Murcia

In 2008 as part of my degree course I spent six months living in Murcia, S-E Spain. This region, along with neighbouring Almeria in Andalusia are the most barren areas of Spain (probably Europe too) and most of the province is extremely arid in general with some of the highest temperatures on the continent. As early as April temperatures already hit 35C and drought is a serious problem all year round. In addition to studying at the university of Murcia I spent alot of my free time in the wilderness, especially the beautiful but dry sierras of the region in search of reptiles and amphibians. Needless to say I have some great memories and experiences to share so I have selected a few of my favorite photographs along with a table showing some of my results from various search areas.

All photographs (C) Matt Wilson

La sierra de Almenara

A coastal hillside range that is rapidly being destroyed by plans for golf club construction and additional tourism expansion, but nevertheless holds a diverse flora and fauna. The sierra also has the biggest Spanish population of Spur-thighed tortoise (Testudo graeca) which is suffering from human expansion in Murcia like elsewhere in its range that includes coastal Andalusia and Majorca, however a number of conservation projects are helping protect the species.

La sierra de Almenara
La sierra de Almenara
La sierra de Almenara
La sierra de Almenara
Spur-thighed or Moorish tortoise (Testudo graeca)
Spur-thighed or Moorish tortoise (Testudo graeca)
Large and fierce: Montpellier snake (Malpolon monspessulanus)
Large and fierce: Montpellier snake (Malpolon monspessulanus)
Sub-adult Ocellated lizard (Timon lepidus nevadensis)
Sub-adult Ocellated lizard (Timon lepidus nevadensis)
Female Montpellier snake (Malpolon monspessulanus)
Female Montpellier snake (Malpolon monspessulanus)
Big Perez's frog (Rana perezi)
Big Perez’s frog (Rana perezi)
Horseshoe whipsnake (Hemorrhois hippocrepis)
Horseshoe whipsnake (Hemorrhois hippocrepis)
Ladder snake (Rhinechis scalaris)
Ladder snake (Rhinechis scalaris)
Family of water frogs (Rana perezi)
Family of water frogs (Rana perezi)
A pair of Iberian worm lizards (Blanus cinereus)
A pair of Iberian worm lizards (Blanus cinereus)

Cartagena-Las Moreras

The coastal area of Murcia consists of the second biggest town (Cartagena) and hillsides which are now home to tourist resorts and villages. Las Moreras is one of few natural water courses present in the region, close to a sand dune system with salt pans.

Table 2: My findings from separate visits to the coastal areas of Murcia

Latin nameCommon name03/0805/08
Mauremys leprosaSpanish terrapin1
Chameleo chameleonMediterranean chameleon1
Tarentola mauritanicaMoorish gecko58
Timon lepidusOcellated lizard2
Psammodromus algirusLarge psammodromusfewfew
Podarcis hispanicusIberian wall lizardfewfew
Acanthodactylus erythurusSpiny-footed lizard2
Hemorrhois hippocrepisHorseshoe whipsnake2
Malpolon monspessulanusMontpellier snake11 slough
Rhinechis scalarisLadder snake1 dead
Natrix mauraViperine snake1
Mediterranean chameleon (Chameleo chameleon)
Mediterranean chameleon (Chameleo chameleon)
Me holding the skin of a giant Montpellier snake (Malpolon monspessulanus), the skin measured 240cm!
Me holding the skin of a giant Montpellier snake (Malpolon monspessulanus), the skin measured 240cm!
Habitat near to the city of Cartagena
Habitat near to the city of Cartagena
Big Montpellier snake (Malpolon monspessulanus) of nearly two metres
Big Montpellier snake (Malpolon monspessulanus) of nearly two metres
Montpellier snake (Malpolon monspessulanus)
Montpellier snake (Malpolon monspessulanus)
Horseshoe whipsnake (Hemorrhois hippocrepis)
Horseshoe whipsnake (Hemorrhois hippocrepis)
Horseshoe whipsnake (Hemorrhois hippocrepis)
Horseshoe whipsnake (Hemorrhois hippocrepis)
Spanish terrapin (Mauremys leprosa)
Spanish terrapin (Mauremys leprosa)
I leave it up to my Spanish colleagues to don the silly water clothes and get to the net with the terrapins!
I leave it up to my Spanish colleagues to don the silly water clothes and get to the net with the terrapins!

La sierra de Ricote- Archena- La sierra de la pila

North of the city of Murcia are two sierras: la sierra de Ricote and la sierra de la pila, furthermore the town of Archena is surrounded by cultivated land with fruit trees that I found to be nice for reptiles. This is one of the driest areas in the whole of Spain.

Table 3: My findings on some trips to the area north of Murcia

Latin nameCommon name04/0805/08
Bufo calamitaNatterjack toad212
Pelodytes ibericusIberian parsley frog1
Pelobates cultripesWestern spadefoot toadtadpoles
Tarentola mauritanicaMoorish gecko6
Hemidactylus turcicusTurkish gecko3
Timon lepidusOcellated lizard121
Psammodromus algirusLarge psammodromusfew1
Podarcis hispanicusIberian wall lizard2
Hemorrhois hippocrepisHorseshoe whipsnake31 dead
Malpolon monspessulanusMontpellier snake32 dead
Coronella girondicaSouthern smooth snake11 slough
Barren landscape close to the town of Archena
Barren landscape close to the town of Archena
Home to the largest lizard in Europe: Ocellated lizard (Timon lepidus)
Home to the largest lizard in Europe: Ocellated lizard (Timon lepidus)
Turkish gecko (Hemidactylus turcicus)
Turkish gecko (Hemidactylus turcicus)
Guiding some Spanish ornthologists who were keen to see a snake
Guiding some Spanish ornthologists who were keen to see a snake
After missing a big Horseshoe whipsnake I caught this juvenile Montpellier snake (Malpolon monspessulanus)
After missing a big Horseshoe whipsnake I caught this juvenile Montpellier snake (Malpolon monspessulanus)
Dry canal used to water fruit groves, now a habitat for snakes and lizards
Dry canal used to water fruit groves, now a habitat for snakes and lizards
After running from rock to rock I eventually caught this big Ocellated lizard (Timon lepidus)
After running from rock to rock I eventually caught this big Ocellated lizard (Timon lepidus)
Vicente Jnr having a closeup look at Europes largest lizard
Vicente Jnr having a closeup look at Europes largest lizard
I was very lucky whilst lifting rocks to find a Southern smooth snake (Coronella girondica)
I was very lucky whilst lifting rocks to find a Southern smooth snake (Coronella girondica)
Southern smooth snake (Coronella girondica) and its biotope
Southern smooth snake (Coronella girondica) and its biotope
Small pond at the edge of cultivated land, home to Natterjack toads (Bufo calamita), Parsley frogs (Pelodytes punctatus) and Western spadefoot toads (Pelobates cultripes)
Small pond at the edge of cultivated land, home to Natterjack toads (Bufo calamita), Parsley frogs (Pelodytes punctatus) and Western spadefoot toads (Pelobates cultripes)
Natterjack toad (Bufo calamita)
Natterjack toad (Bufo calamita)
Natterjack toad (Bufo calamita)
Natterjack toad (Bufo calamita)
Natterjack toad and eggs
Natterjack toad and eggs
A possible hybrid of Natterjack toad and Western spadefoot toad
A possible hybrid of Natterjack toad and Western spadefoot toad
Parsley frog (Pelodytes punctatus)
Parsley frog (Pelodytes punctatus)
La sierra de la pila
La sierra de la pila
Spiny-footed lizard (Acanthodactylus erythrurus)
Spiny-footed lizard (Acanthodactylus erythrurus)
One of two huge Natterjacks found beneath a stone slab
One of two huge Natterjacks found beneath a stone slab

La sierra de Espuña- la sierra de Carrascoy y El Valle

Next to the city of Murcia is the Sierra de Carrascoy y El Valle which are mostly forested areas with an area of rock pools that form at the forest border. La sierra de Espuña lies to the west of Murcia and is the highest point in the region, it is also a nature reserve home to the only isolated population of Lataste’s viper (Vipera latastei) which I found near to Sevilla in Andalusia, but I could not find it in Murcia.

Table 4: My findings on my visit to the sierra de Espuña and El Valle

Common nameLatin name3/0906/09
Perez’s frogRana perezifew20+
Mediterranean Common ToadBufo bufo spinosus21
Ocellated lizardTimon lepidus1
Large psammodromusPsammodromus algirus10
Spanish psammodromusPsammodromus hispanicus52
Spiny-footed lizardAcanthodactylus erythrurus10
Iberian worm lizardBlanus cinereus2
Viperine snakeNatrix maura25
Horseshoe whip snakeHemorrhois hippocrepis1 dead
La sierra de Espuña
La sierra de Espuña
Male common toad (Bufo bufo spinosus)
Male common toad (Bufo bufo spinosus)
Common toad habitat on the mountain
Common toad habitat on the mountain
La sierra de Espuña
La sierra de Espuña
Big viperine snake (Natrix maura)
Big viperine snake (Natrix maura)
Habitat of Viperine snake (Natrix maura)
Habitat of Viperine snake (Natrix maura)
Another viperine snake (Natrix maura)
Another viperine snake (Natrix maura)
Sub adult Ocellated lizard (Timon lepidus)
Sub adult Ocellated lizard (Timon lepidus)
Spanish psammodromus (Psammodromus hispanicus)
Spanish psammodromus (Psammodromus hispanicus)

To subscribe and receive updates add your email address here.

%d bloggers like this: