Portugal, 14. – 21.4.2017

Portugal could be seen as a symbol for our European patchwork continent: the Portuguese are friendly, open-minded people – speaking a language, no one else is able to understand. Of course they are completely different from their Spanish neighbors – thus, a tourist always has to feel embarrassed when something like “Buenos Dias” or “Gracias” slipped out of his mouth. The country is a narrow strip of land along the Atlantic coast with wide parts of it having been spoiled by Eucalyptus plantations. Anyhow, there are still some gorgeous places left: Here are our adventures!

  • Linosa, 12.-17.06.2018

    Linosa, 12.-17.06.2018

    The Robinson Crusoe Project

  • Kastellorizo & Nisyros, 12.-21.05.2018

    Kastellorizo & Nisyros, 12.-21.05.2018

    At the edge of Europe (and beyond)

  • Milos & Serifos, 14. – 21.04.2018

    Milos & Serifos, 14. – 21.04.2018

    Spring trip to the Western Cyclades

  • Southeastern Spain, 10.2016 – 11.2017

    Southeastern Spain, 10.2016 – 11.2017

    Betic lizards – a photo documentation

  • Northwestern Spain, 16.-23.9.2017

    Northwestern Spain, 16.-23.9.2017

    Reptile Rallye on the Iberian Peninsula

  • Ionian Islands, 25.5.-5.6.2017

    Ionian Islands, 25.5.-5.6.2017

    Cruising through Ulysses’ homeland

  • Portugal, 14. – 21.4.2017

    Portugal, 14. – 21.4.2017

    Lizard safari at the Atlantic coast

  • Rhodos & Kastellorizo, 27.3. – 2.4.2017

    Rhodos & Kastellorizo, 27.3. – 2.4.2017

    Season Opening 2017

  • Pyrenees, 2008 - 2016

    Pyrenees, 2008 - 2016

    Searching for Pyrenean lizards - third time's a charm!

  • Sicily & Aeolian Islands, 26.5. – 6.6.2016

    Sicily & Aeolian Islands, 26.5. – 6.6.2016

    Mission Volcano! Smoking mountains and rare reptiles

  • Astypalaia & Naxos, 25.3.-3.4.2016

    Astypalaia & Naxos, 25.3.-3.4.2016

    Hellas reloaded – Back in Europe’s biodiversity lab

  • Spain, 29.8.-11.9.2015

    Spain, 29.8.-11.9.2015

    Biodiversity on the south-eastern tangent

  • Montenegro, 2. – 11.7.2015

    Montenegro, 2. – 11.7.2015

    Lizard Safari in the mountains of Montenegro

  •  Malta, 3. – 6.4.2015

    Malta, 3. – 6.4.2015

    The exclusive Podarcis filfolensis Home Story!

  • Oman, 6.–15.3.2015

    Oman, 6.–15.3.2015

    Adventures in the southeast of the Arabian Peninsula

  • Central Spain, 29.8. - 14.9.2014

    Central Spain, 29.8. - 14.9.2014

    14 days in the heat of Castile

  • Lefkada, Kefalonia & Akarnania, 24.5. - 3.6.2014

    Lefkada, Kefalonia & Akarnania, 24.5. - 3.6.2014

    Reptile adventures in Western Greece

  • Mallorca / Alicante - 15.-23.03.2014

    Mallorca / Alicante - 15.-23.03.2014

    2014 Season Kick-off with 16 reptile species

  • Corsica, 07.-17.09.2013

    Corsica, 07.-17.09.2013

    Mountains, sea and rock lizards

  • Portugal, 13. - 20.07.2013

    Portugal, 13. - 20.07.2013

    Lizard hunting in Central Portugal

  • Romania, 24.05. - 03.06.2013

    Romania, 24.05. - 03.06.2013

    Herping adventures from the Black Sea coast to the Iron Gate

  • Menorca, 17. - 24.03.2013

    Menorca, 17. - 24.03.2013

    Visiting the Balearic lizards

  • Peloponnese, 20. - 27.10.2012

    Peloponnese, 20. - 27.10.2012

    Autumn trip on Peloponnese

  • Montenegro, 27.07. - 04.08.2012

    Montenegro, 27.07. - 04.08.2012

    Summer trip in the mountains of Montenegro

  • Skyros & Evia, 26.05. - 04.06.2012

    Skyros & Evia, 26.05. - 04.06.2012

    Our search for the legendary giant lizards...

  • Crete, 06. - 13.04.2012

    Crete, 06. - 13.04.2012

    Searching for flowers and lizards on Crete...

  • Andalucia, 10. - 18.03.2012

    Andalucia, 10. - 18.03.2012

    A hot week full of herping highlights in Southwestern Andalucia

  • Northern Spain, 02. - 13.09.2011

    Northern Spain, 02. - 13.09.2011

    Herpetological trip to the northwest of Spain: the mountains west of Leon, the Atlantic coast south of A Coruña and the Picos de Europa.

  • Aegean Islands, 28.05. - 13.06.2011

    Aegean Islands, 28.05. - 13.06.2011

    Five islands in two weeks: Kythira, Pori, Milos, Kimolos and Sifnos

  • Rhodos & Kastellorizo, 12. - 19.03.2011

    Rhodos & Kastellorizo, 12. - 19.03.2011

    Trip to the easternmost island of Greece...

  • Central spain, 25.09. - 03.10.2010

    Central spain, 25.09. - 03.10.2010

    Iberolacertas within Sierra de Gredos, Pena de Francia and Sierra de Guadarrama

  • Alps, 03. -17.07.2010

    Alps, 03. -17.07.2010

    Our first trip to the Alps led us to the Allgäu area, the Julian Alps and Carinthia

  • Northern Peloponnese, 3.-11.4.2010

    Northern Peloponnese, 3.-11.4.2010

    Four Podarcis species in one area!

  • Northern Greece, 01. - 15. 06.2009

    Northern Greece, 01. - 15. 06.2009

    Great trip to the Pindos mountains...

  • Sicily, 28.03. - 04.04.2009

    Sicily, 28.03. - 04.04.2009

    Orchid trip to eastern Sicily

  • Spain, November 2008 / February 2009

    Spain, November 2008 / February 2009

    Lizards in the Alicante Province

  • Samos, September 2008 / 2009

    Samos, September 2008 / 2009

    Chamaeleons, Trachylepis and beautiful beaches...

  • Eifel region

    Eifel region

    Our local "playground": botanical highlights, meadows with numerous butterflies and some herpetofauna...

  • Approaching Faro Airport

    14.4. – Overture at the beach

    We had visited the Algarve before in 2008: Whereas the southern coast benefits from the blessings of mass-tourism, the rough western coast has lonely and spectacular landscapes. These were the destinations we wanted to visit this year. On Good Friday, we took the plane to Faro and headed towards western Algarve and afterwards towards Alentejo. Our first station was Aljezur, a sleepy small town with a river, a scenic castle ruin and an oversized Intermarché. The ancient single-storied houses which stick on the castle hill are now romantic holiday apartments – the perfect setting for a lazy holiday.
    But, far from it! The area is inhabited by eight Lacertid species. We had seen these species before, but we wanted to get “good” pictures this time – admitted: “good” is not a clearly defined category… In short: Also during this trip we permanently creeped through the bushes hunting for small lizards. When we arrived at Aljezur in the afternoon, we first went to the nearby Praia da Armoreira, a dune area where we hoped to find Podarcis carbonelli. But the sand had been heated up by the sun, so we only came across some Psammodromus algirus running around hectically – no Podarcis carbonelli.

  • Praia da Armoreira – this trip was like an early summer holiday: sunshine and temperatures of 30 °C made us forget that it was April and that we were at the Northern Atlantic coast.

  • Of all, Psammodromus algirus should be the major challenge of this trip: This species is so common on the Iberian Peninsula that hardly anyone would pull out the camera for it. But, in western Iberia, males show bright orange heads during mating season. We wanted to see exactly this! Finding such specimens should tax our patience more than expected.

  • Orobanche foetida (?)

  • Armeria pungens

    15.4. – Small lizards in great scenery

    The coast at Bordeira with its unspoiled sweeping dune landscape is not only a magnet for surfers and campers. As it is also home of two jewels of the European Lacertid fauna, we felt attracted as well: Psammodromus occidentalis occurs in the coastal phrygana. This lovely species seems to have a scattered distribution in Portugal and can be easily overlooked. The second species we wanted to see was Podarcis carbonelli which lives in dune areas with sparse vegetation. Enough program for a couple of hours… In the afternoon we explored a nearby river to watch for Natrix astreptophora. But we only found some Natrix maura, Pelophylax perezi and Mauremys leprosa. Soaked with sweat, sun-burned and afflicted by ticks we decided to have an early after-work drink.

  • Coast at Bordeira: searching for Psammodromus occidentalis

  • Psammodromus occidentalis (male): This specimen was quite in-cooperative and disappeared as fast as it had shown up.

  • Psammodromus occidentalis (female)

  • Habitat of Podarcis carboenlli

  • Podarcis carbonelli (male): specimens of the Bordeira population show a rather light pattern

  • A female Podarcis carbonelli from Bordeira with characteristic coloration. Even in the hot afternoon sun, these lizards were still active but very shy, with flight distances of about 20 meters.

  • Coastal flora with Cistus ladanifer

  • Anagallis monelli

  • Antirrhinum majus

  • Centaurium maritimum

  • Lupinus luteus

    16.4. – To the center of Algarve

    Another summer day: In the early morning, we headed to the Seixe valley to make shots of Lacerta schreiberi. As the sun came out, the lizards showed up and started basking in the blackberry scrub: beautiful animals! Later, it got too warm for the lizards and they scarpered into the shade – end of audience. At the river we found Natrix maura as well as frogs, but no Natrix astreptophora (this journey wasn’t meant to be a snake trip). We moved on through the Algarve hinterland towards Monchique to visit the local population of Podarcis virescens. Despite of the burning afternoon sun, these obliging lizards were willing to pose for some camera shots. Afterwards, we did a side trip to the Foia, the highest peak of the Algarve which promises a 360° panoramic view on 900 meters altitude. Unfortunately, the complete peak area has been burnt down: Although this is somehow beneficial with regard to an unrestricted view, the black tree skeletons significantly impair the experience of nature. However, the numerous visitors from the south coast didn’t seem to be bothered by that; at least the restaurants along the mountain road were crowded to overflowing…

  • The early bird...

  • Lacerta schreiberi (male)

  • Lacerta schreiberi (male)

  • Lacerta schreiberi (male)

  • Lacerta schreiberi: Females of this population showed a strange brownish coloration, they almost looked like juveniles.

  • Lacerta schreiberi (pair)

  • Lacerta schreiberi (pair)

  • Habitat of Lacerta schreiberi

  • Natrix maura

  • Entirely greenish Pelophylax perezi

  • Tadpoles of Pelobates cultripes

  • Euphydryas desfontainii

  • Saxicola torquata

  • Podarcis virescens

  • Podarcis virescens

  • Podarcis virescens

    17.4. – Heading North

    So far, we weren’t satisfied with our pictures of Psammodromus occidentalis. Therefore, we re-visited the Bordeira dunes. Photographing Psammodromus occidentalis includes two challenges: First, finding a nice colored specimen, and second, getting good pictures of it. Obviously, these animals suffer from ADHD: They either snooze lazily with closed eyes or they walk around disquietingly – an ordeal. After we more or less had solved this challenge we left the Algarve and headed to our next station: Vila Nova de Milfontes in southern Alentejo. This laid-back holiday destination has a fortress as a protection against pirates, an oversized police station with fierce looking police officers and a fantastic coast. In the evening sun, we explored the dunes of the close-by Praia da Franquia. The place was full of Psammodromus algirus but none of them had a red head: quite annoying… The second lizard species we found at this beach was Podarcis carbonelli.

  • Coastal phrygana at Bordeira – looking for a needle in a haystack:

  • Psamodromus occidentalis

  • Mauremys leprosa

  • Anax imperator ovipositing

  • Ranunculus peltatus (?)

  • A nice female of Podarcis carbonelli

  • At Praia da Franquia

  • Actually, the complete trip was a beach holiday...

    18.4. – It’s getting hot!

    We were out quite early to search for Podarcis carbonelli at Praia da Franquia. The lizards here were rather shy. After half an hour, a storm came up and we had to interrupt our lizard-stalking. About noon, the storm calmed down and now it got really hot. We started cruising around somehow planless and indecisive and finally arrived at the gorgeous Praia do Malhao. Meanwhile, the temperature was 32 degrees and we became a little bit lethargic. Time for siesta… In the evening, we did a nice coastal walk on the historical Rota Vicentina which didn’t provide any herpetological insights.

  • A female Podarcis carbonelli with strange pattern – probably caused by an injury.

  • Praia do Malhao

  • Obviously, birds are more heat resistent than reptiles: Serinus serinus

  • Ciconia ciconia

  • Danaus plexippus

  • Dipcadi serotinum

  • Rota Vicentina

  • Psammodromus algirus: nice – but still not red!

    19.4. – Red, finally!

    Once again, we went to Praia do Malhao. First, we came across some Podarcis carbonelli lounging in the morning sun. Quite promising. And then, it finally should work with the red Psammodromus algirus: We saw several males with beautiful red-orange heads basking in the dunes – what a joy! During mating season, these lizards are highly aggressive (probably the red heads are a sign of high blood pressure) and we could watch two fighting males which didn’t take notice of us. Job done: it was day six out of seven… After this, it was time to leave and we headed north to the town of Sines. From here, the famous Vasco da Gama once started to enhance Portugal’s imperial glory. Witnesses of this proud historic era are the scenic old town and a fortress with walls dwelled by Podarcis virescens – a fabulous place! Still highly motivated, we went north to explore the area of Praia da Fonte do Cortico, an impressively lonely coastal section. There, we found Blanus mariae and Chalcides bedriagai. The dunes were populated by Podarcis carbonelli and – surprise! –Acanthodactylus erythrurus. Whereas this species is widespread in Spain, its distribution area in Portugal seems to be restricted and scattered. The Sines population probably marks the southwestern distribution limit; the next records are at the southern coast near Faro.

  • Praia do Malhao: We also saw tracks of Timon lepidus in the sand but didn’t see a single specimen during the whole trip. It seems that this species is rather rare at the west coast compared to e.g. southern Algarve.

  • Podarcis carbonelli, male

  • Podarcis carbonelli, juvenile

  • Lizard stalking

  • Finally: a read headed Psammodromus algirus...

  • another one...

  • ...and another one

  • Suddenly, the peaceful atmosphere became somehow violent:

  • a rival!

  • pure violence

  • Psammodromus algirus

  • Psammodromus algirus

  • Psammodromus algirus

  • Psammodromus algirus

  • Psammodromus algirus

  • Sines

  • Podarcis virescens, female

  • Podarcis virescens, male

  • Praia da Fonte do Cortico

  • Blanus mariae

  • Chalcides bedriagae

  • Podarcis carbonelli

  • Podarcis carbonelli

  • Podarcis carbonelli

  • Solidified dunes - habitat of:

  • Acanthodactylus erythrurus

  • Acanthodactylus erythrurus, male

  • Acanthodactylus erythrurus, female with reddish hind legs

    20.04. – Urban finale

    We started exploring the interior of Alentejo. The major economic sector in this area is cork production. The landscape is dominated by meadows with cork oaks. This looked pretty – but it didn’t deliver at all with regard to herping. About noon, we got bored and considered what to do with the rest of the day. According to google maps, it was a 90 minutes’ drive to Lisbon. And there was this population of introduced Teira dugesii in Lisbon harbor. We were hesitating: Actually, it would be nonsense to drive that far; moreover, we already had visited that place in 2013; rather stupid… At 2:30 p.m. we arrived at Lisbon harbor. The lizards there are still doing well, they even expanded to a nearby city garden. At 4 p.m. we headed back to Sines. This has probably been the shortest sightseeing trip in a European capital ever. But for us, it was a great finale of a beautiful trip.

  • Lavandula stoechas in interior Alentejo

  • Transporting cork

  • Zerynthia rumina

  • Urban habitat

  • Teira dugesii, male

  • Teira dugesii, male

  • Teira dugesii, male

  • Teira dugesii, female

  • Teira dugesii, male

  • Suspect people creeping through the park...

  • Teira dugesii, male

  • Teira dugesii, male

  • Podarcis virescens

    21.04. – Departure and resume

    We had to leave, no more herpetological findings – time for a resume:
    As we had seen all Iberian reptiles before, we could take our time photographing the animals on this trip and we were quite happy with the outcome. Apart from that, hunting lizards in the spectacular scenery of the Atlantic coastal dunes is an unforgettable experience. Finally, it has to be mentioned that Portugal is an agreeable and friendly country for travelling we definitely want to visit again soon.
    Verdict: highly recommended! *****

  • Return flight over Picos de Europa – maybe one of our future travel destinations?