From 8th-14th December I re-visited areas in southern Portugal and south-west Spain in search of amphibians like I did in February 2011. This time myself and Carl Corbidge (UK) were joined by Gertjan Verspui (NL) and Liam Russell (UK) and had a far more successful trip in terms of the numbers of animals we found and over the six days were saw 12 species of amphibians and 13 species of reptile. Owing to some heavy rain prior to our arrival amphibians were active in large numbers after dark. I was especially pleased to see Algarve parsley frogs (Pelodytes sp) breeding in shallow temporary ponds throughout the southern coastal areas of Portugal, and by exploring ponds after dark we saw several other species breeding too. On one day we even found over 20 Parsley frogs hiding beneath stones.

Generally, it was easy to find amphibians after dark during our stay in Portugal at this time of year and numbers were especially high around the coastal temporary ponds where at times we had to be careful where we stepped to not injure a toad. The most abundant species seem to be Pelobates cultripes, but this could just have been because they were mostly out of the water and hunting in the nearby surroundings and therefore were more obvious.  Most of the temporary ponds had plentiful amounts of newts: Pleurodeles waltl, Triturus pygmaeus and Lissotrion boscai maltzani in the smaller water bodies. On one cold night (around 5C) most other species seemed to disappear and were replaced by numerous Discoglossus galganoi, a species we also found several times during the day under stones. Another evening we visited a higher altitude location and found 9 Fire salamanders (Salamandra salamandra crespoi) wandering around the forest floor next to a mountain brook. On a different evening at a drier location whilst searching for Iberian midwife toads (Alytes cisternasii) we found a further two salamanders which to us looked very different to those from the previous location.

As it was Winter we didn’t expect to see many reptiles, and most of the larger lizards and snakes were very much asleep but we did manage to find 13 species, including some lizards that profited from a few hours of warm weather in the afternoon. Other than this, most of our other reptiles were found hiding beneath stones. We were especially pleased to find a Bedriaga’s skink (Chalcides bedraigai) a species rarely found in Winter, one Mediterranean chameleon (Chamaeleo chameleon), 5 Marias worm lizards (Blanus mariae) and even an Ocellated lizard (Timon lepidus). Our only snakes were three Viperine snakes (Natrix maura) and a juvenile Horseshoe whip snake (Hemorrhois hippocrepis). We were very grateful to Juan Pablo Gonzalez de la Vega who allowed us to photograph a Vipera latastei gaditana close to Huelva (Spain) as this is a rare subspecies we would never have found ourselves at this time of year.

Thanks to Frank Deschandol, Jeroen Speybroeck and Mirjam Vandevliet for some hints given to us for our trip and to Juan Pablo for his help in situ.

Prospected areas of Portugal and Spain during the 6 days/nights.
Prospected areas of Portugal and Spain during the 6 days/nights.

Species seen:

Amphibians: Salamandra salamandra crespoi, Pleurodeles waltl, Triturus pygmaeus, Lissotriton boscai maltzani, Alytes cisternasii, Pelodytes sp, Discoglossus galganoi, Pelobates cultripes, Bufo calamita, Bufo bufo spinosus, Hyla meridionalis, Pelophylax perezi

Reptiles: Mauremys leprosa, Trachemys scripta (ssp), Podarcis hispanicus monotype, Podarcis carbonelli, Podarcis vaucheri, Psammodromus occidentalis, Psammodromus algirus, Timon lepidus, Tarentola mauritanica, Chamaeleo chameleon, Chalcides bedriagai, Blanus mariae, Natrix maura, Hemorrhois hippocrepis


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