated Lizard Bobby found a snake I really wanted to see. I missed this snake a few times in France and Spain, but now I had more luck. The Western Montpellier Snake (Malpolon monspessulanus) was only a juvenile, but still very beautiful.
After some herpetological highlights it was time to do something different. We went to Praia do Castelejo. Again a stunning view with coastal cliffs. This place motivated me to do more landscape photography. I should buy filters for my wide-angle lens to achieve better results, but this might be a start of more landscape photography.
The next day started with a photo session near Grandola with some stunning animals. I love the Natterjack Toads (Epidalea calamita) for their eyes.
Trevor also found this stunning and photogenic Stripeless Tree Frog (Hyla meridionalis). One of my favorite European species. The third photo is the new wallpaper on my phone, which you can download here.
The amphibian on my wishlist to photograph was the Fire Salamander (Salamandra salamandra crespoi). With the red spots they really look like they are on fire. They are stunning but as with many newts and salamanders not fun to photograph, because they keep on walking like a ‘Duracell bunny’.
For Bobby, who initiated this trip, the most important reason to visit Portugal was the Maria’s Worm Lizard (Blanus mariae). This was the species he still had to see. After finding the first, we found many more at a place where there was plenty stuff to flip. Mission accomplished.
We found more Fire Salamanders (Salamandra salamandra crespoi x gallaica) in another habitat. They are beautiful animals, living in a just as beautiful habitat!
Chammies at Faro
I was looking forward to Faro. Faro is a place in the Algarve with a stunning coastal area. This means chammies! The weather was perfect to find them. As soon as I saw the right bushes to search I found one within seconds. That was a lot faster than last year around Tavira, Portugal. I love the way they move. They are also a joy to photograph! The lightning was not perfect this time with the harsh light, but I made the best of it.
In this habitat there were not just Mediterranean Chameleons (Chamaeleo chamaeleon), but there was also basking Stripeless Tree Frog (Hyla meridionalis).
Short Spanish adventure
After our short visit to Faro we crossed the border to Spain. Our destination was the town of Matalascanas, near National Park Donana.
First we stopped near Huelva at some ruins of what looked like an hotel. It was a mess with a lot to flip. The area was forbidden, but when the police arrived they did not mind us looking for animals.
Bobby found another Western Montpellier Snake (Malpolon monspessulanus) at this not so good looking, but great for reptiles, location.
The Spiny-footed Lizard (Acanthodactylus erythrurus) and Horseshoe Whip Snake (Hemorrhois hippocrepis) were also new additions to my collection.
Our main goal at Doñana National Park was the Lataste’s Viper but we were not lucky. This snake will remain on my wish list to see. This subspecies is even more elusive, so it will probably remain on my list for a while. If I needed reasons to visit Spain more often this would be one of them.
The Western Montpellier Snake (Malpolon monspessulanus) was one of the snake species I wished for, so we found our third, and most beautiful, of the trip.
As I say all the time, it is always great to see a chameleon. The one near our hotel was big and beautiful with yellow colors. The lightning was very harsh, and I just used my wide angle. I can not wait to photograph the next chameleon!
Our plan was to have lunch near the beach and photograph the Andalusian Wall Lizard (Podarcis vaucheri). We just photographed the lizard, and headed back to Portugal. Probably it was very hard to find a place with good food any time of the day.
After this lizard I did not make any photographs. After feeling very sick I recovered enough to walk and photograph, but I did not have the energy for long walks and long photography sessions. I am happy with some beautiful new photographs I was able to make and add to my collection. I just was not able to do something creative. I was too tired and not up to it. Hopefully I feel a lot better next time.
I want to end this report with a very valuable advice. When you visit El Rocio, never go to Restaurante Casa Paco Triana. It is by far the worst restaurant ever! The food (especially the spaghetti) was cold, the meat tasted like shoe soles. All at premium prices! And when we complained they all forgot how to speak English, but were able to tell that all other people like their food. The food in Portugal (and other parts of Spain) is better anyway.
My next trip will be to Poland. Please follow me on social media to stay up-to-date and see my latest photos first.
List of species
This list contains all the amphibian and reptile species we did encounter. I did not add photos of all species to this report.
- Iberian Newt (Lissotriton boscai)
- Sharp-ribbed Newt (Pleurodeles waltl)
- Fire Salamander (Salamandra salamandra ssp. crespoi)
- Southern Marbled Newt (Triturus pygmaeus)
- Iberian Midwife Toad (Alytes cisternasii)
- Natterjack Toad (Epidalea calamita)
- Stripeless Tree Frog (Hyla meridionalis)
- Western Spadefoot Toad (Pelobates cultripes)
- Parsley Frog (Pelodytes punctatus)
- Iberian Water Frog (Pelophylax perezi)
- European Pond Terrapin (Emys orbicularis ssp. occidentalis)
- Moorish Terrapin (Mauremys leprosa)
- Red-eared Slider (Trachemys scripta)
- Mediterranean Chameleon (Chamaeleo chamaeleon)
- Moorish Gecko (Tarentola mauritanica)
- Turkish Gecko (Hemidactylus turcicus)
- Bedriaga’s Skink (Chalcides bedriagai ssp. cobosi)
- Western Three-toed Skink (Chalcides striatus)
- Spiny-footed Lizard (Acanthodactylus erythrurus)
- Carbonell’s Wall Lizard (Podarcis carbonelli)
- Andalusian Wall Lizard (Podarcis vaucheri)
- Algerian Psammodromus (Psammodromus algirus)
- Western Psammodromus (Psammodromus occidentalis)
- Ocellated Lizard (Timon lepidus)
- Maria’s Worm Lizard (Blanus mariae)
- Southern Smooth Snake (Coronella girondica)
- Horseshoe Whip Snake (Hemorrhois hippocrepis)
- Iberian False Smooth Snake (Macroprotodon brevis)
- Western Montpellier Snake (Malpolon monspessulanus)
- Viperine Snake (Natrix maura)
- Ladder Snake (Rhinechis scalaris)The list was provided by Bobby Bok of Herpsafari.nl.