© All CONTENT & PHOTOGRAPHS G.J. VERSPUI 2013 ©
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This summer started a little different then normal, we left saterday early in the morning, but 80 km north of Paris, the oil pump of our campervan's diesel engine stopped, so there we were....on an exit and no movement possible...
I called for help and within half an hour a big truck came and picked us up, we were brought to the depannage company and from there we called our insurence company, they made very good promises, but because it was weekend, we had to wait for monday to pick up a car south of Paris.
That weekend we stayed in an hotel, monday morning I left very early and went with the train to the location where I could pick up the rental car, to continue our holiday, it was an Opel Zafira.
I drove back and picked up the rest, then we packed some stuff from the campervan into the Opel, the only problem now was that we did not have a tent and everything else you need when you spend your holidays in a tent.....
We bought everything we needed in a supermarket and a sportshop!
From Paris we drove down to the Aude region, here we found a campsite close to Narbonne, the next day we did a tour through the area, temperature was around 19'C and the wind was strong, not really the weather you would expect in the south of France.
That day we had lunch on a higher plateau, around 1100m alt, and there I saw something jumping out of the grass, could not find anything so after 10 min I went back and it happened again, now I could see that it was an Iberian Three-toed Skink with a special paint.. it was totally black, but you could still see the stripes on it vaguely.
The next 3 days we stayed on a campsite at Torreilles plage, here I found Moorish Gecko, Catalonian Wall Lizard, Edward's Psammodromus, Viperine Snake and a shed of a Western Montpellier Snake.
From Torreilles Plage I did a tour in the area on one day and this turned out to be a very succesfull day.
In an almost dried up stream I found lots of juvenile Painted Frogs and some Palmate Newt larvae, next to the stream was a juvenile Algerian Psammodromus.
A bit further I found some water channels and the edges of those channels were full of juvenile Stripeless Tree Frogs, thousands of them at least, the Viperine Snake who lived there too did not have a lot of trouble with finding some snacks.
Walking back to the car I found a Ladder Snake and an Western Montpellier Snake, also saw some Occelated Lizards, but did not manage to photograph them.
From Torreilles Plage we went into the Pyrenees, in the late afternoon we arrived at one of the places I really wanted to visit, this place was famous for its Sand Lizards and Asp Vipers, I only saw 1 Sand Lizard, but did find 2 Asp Vipers, Common Wall Lizards were all over the place.
That night we slept on a campsite north of Andorra, we had a lot of rain, Common Toads were walking around and our cheap tent got its first test.
We woke up and everything was still dry inside, outside it was still raining, this was not good for my chance to see Aurelio’s Rock Lizard.
The weather stayed the same, but because it can change quickly we went there anyway. We arrived and it could go both ways, so I decided to give it a try, I did see the sun at least 2 times, but is was not enough, I did see a lot Pyrenean Brook Newts, a dead Slow Worm and some Grass Frogs, on the way back to the car I made some cow friends.
I told the girlfriend that we had to wait for the weather to become good and off course she did not agree...I had to come with a better plann...
Would you like to do some shopping in Andorra?? She could not say no to that, so the day after the shopping day(it was horrible) I went to the Aurelio’s Rock Lizard location again, this time with a bright blue sky and from the Andorra side.
When I climbed over Port de Rat I could look into the valley, or actually I could not see the valley because it was filled with clouds, every other side I looked, the sky was clear....... I walked down and waited more then 2 hours there, I did see the sun 2 or 3 times, but it was followed by rain every time.
With tears in my eyes I returned to the campsite, we packed and left.
On a road in Andorra we saw a dead Smooth Snake and in the little stream next to it were some Pyrenean Brook Newts.
2 days later we arrived in Vall d'Aran, this valley should be the home of the Aran Rock Lizards.
A big Common Toad, Viviparous Lizard and Common Wall Lizards were also in that valley, at the spot for the Aran Rock Lizards we saw them straight away.
The third Rock Lizard species of the Pyrenees (Pyrenean Rock Lizard) was at a stunning location with 2 lakes next to it, we arrived when it was clouded, but the sun came and I found them, Common Wall Lizards were around also in high numbers and 2 very good looking Asp Vipers were also seen there.
In the Vall d'Aran we had a flat tire with the car and could not find a place to fix it, so we dicided to drive a bit more into Spain and look for a new tire there, When you drive out of the Pyrenees it gets dryer straight away.
Close to Boltaña we had a stop next to an almost dried up stream, I climbed down with my doughter and we found lots of Common Midwife Toad tadpoles and some juveniles who just left the tadpole stage.
The juveniles looked very bling bling with their golden spots.
We found a campsite at Sabiñánigo and stayed there 2 nights, the tire was changed into a new one.
Next to the campsite was the river, here we found Iberian Water Frogs, Catalonian Wall Lizards and Viperine Snakes, the weather was great here, hot and dry!!
Back into the Pyrenees, we went to the supermarket and bought enough food for the next 3 days, Close to St Jean Pied de Port we camped.
From thias location there were several areas close by where I found some nice herps, at the first location there was a little stream and a lake, here I saw some Fire Salamanders, Palmate Newts, Common Toads, 1 Common Midwife Toad, Grass Frogs and some Viviparous Lizards.
At this area I saw a lot of difference from when I was there in 1997 and 2006, next to the stream is a lot of picknicking going on, the ammount of Fire Salamanders I found during the day there was definitely a lot lower then in the past.
On a beautiful hill I found some Seoane’s Viper, Viviparous Lizards and Common Wall Lizards, during the day the temperature was around 21- 24 'Celcius, at night around 6 - 10 'Celcius.
In the evening I went to a small stream, here I saw lots of Pyrenean Brook Newts and Fire Salamanders, tadpoles of the Common Midwife Toads and Pyrenean Stream Frogs were also there in high numbers.
We left the Pyrenees after 3 great days and went in western direction following the coastline, close to Bilbao I looked for Ibiza Wall Lizards on a little island which was connected with the shore by a man made foothpath.
Ever since we reached the coast it has been raining, but it was dry but very windy when we arrived on the island, no lizards untill the sun started to shine for a couple of minutes, 5 lizards came out, but only for a short time....rain again..
To escape the rain we drove in southern direction, on the plateau of Sierra de Urbasa we found a campsite with a lot of nature around us, next to the tent we had no neighbours, but Common Wall Lizards on some rocks.
At some other places I looked for Seoane’s Vipers, the area looked good for it, but I did not find anything, at a little stream we saw lots of Green Frogs.
After 2 good days, the rain came again and we decided spend the last 5 days in a famous lake area in the middle of France.
After almost a day of driving we arrived in Le Blanc, a town on the south west of La Brenne, here we stayed one night.
In the morning we drove into the area with a 1000 lakes, in the middle of La Brenne we found a campsite, next to the campsite we found Agile Frogs, Common Wall Lizards and Western Green Lizards during the first day, in the evening I drove around and found many Natterjack Toads, Edible Frogs, Common Toads, 2 Common Tree Frogs and a Grass Snake on the road.
The next day we visited 2 information centers, at the first one we saw an European Pond Terrapin and next to the car were juvenile Common Tree Frogs and a very light juvenile Western Green Lizard, at the second one I bought a nice book about the Reptiles and Amphibians of the Indre region, in the evening I saw many Parsley Frogs and some Natterjack Toads.
The next day we went to one of the lakes and saw 4 European Pond Terrapins and a Common Tree Frog, in the afternoon I went alone to some places, next to an old railroad I found many Common Wall Lizards, 3 Slow Worms and an Asp Viper.
A bit east of the railroad I found many Yellow-bellied Toads in some ditches, now it was time to drive back to the campsite where I arrived 1 hour later then promissed...
That evening I went out with my doughter to look for frogs and Toads, we walked trough the very dark forest and saw some Agile Frogs, Edible Frogs and when we walked back to the tent, she found a Natterjack Toad next to the path, very proud she caught it and brought it back to the tent to show it to mama.
The next morning we did the long drive home.
After a bad start this summer turned out to be a huge succes, we had lots of fun, saw many beautiful areas and found many Amphibian & Reptile species.
Jeroen Speybroeck and Peter Oefinger, thanks a lot for your help and information!!
1. Fire Salamander - Salamandra salamandra fastuosa
2. Pyrenean Brook Newt - Calotriton asper
3. Palmate Newt - Lissotriton helveticus
4. Common Midwife Toad - Alytes obstetricans
5. Painted Frog - Discoglossus pictus
6. Yellow-bellied Toad - Bombina variegata
7. Parsley Frog - Pelodytes punctatus
8. Common Toad - Bufo bufo
9. Natterjack Toad - Bufo calamita
10. Common Tree Frog - Hyla arborea
11. Stripeless Tree Frog - Hyla meridionalis
12. Grass Frog - Rana temporaria
13. Pyrenean Stream Frog - Rana pyrenaica (tadpoles)
14. Agile Frog - Rana dalmatina
15. Edible Frog - Pelophylax kl. esculentus
16. Iberian Water Frog - Pelophylax perezi
17. European Pond Terrapin - Emys orbicularis
18. Moorish Gecko - Tarentola mauritanica
19. Algerian Psammodromus - Psammodromus algirus
20. Edward's Psammodromus - Psammodromus edwarsianus
21. Ocellated Lizard - Timon lepidus
22. Western Green Lizard - Lacerta bilineata
23. Sand Lizard - Lacerta agilis
24. Pyrenean Rock Lizard - Iberolacerta bonnali
25. Aran Rock Lizard - Iberolacerta aranica
26. Viviparous Lizard - Zootoca vivipara
27. Common Wall Lizard - Podarcis muralis
28. Catalonian Wall Lizard - Podarcis liolepis
29. Ibiza Wall Lizard - Podarcis pityusensis
30. Iberian Tree-toed Skink - Chalcides striatus
31. Slow Worm - Anguis fragilis
32. Ladder Snake - Rhinechis scalaris
33. Smooth Snake - Coronella austriaca
34. Grass Snake - Natrix natrix
35. Viperine Snake - Natrix maura
36. Western Montpellier Snake - Malpolon monspessulanus
37. Seoane’s Viper - Vipera seoanei seoanei
38. Asp Viper - Vipera aspis (ssp. aspis & zinnikeri)