Northwestern Spain, 16.-23.9.2017

Yes, there were still some lizards left in northwestern Iberia, which we wanted to photograph. Our British friends Paul Lambourne & Trevor James wanted to join us, as they had not visited the area before – so we were looking forward to another trip with team UK! Reality turned out differently from what we had expected – but overall, we look back on a rather successful trip. Thanks to Frank Deschandol & Matthieu Berroneau!

  • Linosa, 12.-17.06.2018

    Linosa, 12.-17.06.2018

    The Robinson Crusoe Project

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  • Kastellorizo & Nisyros, 12.-21.05.2018

    Kastellorizo & Nisyros, 12.-21.05.2018

    At the edge of Europe (and beyond)

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  • Milos & Serifos, 14. – 21.04.2018

    Milos & Serifos, 14. – 21.04.2018

    Spring trip to the Western Cyclades

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  • Southeastern Spain, 10.2016 – 11.2017

    Southeastern Spain, 10.2016 – 11.2017

    Betic lizards – a photo documentation

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  • Northwestern Spain, 16.-23.9.2017

    Northwestern Spain, 16.-23.9.2017

    Reptile Rallye on the Iberian Peninsula

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  • Ionian Islands, 25.5.-5.6.2017

    Ionian Islands, 25.5.-5.6.2017

    Cruising through Ulysses’ homeland

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  • Portugal, 14. – 21.4.2017

    Portugal, 14. – 21.4.2017

    Lizard safari at the Atlantic coast

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  • Rhodos & Kastellorizo, 27.3. – 2.4.2017

    Rhodos & Kastellorizo, 27.3. – 2.4.2017

    Season Opening 2017

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  • Pyrenees, 2008 - 2016

    Pyrenees, 2008 - 2016

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

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  • Sicily & Aeolian Islands, 26.5. – 6.6.2016

    Sicily & Aeolian Islands, 26.5. – 6.6.2016

    Mission Volcano! Smoking mountains and rare reptiles

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  • Astypalaia & Naxos, 25.3.-3.4.2016

    Astypalaia & Naxos, 25.3.-3.4.2016

    Hellas reloaded – Back in Europe’s biodiversity lab

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  • Spain, 29.8.-11.9.2015

    Spain, 29.8.-11.9.2015

    Biodiversity on the south-eastern tangent

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  • Montenegro, 2. – 11.7.2015

    Montenegro, 2. – 11.7.2015

    Lizard Safari in the mountains of Montenegro

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  •  Malta, 3. – 6.4.2015

    Malta, 3. – 6.4.2015

    The exclusive Podarcis filfolensis Home Story!

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  • Oman, 6.–15.3.2015

    Oman, 6.–15.3.2015

    Adventures in the southeast of the Arabian Peninsula

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  • Central Spain, 29.8. - 14.9.2014

    Central Spain, 29.8. - 14.9.2014

    14 days in the heat of Castile

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  • Lefkada, Kefalonia & Akarnania, 24.5. - 3.6.2014

    Lefkada, Kefalonia & Akarnania, 24.5. - 3.6.2014

    Reptile adventures in Western Greece

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  • Mallorca / Alicante - 15.-23.03.2014

    Mallorca / Alicante - 15.-23.03.2014

    2014 Season Kick-off with 16 reptile species

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  • Corsica, 07.-17.09.2013

    Corsica, 07.-17.09.2013

    Mountains, sea and rock lizards

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  • Portugal, 13. - 20.07.2013

    Portugal, 13. - 20.07.2013

    Lizard hunting in Central Portugal

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  • Romania, 24.05. - 03.06.2013

    Romania, 24.05. - 03.06.2013

    Herping adventures from the Black Sea coast to the Iron Gate

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  • Menorca, 17. - 24.03.2013

    Menorca, 17. - 24.03.2013

    Visiting the Balearic lizards

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  • Peloponnese, 20. - 27.10.2012

    Peloponnese, 20. - 27.10.2012

    Autumn trip on Peloponnese

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  • Montenegro, 27.07. - 04.08.2012

    Montenegro, 27.07. - 04.08.2012

    Summer trip in the mountains of Montenegro

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  • Skyros & Evia, 26.05. - 04.06.2012

    Skyros & Evia, 26.05. - 04.06.2012

    Our search for the legendary giant lizards...

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  • Crete, 06. - 13.04.2012

    Crete, 06. - 13.04.2012

    Searching for flowers and lizards on Crete...

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  • Andalucia, 10. - 18.03.2012

    Andalucia, 10. - 18.03.2012

    A hot week full of herping highlights in Southwestern Andalucia

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  • 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.

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  • 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

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  • Rhodos & Kastellorizo, 12. - 19.03.2011

    Rhodos & Kastellorizo, 12. - 19.03.2011

    Trip to the easternmost island of Greece...

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  • 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

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  • 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

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  • Northern Peloponnese, 3.-11.4.2010

    Northern Peloponnese, 3.-11.4.2010

    Four Podarcis species in one area!

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  • Northern Greece, 01. - 15. 06.2009

    Northern Greece, 01. - 15. 06.2009

    Great trip to the Pindos mountains...

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  • Sicily, 28.03. - 04.04.2009

    Sicily, 28.03. - 04.04.2009

    Orchid trip to eastern Sicily

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  • Spain, November 2008 / February 2009

    Spain, November 2008 / February 2009

    Lizards in the Alicante Province

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  • Samos, September 2008 / 2009

    Samos, September 2008 / 2009

    Chamaeleons, Trachylepis and beautiful beaches...

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  • Eifel region

    Eifel region

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

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  • Our route through northwestern Spain

    16.9.

    Our flight from Düsseldorf was scheduled for noontime and we expected to arrive in Madrid in the afternoon – at the same time as our English friends. However, just before take-off, we received a message that Paul couldn’t join us because his passport wasn’t accepted at the security control. Actually, in Madrid Trevor was waiting for us – without Paul, whose passport obviously was in such a desolate condition that he was refused to enter the plane (we refrain from any comment about professional trip preparation…). However, our decimated team headed towards La Alberca, our first station, where we arrived after sunset. In the late evening, we had an opulent dinner with the typical local cuisine (ham and meat) in remembrance of those who had to stay at home.

    17.9.

    La Alberca is a good starting point for a trip to Peña de Francia, home of Iberolacerta martinezricai. We had been searching for this species already in 2010 but only found juveniles that time. Now, we wanted to photograph adult specimens. On top of Peña de Francia the weather was sunny but rather windy. Anyhow, we came across some lizards but they all turned out to be Podarcis guadarramae – no Iberolacerta seen during the whole day. In late summer, this species can be like a phantom. We cancelled our search and hoped for more luck at the next day. In the evening, we had an opulent dinner with the typical local cuisine (meat with ham).

  • Peña de Francia

  • Capra pyrenaica

  • Podarcis guadarramae guadarramae (female)

  • Podarcis guadarramae guadarramae (male)

  • Podarcis guadarramae guadarramae

  • Lizard photography #1

  • The scenerey from the lizard's perspective

    18.9.

    Although the weather wasn’t very promising, we headed again to the peak of Peña de Francia. Up there: dense fog, strong wind, 7 °C – no chance to see any Iberolacerta… We decided not to waste more time waiting for better weather and headed north, towards Montes de León. Three hours later, we arrived in the area of Truchas, a lonely mountain area that we had already visited in 2011 and 2014. The weather was still windy but sunny at least. Anyhow, we only found a few Podarcis bocagei – rather disappointing. Furthermore, we were shocked by the fact that these mountains obviously have suffered from the heat and drought of summer 2017: bushfires have destroyed some valleys and mountain slopes for many kilometers. Similar fires in adjoining Portugal and Galicia were caused by fire raising. Things seem to turn worse in northwestern Iberia… In the evening, we headed towards Puebla de Sanabria, our next station, and had an opulent dinner with the typical local cuisine (meat with ham).

  • Peña de Francia: group picture in the fog

  • Podarcis bocagei (male)

  • Otus scops

  • Burnt mountain slopes

    19.9.

    Perfect weather: From Puebla de Sanabria we went to Laguna de los Peces to take shots of Iberolacerta galani. We were able to take pictures of these lizards easily. Furthermore, we found Rana iberica, Alytes obstetricans, Natrix maura, Natrix astreptophora at the Laguna. Afterwards, we went to slightly lower altitudes to search for Podarcis bocagei and Timon Lepidus. This turned out to be rather tricky: we only found females and juveniles. Finally, we had a stopover at the shores of Lago de Sanabria. There, we came across numerous Podarcis guadarramae – very photogenic lizards – and a couple of Lacerta schreiberi. Actually a quite successful day – apart from the fact that also the western slopes at Lago de Sanabria had been burned, recently. Destruction of nature has gained remarkable speed in northwestern Iberia. In the late afternoon, we headed towards our next station, Villablino, where we arrived after sunset. We had an opulent dinner with the typical local cuisine (meat, sausage and ham).

  • Laguna de los Peces

  • Iberolacerta galani

  • Iberolacerta galani

  • Iberolacerta galani (juvenile)

  • Iberolacerta galani

  • Iberolacerta galani

  • Lizard photography #2

  • Rana iberica

  • Alytes obstetricans

  • Narix astreptophora (juvenile)

  • Natrix maura (juvenile)

  • Timon lepidus (juvenile)

  • Podarcis bocagei (female)

  • Lacerta schreiberi (male)

  • Lacerta schreiberi (female)

  • Podarcis guadarramae lusitanicus

  • Podarcis guadarramae lusitanicus

  • Podarcis guadarramae lusitanicus

    20.9.

    Three years ago, we had visited the area of Villablino to search (unsuccessfully) for Iberolacerta monticola astur, a subspecies that has been recently described (in 2014). This time, we had precise coordinates. The lizard habitat was located in a lovely and very lonely mountain area. First, we only came across numerous Podarcis muralis but after searching a while, we finally found some Iberolacertas, which turned out to be quite shy. With some patience, we managed to take pictures. We didn’t have much time to enjoy the landscape: We went to the next mountain range to search for Vipera seoanei. First, we only found some frogs and a Bufo spinosus. Hence, we tried another spot in the mountains: Here, Trevor soon spotted a Vipera on a woodpile – this man has eyes like an eagle! Soon, we found another specimen and at a stopover on our way back, another one creeped over the road just beneath our car. Vipera seoanei seems to be quite common in that area. Back at Villablino, we had an opulent dinner with the typical local cuisine (meat and sausage on Pizza).

  • Parque Natural Babia y Luna

  • Podarcis muralis

  • Iberolacerta monticola astur

  • Iberolacerta monticola astur

  • Iberolacerta monticola astur

  • Iberolacerta monticola astur

  • Bufo spinosus

  • Parque Natural Somiedo

  • Vipera seoanei cantabrica

  • Vipera seoanei cantabrica

  • Vipera seoanei cantabrica

  • Tervor + Birgit

    21.9.

    In the morning, it was cloudy – so we left Villablino and headed towards Picos de Europa. Two hours later, we arrived at the western slopes of these mountains. Here, we wanted to search for Chioglossa lusitanica. This species we found easily, but we didn’t have much time to admire the animals: The weather became worse and we still wanted to visit a population of Podarcis guadarramae in the Liébana area east of the Picos de Europa. To get there, we had to cross the complete Picos de Europa – a three and a half hour ride. At a short stopover in the mountains, we found a black snake, which turned out to be a melanistic Coronella austriaca – not so common. Too bad that it escaped before we could take good pictures; only a blurred snapshot for us. The weather worsened and we had to hurry up. After a hot ride we finally arrived at the Podarcis habitat in Liébana – the sun was about to disappear behind the clouds. We had five minutes left to photograph, when it got cold and the lizards disappeared. Perfect timing! The lizards from the Liébana population look different from other Podarcis guadarramae: They show a pattern of distinct fine dots. This could be an undescribed subspecies, but probably it is just a color morph. Anyhow, we were happy that we found those lizards. Afterwards, we searched for an accommodation and had an opulent dinner with the typical local cuisine (meat filled with ham).

  • Chioglossa lusitanica

  • Coronella austriaca

  • Lizard habitat in the Liébana area

  • Podarcis guadarramae (Liébana population)

  • local cuisine

    22.9.

    It was still cloudy and we left Liébana towards Burgos to visit a habitat of Vipera latastei. Two hours later, we arrived at the spot. There, it was cold and cloudy too, but we were lucky: soon we found two Viperas and an adult Timon Lepidus – mission accomplished! Afterwards, we headed towards Madrid and went to a hotel at the southern slopes of Sierra de Guadarrama. Here, we hoped to find Podarcis virescens. Anyhow, this region still suffered from extreme drought of late summer. Apart from Tarentola mauritanica, no reptiles were found. We celebrated our last evening with a somewhat cultivated dinner (Pizza).

  • Liébana

  • Near Burgos

  • Vipera latastei

  • Vipera latastei

  • Timon lepidus

  • Sierra de Guadarrama

    23.9.

    We went to Puerto de la Morcuera where we had found Iberolacerta cyreni in earlier years. But also up there, in 2000 m altitude, it was extremely dry. No lizards, apart from some juvenile Podarcis guadarramae. At noontime, we cancelled our search and went to the airport. Time to say goodbye to Trevor: we shed some tears and after a warm embrace, we went to the terminal for our return flight.

  • Podarcis guadarramae guadarramae

  • Falco tinnunculus

    Conclusion:

    1500 kms by car and five different stations within one week – with this schedule you will likely risk some shortage of time, in particular, if the weather is not optimal. But, despite of the sometimes contrary weather we found most of our target species. Therefore, we can be quite satisfied with this trip. Only the extreme drought of 2017 and its sad consequences somehow reduced our enthusiasm. Of course, you cannot draw any conclusion from one single year to overall climate. Anyhow, there seems to happen some change in northwestern Iberia. This, combined with fire raising might lead to a loss of precious habitats in the near future.