Ive not really been out that much with my camera of late as I tend to try and do a bit more cycling in summer but here are a few bits and bobs from the local area and a couple of pics from Cumbria. I've found another decent little spot for Water Voles about half a mile from my usual place.
For a while now I have wanted to go to the Picos de Europa in Northern Spain, an area of outstanding scenery and some great wildlife watching. So together with my usual fieldtrip stalwart Matthew Wilson and friends Kevin and Suzanne Byrnes we planned to go at the end of May 2015. Kev and Suzanne sorted us a great cottage just below the mountains. Cheap flights from the dreaded Stanstead and all was set. Ideally for this trip we didn't want full on sunshine all day but a bit of a mix to ensure we connected with a good number of amphibians. This is essentially what we got. We rustled up 22 species, 5 snakes, 7 lizards, 4 newts, 2 salamanders and 4 frogs/toads. 6 of these were new species for me.
The only down side to this trip was TICKS I removed about, 8 luckily I had a removal device most were tiny black dots, so check yourself after each day out.
We collected our car and off we headed to the first stop a place between the airport and digs composed of dunes, scrub and pine woods. Unfortunately it was drizzling so after a quick search we decided to get some dinner and hope the sun emerged. Sure enough out came the sun and with it the lizards, firstly Western 3 Toed Skink a species ive seen before but not managed to photographed. However the star lizards were next a pair of gorgeous Schreibers Green Lizards (lifer). A few Common Wall Lizards and Common Toad. A great first stop and we set off to the cottage. After settling in we headed out to get some supplies, BOOM a rock sticking out of a narrow track popped a tyre (I shan't say who was driving) We then had a palarva because there was no spare and we had to go to Oviedo the next day to get a replacement car. In the evening we found Common Midwife Toads and Salamander near the cottage.
Western 3 Toed Skink
Salamandra s berandezi
View behind cottage
Schreiber's green lizards
A dull start to the day and we had an extended wait at Balmori waiting for the taxi to turn up to take us to Oviedo to pick up the new car. A bit of birding whilst waiting revealed Serin, Spotless Starling and a Male Redstart. From Oviedo we headed for a valley looking for Golden Striped Salamander (lifer) Matt found the first down by a stream we then found a few more between us. Kev found a Common Frog.
Wheres that Chuffing taxi?
Golden Striped Salamander
Think these are Mediterranean Horseshoe Bats
Later in the evening the owners of the cottage took us to a spot where her son likes to catch newts, it was nice to see that the whole family had an interest in wildlife and were knowledgeable of the species. At the spot we found Palmate and Alpine Newts plus more Salamanders of varying patterns plus a Midwife Toad and a Slow Worm.
Various Common Wall Lizards
Day 3 Into The Mountains
Today we headed into the mountains to a popular finish in The Vuelta (cycle tour of Spain). Here we had a possibility of finding Iberian Rock Lizard. It was certainly a climb. Part of the way up we stopped at a water trough with Palmate newt and Midwife toad tadpoles and a Common Wall Lizard. At the top it was sunny so we quickly headed off, a large flock of Alpine choughs, a few Red Billed Chough and Griffon Vultures were scouring the cliffs. First herps were Common wall Lizard a male Midwife carrying eggs. Suzanne then said " are these lizards green" "cos there is one here". Sure enough a beautiful male was shining in the sun. Later we saw quite a few more including the duller females, plus a couple of Slow Worms, great!. On the way down we had a few close encounters with Griffon Vultures.
Iberian Rock Lizards
Red Billed Chough
Day 4 The Viper Triangle
Today we had a longish drive to an area where we could possibly find 3 species of viper. We set off in lovely weather but as we closed in on the first search area it started to cloud over. Anyroad not to be put off Kev set off a quick look back and the glove was out, only one thing that means a dodgy snake and sure enough a lovely Asp Viper. 5 minutes later I found another slightly more orange female. What a start, however things rapidly slowed down, Matt flipped a rock to reveal a large male Ocellated Lizard but couldn't get to grips with it.
Asp Viper 1
Asp Viper 2
We moved on to the next spot the sun was now in but Kev quickly found a Viperine Snake and a Marbled Newt than another Viperine Snake swam across a small pond dived and vanished. The sun came out and we did an extensive search for a Lataste Viper but to no avail. On the drive back we stopped at a water cistern full of Palmate and Alpine Newts, plus a couple of Spanish Water Frogs and Western Green Lizard. Next to a spot for Seones Viper but it was way too hot, but we were compensated with 4 Red Footed Falcons.
Juv Western green lizard
Iberian Water Frog
Male Red Footed Falcon
Day 5 Fuente De
Undoubtedly the best scenery of the trip in the high mountains of the Picos. We set off early but realised it was getting hot and a slow drive behind coaches and the chance of finding a Seoanes Viper was slipping away. We didn't hang about, a few wall lizards then a shout from Matt who had a Smooth Snake. I then heard a snake in some shrubs a rummage around and a lovely Seoanes Viper of the brown un-patterned type. We then went up in the cable car into the areas with snow, we had great fun photographing vultures including a bonus Egyptian Vulture, loads of tame Alpine Choughs a few Alpine Accentors and my only new bird of the trip a Snowfinch.
Female Seoanes Viper
Very pale Northern Wheatear
Initially the plan was for a coastal Seoanes but it was drizzling, ideal for a search for another subspecies of Salamander the plainly marked S alfredschmidti. Suzanne was looking forward to some coastal sun so sat this one out. Anyway it didn't take long with Matt quickly finding 2 and Kev another, we wanted to make the most of our time so headed back we stopped off at a roadside ditch and spotted some newts, Kev needs Bosca's but disappointment Palmates. Further down the road another stop Kev made a grab and then looked up like a cat that had got the cream 3 Bosca's in one grab, super!. We picked Suzanne up and headed to the beach again it got hot quickly but luckily Kev enhanced the day further with a Grass Snake of the unmarked Natrix n astreptophora . A few wall lizards and 3 toed skinks and some nicely marked Western Green Lizards lead to celebratory drink.
Western Green Lizard
Hummingbird Hawk Moth
Common Wall and friend a Green tiger beetle
Many thanks to Kev Suzanne and Matt for great company and an enjoyable trip. Thanks to Bobby and Gert Jan from who Matt got some last minute localities.
Grass snake Natrix n astreptophora
Viperine Snake Natrix Maura
Smooth Snake Coronella austriaca
Seoane's viper Vipera seoanei. (Lifer)
Asp Viper Vipera aspis (Lifer)
Western Green Lizard Lacerta bilineata
Schreibers Green Lizard Lacerta schreiberi (Lifer)
Ocellated Lizard Timon lepidus
Slow Worm Anguis Fragilis
Common Wall Lizard Podarcis muralis
Iberian rock lizard Iberolacerta monticola (Lifer)
Western Three toed skink Chalcides striatus
Bosca's newt Lissotriton boscai
Alpine Newt Icthyosaura alpestris (first time seen in natural range)
Palmate Newt Lissotriton helveticus
Marbled Newt Triturus marmaratus (Lifer)
Fire Salamander Salamandra s alfredschmidti and bernadezi
Golden Striped SalamanderChioglossa lusitanica (Lifer)
Midwife Toad Alytes obstetricans (first time seen in natural range)