Thursday, December 3, 2020

Algarve, Portugal, part II

Our second destination was Tavira. Unfortunately the C.19 restrictions were tightened and we were not allowed to leave the Concelho (district) of our adress. So the main spot to look for Chameleons, was not in our district and since the police interviewed us twice before, we did't want to risk any trouble. The weather also became a bit more autumn-like, so my hope to find Chameleons... vanished.
After most of the very cloudy day (14°C) wasted with looking for nice locations in our district and flipping rocks and stuff (finding nothing special), we went to the salt pans to look for birds. Birdwatching is actually fun too and with the proper equipment, it would be even nicer.

Egretta garzetta - Little Egret

Platalea leucorodia - Eurasian Spoonbill

Phalacrocorax carbo - Great Cormorant

Himantopus himantopus - Black-winged Stilt

Too little light for a decent picture, so I took an experimental one

The weather forecast for Tavira area (and beyond) was super cloudy and rainy... so no chance to find reptiles. Sneaky Samira came up with a nice idea: we rent an additional apartment for one night to be legally allowed to move to another district. So we went to Monchique, since the rainy and quite cold weather is sh**ty for reptiles we were hoping to find close to the beach, but perfect for the Salamanders we would love to see in the mountains. Thanks to trip reports and google earth I was very confident I found a good spot. And when we came closer to the famous picnic site, I noticed some people with flashlights there. Fellow herpers? :-) ...No. Just some young guys doing something (?) in the dark drizzle. :-(
A little dissapointed we went past them and focused on our search for Amphibians. Very soon we found the first Fire Salamander (Salamandra s. crespoi), followed by some larvas in the stream and 13 adults. Also one Boscá's Newt was posing perfectly on a mossy stone and two Spiny Toads showed up. Almost all of the Salamanders were big mommies. After a cold night in the mountains, we went back to Tavira and made a short stop at the salamander spot for some last shots.

Fire Salamander - on the move
Salamandra s. crespoi - Fire Salamander

Bufo spinosus - Spiny Toad

Fire Salamander larva

Fire Salamander - with nice red pattern

Lissotriton boscai - Boscá's Newt

Salamandra s. crespoi - Fire Salamander
The afternoon in Tavira was rainy again so I convinced Samira to do some road herping with me. We found several Pygmy Marbled Newts and one Sharp-ribbed Newt. After saving them from the road, I took the oportunity for some more pictures. (Unfortunately also a few newts were found DOR).

Triturus pygmaeus - Pygmy Marbled Newt

Pygmy Marbled Newt - dorsal view

Pygmy Marbled Newt - portrait

Pleurodeles waltl - Sharp-ribbed Newt

Sharp-ribbed Newt - portrait

Almost the end of our Algarve trip, the sun showed up again and gave us one last chance to search for Chameleons. So we checked the dune areas. First we searched together. After quite a while Samira sat down at the beach, relaxing like a normal tourist - while  I was still staring in the bushes like an obsessed madman. Shortly after I picked up Samira and went with her towards the parking lot, I stopped walking and gasped: "I don't believe it... there is one!" A broad grin, that almost hurt my face was the result of this last minute observation. Pure joy!

Chamaeleo chamaeleon - Mediterranean Chameleon

Before our flight back, we had around 1.5 hours time to hike around close to the airport. We failed to find a second Chameleon, but we were able to take some pictures of Mediterranean Pond Turtles (Mauremys leprosa). 

Mauremys leprosa - Mediterranean Pond Turtle

Mauremys leprosa - Mediterranean Pond Turtles

Master of camouflage: Gallinago gallinago - Common snipe

All in all it was a really nice trip!
- We skipped a coulpe of cold days in Germany
- We enjoyed beautiful beaches
- We saw some amazing herps (including many lifers)
All the good stuff mentioned, two Horseshoe Whip Snakes, escaped without a picture in a stone wall,
several herp species not observed at all and some places missed due to the restrictions... many reasons to visit the Algarve again one day.

Friday, November 27, 2020

Algarve, Portugal, part I

Samira and I actually had other plans, but they were messed up by the "C-word." So Plan B was needed.
We have never traveled there before and the combination of beautiful beaches and possible winter herping made the decision quite easy: Portugal.

The first days we stayed near Lagos. We spend most of the time at different beaches, enjoying the sun & scenery (around 18°C). I always looked for critters close to the beach... I found nothing at all.

Ponta da Piedade

Praia do Castelejo

For sure we did some herping too. While searching for possible temporary ponds, we came across a Wild Boar (Sus scrofa) mommy with seven piglets. Interesting.
Later we found the ponds but they were almost completely dry. Luckily a Viperine Snake was around, doing the same thing we did: hunting amphibians. 

Sus scrofa - Wild Boar

Three piglets

Natrix maura - Viperine Snake

Viperine Snake - portrait

Besides tadpoles and salamander larvas, we only found some Iberian Waterfrogs (Pelophylax perezi). On the way back to our apartment, we saved a Spiny Toad (Bufo spinosus) from the road. The Moorish Geckos (Tarentola mauritanica) around the house are always highly appreciated.


Pelophylax perezi - Iberian Waterfrog

Bufo spinosus - Spiny Toad

Tarentola mauritanica - Moorish Gecko

Moorish Gecko - portrait

One herping day I was allowed to take us away from the coast to a beautiful habitat further inland. Algerian Sand Racer (Psammodromus algirus), Moorish Geckos and a Natterjack Toad (Epidalea calamita) was all we got after hours of searching. Too little for such a nice place, so I was kindly complaining a little bit on our way back. Shortly before we reached our car, I found a Montpellier Snake (Malpolon monspessulanus). Complaining canceled! Such a cool snake and conclusion of the day!

Psammodromus algirus - Algerian Sand Racer

Yellow Scorpion - Buthus occitanus

Epidalea calamita - Natterjack Toad

Natterjack Toad - portrait

Malpolon monspessulanus - Montpellier Snake

Malpolon monspessulanus - Montpellier Snake

Mantis religiosa - European Mantis

After some more beach trips, it finally rained. So we went back to the pond were we found the Viperine Snake before. The pond was now 10 times the size than it was before and the whole area was swampy. My hope to find amphibians raised as much as the water level.

Praia da Marinha


Ponta da Piedade - again

Soon I found my first time ever Pygmy Marbled Newt (Triturus pygmaeus). Since my childhood when I noticed a picture of this beautiful newt in one of my books, I really wanted to see one in the wild. By the way, I don't know why it took me so long to visit portugal anyway :-D

Samira found two tiny Boscá's Newts (Lissotriton boscai) at the edge of the pond. By that time I found my second Pygmy Marbled Newt. Along with the rain and dark, the Western Spadefoot (Pelobates cultripes) popped out of the ground. While I was taking pictures of one of them, Samira called me: "Here is a big one!" ~That can only mean one thing!!~ As fast as possible I scampered to her. (I had to watch my steps because of the risk to walk on a newt or toad, or just fall in a puddle.) After maybe 10 seconds that seemed like an hour to me, I arrived at my beloved being... and my girlfriend pointed her flashlight at it: a large Sharp-ribbed Newt (Pleurodeles waltl) !
Very happily we called it a night and went home. We saved a slightly smaller Sharp-ribbed Newt from the road on our way back. The next day we went to the same spot to take some pictures and to kill some time between the check out / check in time of our two apartments.


Pelobates cultripes - Western Spadefoot

Triturus pygmaeus - Pygmy Marbled Newt
Lissotriton boscai - Boscá's Newt

Pleurodeles waltl - Sharp-ribbed Newt

Saturday, June 6, 2020

Bavarian Alps, part IV

With a combination of mountain railway and hiking we went up to the top of Jenner and back down again to visit the Königsee. The landscape is beautiful once again. I recommend to start early in the morning, because it gets very crowded later in the day.

Alpine view

Mountain close up

View of the Königssee

National Park Berchtesgarden


We also visited the easily accessible but quite small Wimbachklamm. A lot of hiking in the National Park Berchtesgarden led to success, when we observed a large and very dark coloured Grass Snake (Natrix natrix), followed by a pitch black beauty of the same species and similar impressive size. I was very happy and I told Samira jokingly "Now only an Adder is missing". Less than 2 minutes after I said that, we actually found one! It was the perfect conclusion of our trip. 



Natrix natrix - Grass Snake

Melanistic Grass Snake

Vipera berus - European Adder