Thursday, 21 April 2011

A Return To Portugal

Bizarrely having never been to Portugal before 2011 i've now been twice. Following on from a dedicated amphibian trip in February with Matt Wilson (click on his blog on the right for the report), this was a more casual trip with my daughter Sasha and Friends Richard and Janet and their two kids Connal and Milly. On this occasion we were in a very nice villa at Burgau in the Algarve complete with it's own swimming pool. The weather was lovely all week sunny and 25-28 celsius. I managed to do a bit of herping most days and clocked up 12 species, 3 amphibians and 9 reptiles.

Day 1 Monday April 11th 2011

Arriving after dark, I was out the next morning in the Boca do Rio area. First species up was a Spanish Terrapin Mauremys leprosa in a large deep cistern. Following this were 3 Ocellated Lizards Timon lepidus all very shy, so only one distant photo. I went out at the end of the day and saw a Western 3 Toed Skink Chalcides striatus that I failed to catch or photograph. Next up was a Montpellier Snake Malpolon monspessulanus probably Europes fastest species. On this occasion I spotted about 12 inches of it's body draped over a wall and thought to myself easy catch, however as I moved in I noticed it's head looking straight at me, I hesitated and in a flash it had gone into the wall.

Occellated Lizard Timon lepidus © Carl Corbidge

There were also quite a few birds in the area.
Little Egret Egretta gazetta © Carl Corbidge
Zitting Cisticola Cisticola juncidis © Carl Corbidge
Habitat Boca do Rio © Carl Corbidge
?Stag Beetle © Richard Plant
Me and the Montpellier snake can you spot him? © Richard Plant
Montpellier Snake Malpolon monspessulanus © Richard Plant

Day 2 Tuesday April 12th 2011

Limited for time I had another look in the area as the day before. Taking a different road next to a stream I could hear Stripeless Treefrogs calling but couldn't see any in the brambles. In the road there was a dead mammal that had been hit by a vehicle, I could tell it wasn't a badger or a fox and it turned out to be an Egyptian Mongoose Herpestes ichneumon which was a lot bigger than I thought, (it was alsmost fox sized). On the other side of the road there was a lot of large plastic sheets which looked ideal snake habitat. No snakes this time but Iberian Painted Frogs Discoglossus galganoi were breeding in water trapped in creases of the sheets i also caught an adult Large Psammodromus Psammodromus algiris. There were about 6 Spanish Terrapin on the banks of the stream being as shy as ever.

An unfortunate Egyptian Mongoose Herpestes ichneumon  © Carl Corbidge

Theres got to be a snake under here? © Richard Plant
Iberian Painted Frog Discoglossus galganoi © Carl Corbidge
2nd Iberian Painted Frog Discoglossus galganoi and spawn © Carl Corbidge
3rd Iberian Painted Frog Discoglossus galganoi © Carl Corbidge
Above and below Large Psammodromus Psammodromus algiris © Carl Corbidge

Spanish Terrapins Mauremys leprosa © Carl Corbidge
Just down the road from the villa a restaurent had a small pond from where I could hear Stripeless Tree Frogs Hyla meridionalis calling. After some beers I had a look in amongst the vegetation and quickly found one. Richard also came for a look and did his ankle in after jumping over a wall.

Above and below Stripeless Tree Frog Hyla meridionalis © Carl Corbidge

Day 3 Wednesday 13th April 2011
Today we had a trip to a fort in Sagres. The fort and the area seemed ideal for wall lizards but nothing. I saw 2 Spanish Psammodromus Psammodromus hispanicus of which only one record shot was taken. There were a few Black Redstarts Phoennicurus ochruros and a pair of Chough Pyrrhocorax pyrrhocorax near the cliffs. Much to my frustration Richard managed to get a photo of an adult Ocellated Lizard which unusually allowed a close approach on a rock I passed a few minutes earlier.
Scenery near Sagres © Carl Corbidge
Male Black Redstart Phoennicurus ochruros © Carl Corbidge
Spanish Psammodromus Psammodromus hispanicus© Carl Corbidge

Above and Below Ocellated Lizard Timon Lepidus © Richard Plant

Later in the afternoon I noticed some Red Rumped Swallows Hirundo daurica flying over the apartment seemingly interested in the swimming pool, luckily one landed on a tree and I managed to get some photos.

Above and below Red Rumped Swallow Hirundo daurica and Barn Swallow Hirundo rustica © Carl Corbidge

Days 4 and 5 14-15th April 2011.
Only a few extra species added over the next couple of days including a small Viperine Snake Natrix maura that regurgitated tadpoles of painted frog. I flipped a Scorpion Buthus occitanus and saw a nice Woodchat Shrike Lanius senator, a Crested Lark Galerida cristata allowed an unusually close approach.

Scorpion Buthus occitanus © Carl Corbidge
Crested Lark Galerida cristata © Carl Corbidge
Woodchat Shrike Lanius senator © Carl Corbidge
Viperine Snake Natrix maura © Carl Corbidge
Iberian Water Frog Pelophylax Perezi  © Carl Corbidge
Iberian Painted Frog Discoglossus galganoi and below tadpoles © Carl Corbidge
 Large Psammodromus Psammodromus algiris © Carl Corbidge
Little Owl Athene noctua © Carl Corbidge

Last Day 16th April
Today I got the chance to go back to an area we covered in February at which time we found some snakes. It was quite windy so any snakes in theory should be in cover. I set to work turning rocks first thing found was a Moorish Gecko and then a small snake shot off, a few rocks later and  I had a juvenile Horseshoe Whipsnake Hemorrhois hippocrepis. It was a lovely marked snake the only down side was its eye was on the turn in preparation for shedding. After photography, I turned another flat stone and revealed a large adult Montpellier Snake, my glove was in my rucksack down the hill so I decided to grab it as it moved away, this was a mistake as it moved too quickly and slipped through my fingers, (the next time i'm going to have to take a bite). There were also a lot of Bee-eaters Merops apiaster in the area. In the evening I photographed a Moorish Gecko Tarentola mauritanica that was out (and had been so on most nights).

Below Juvenile Horseshoe Whipsnake Hemorrhois hippocrepis © Carl Corbidge
 Above and Below Bee-eaters Merops apiaster © Carl Corbidge

Moorish Gecko Tarentola mauritanica © Carl Corbidge

Final Totals

Iberian Water Frog Pelophylax Perezi 20+
Iberian Painted Frog Discoglossus galganoi 10
Stripeless Tree Frog Hyla meridionalis 20+
Spanish Terrapins Mauremys leprosa 7
Moorish Gecko Tarentola mauritanica 15+
Large Psammodromus Psammodromus algiris 3
Spanish Psammodromus Psammodromus hispanicus 3
Occellated Lizard Timon lepidus 5
Western 3 Toed Skink Chalcides striatus 1
 Montpellier Snake Malpolon monspessulanus 2 and 1 DOR
Horseshoe Whipsnake Hemorrhois hippocrepis 1
Viperine Snake Natrix maura 1

Saturday, 9 April 2011

Multicoloured Slow Worms and Too Warm for Adders

On my way to a conference in Leicester yesterday I stopped off for the first time this year at a site where i've been studying Slow Worms (Anguis fragilis). It is rare to see a slow worm out in the open, therefore the way to find then is to look under stones etc. Stones should be replaced afterwards and they should be lifted in one quick movement to avoid injuring the animal. In one hour I found 7, 4 females, 2 males and one neonate found in the same spot as one last September. With clear pictures of the head it is possible to recognise individuals, the first picture below is of a male first photographed in May 2009 at which time it had blue spots and now seemed to have faded to grey.

Slow Worm Habitat

Male Slow Worm Anguis fragilis 2011 © Carl Corbidge

Female © Carl Corbidge

Same female © Carl Corbidge

Pale Male © Carl Corbidge
Different female (and below) © Carl Corbidge

Today I decided to look for my first female adder of the year. To be honest I should have set off a bit earlier, i didn't arrive until 9.45am (8am would have been better) when it was already too warm. Anyway I only found 2 snakes, both males, but both were in a different area. Viviparous Lizards (Zootoca vivipara) were in evidence, mainly juveniles of last year and all were nicely warmed up and too quick to photograph.
Up in the air there were 2 Common Buzzards (Buteo buteo) Circling.

First Male Adder Vipera berus © Carl Corbidge

Second Male Adder Vipera berus © Carl Corbidge

Common Buzzard Buteo buteo © Carl Corbidge