|Written by Jeff Clarke|
|Wednesday, 09 May 2012 16:55|
Reptile Tales from Andalucia
All images unless otherwise stated © Jeff Clarke 2012
Southern Spain is richly endowed with a reptilian fauna but some of them still require dedication and skill to winkle out. My recent tour of the Sierra de Grazalema area in partnership with Teresa Farino of Iberian Wildlife Tours provided an opportunity to get to grips with some of this regions hidden 'herptiles'. To get the best out of such tour possibilities it helps to have equally enthusiastic and experienced reptile hunters among the clients and on this trip we were fortunate to have a veritable zealot in the form of Alan Harrison, whose stone turning inclinations seemed boundless and who by dint of effort turned up some of our most impressive treasures.
Despite unseasonably cold and wet conditions for a substantial part of the tour we managed an impressive haul in our eight day tour. Some species of course are hard to miss so it was hardly surprising that among our finds were dozens of Iberian Wall Lizard Podarcis hispanica. Indeed the base of Grazalema's vertiginous cliff top perch was especially productive for this nimble reptilian. Had I been quicker off the mark I might also have secured something less likely, but I stumbled around with a heavy rucksack, telescope, binoculars and a big lensed camera contributing to my inept attempt at detaining a mystery as it slithered away at lightening speed.The tour was designed as an all-round floral and fauna tour and whilst exploring a floristic
After a couple of saturating days (there were rumours that Noah was knocking up a new Ark at one point) in which we found just a few Iberian Wall Lizards and a Grass Snake Natrix natrix we finally got the weather break we were looking for and we set of for the lowland wetlands near Espera. This was to prove a key day in the tour as we discovered a succession of interesting reptiles and amphibians. First up was a Large Psammodromus Psammodromus algiris spotted by Teresa. A couple of us had found a few fast moving specimens earlier in the tour but this was the first to co-operate for the whole group.We proceeded down the track we turned over any likely stones. Moments after I had uncovered a Sharp-ribbed Newt a beaming Alan found his snake prize. We initially thought it was a poorly marked Viperine Snake due to it's noticeable collar, but Teresa was smart enough to notice that it did not have a typical scale pattern and carefully reviewing our pictures she confirmed her suspicions that it was in fact a Western False Smooth Snake Macroprotodon cucullatus. A great find and a first for all of us!
Alan and I both homed in on a rock strewn pit in a clearing, it felt very snakey but we were both initially disappointed at the dearth of reptiles. As I returned to the track Alan explored an further open area on his side of the pit and a shining object resolved itself into a sloughed skin and there curled close to it was well marked Viperine Snake Natrix maura nearly 3 feet in length. three more Viperine snakes were found in an enclosed pool and Alan and I revealed our fifth under large metal sheet, together with our first Moorish Gecko Tarentola mauritanica. Our final reptile addition of the day was something of a surprise; a Spanish Terrapin Mauremys leprosa was sat amongst sparse vegetation some distance from any water-body.