South West Iberia, December 2012

The Route, with the places we stayed
The Route, with the places we stayed


8 - 15 December, a herpetological trip to the Algarve (Portugal) and Andalucia (Spain)




Unless stated otherwise.




For viewing the photos in a bigger size, just click on them




Through Gesicht-buch Matt asked me to join him and Carl for a great amhibian adventure in December, I first thought it would be impossible, but tried to make it possible, that worked out great!! 


Matt Wilson, Carl Corbidge and Liam Russell were the other members of this team, they turned out to be great company during this succesfull week.


Matt and Carl already did a trip to the Algarve area in February 2011 and did already find all the species they wanted, but wanted to come back in December to see all species in higher numbers.

December is a great month because of the autumn showers there are many temporary ponds where a lot of amphibian species are active.


I arrived at Faro at 1800 and Matt and Carl were already waiting for me, they arrived 6 hours earlier, so they had visited some locations in the Faro area, Mediterranean Chameleon, Viperine Snake, Maria's Worm Lizard and both Europian Pond Terrapin and Red eared Sliders were seen.


From the airport we drove straight to Sagres, the most South Western village of Portugal where Matt booked us a big and very cheap appartment where we would stay the first 4 nights.


When we arrived we quickly dumped our luggage in the room and went asap to some temporary ponds around Vila do Bispo, at the first spot we heard that the local Parsley frogs were calling and in the first piece of water we saw at least 6 of them, Iberian Painted Frog, Bosca's Newts, Sharp Ribbed Newts, Natterjack Toads and Western Spadefoot Toads were also seen during the first night.


Sunday, december 9th

Slept perfectly after the night activity, this day we went to Carrapateira, a small village on the Atlantic coast, we visited the dunes for Carbonell’s Wall Lizards and some hills for snakes, unfortunatly the snakes were hiding too good, instead we found Iberian Painted frogs and Moorish gecko there, the scenery was great!


The dunes gave us what we came for, after looking too long for a good spot to park the (French) car we finally walked towards the dunes, the weather was not that good for lizards, but we saw about 3 active lizards, and after flipping some stones we found some more.


In the late afternoon we visited a great valley which was given to me by Wouter, it was a very pretty beach which had acces to a small valley where Fire Salamander should be, we found Fire Salamander larvae and I made some beachy photos.

After diner, which was not good enough for going there again....we went to some new temporary ponds around Vila do Bispo, in the afternoon we already did some recon on the area and marked some tiny ponds which we could not have found in the dark.


We saw lots of Western Spadefoot Toads, Southern Marbled NewtsBosca's Newts , some Parsley Frogs, Sharp ribbed NewtsNatterjack Toads,  and 1 Iberian Painted Frog. 

Monday, december 10th

Today Liam is arriving, so we will pick him up and then drive to Monchique to look for Fire Salamander, Iberian Wall Lizard and Schreiber's Green Lizard.


Driving trough the Monchique village we saw Iberian Wall Lizard on a wall, Algerian Psammodromus was also there, so the Iberian Wall Lizard was found pretty fast, then we went to an area west of Monchique where Schreiber's Green Lizard should be, but finding it in december turned out to be impossible.


Before we went for a nice diner I found 1 Fire Salamander and after diner we found 6 more of this good-looking subspecies (crespoi).


After this black/yellow adventure we went back to the Vila do Bispo area and showed Liam around at some good locations, the strange thing was that this night we found around 15 Iberian Painted Frogs at very tiny ponds were we found only one the day before, maybe the lower night temperature had something to do with it.

Tuesday, december 11th

The last day in the area of Vila do Bispo, we searched at some hills close to the beach and found very nice looking Parsley Frogs, then almost got into some trouble with a very nasty Portugees police-boy..."Do you do that in your own country??? Yes some times!! You will not do it in Portugal or I will take you to the office"


Very impressed we drove back to Sagres and in the afternoon we looked at the fort of Sagres for Western Psammodromus and Occelated Lizard, both were found!!


After diner we searched at a big pond with fish in it and here we found Common Toads, all the other night crawlers were also seen.

Wednesday, december 12th

Leaving Sagres, its about time....


Driving to Spain today,  Coto Doñana national park is where we were going, but before we got there we stopped at an open field with a small stream, close to Cartaya, not much was found here, only a Viperine Snake if I remember it correctly...


Next stop was El Rocio, a very pittoresk village in the Coto Doñana national park area with the streets filled with sand and Tree Frogs and Lizards running trough these streets.


After looking for almost an hour, still no Lizards were found, Matt Liam and Carl were almost having tears in their eyes....(they think I did not see that) only a Maria's Worm Lizard was found so far, so I filled my energy level with a donut and flipped some big stones at the edge of the village and found 3 Vaucher’s Wall Lizards and one Stripeless Tree Frog.


In the National Park we saw Maria's Worm Lizard and some Natterjack Toads who were trapped.


Diner in El Rocio was ok, after that we went to an Iberian Midwife Toad location, this species is one of the biggest reasons I wanted to do this trip. 


Matt saw one on the track, and we heard only 2 or 3 toads calling, so we were lucky, at an other spot we saw Western Spadefoot Toad tadpoles and I found an adult when we walked back to the car.

We slept in a very small romantic cabin on a campsite....

Thursday, december 13th

In the morning the temperature was only 5' Celcius, by far the coldest temperature of the trip, we were driving to Huelva where we searched at a site where 10 milion things could be flipped, Moorish Gecko, Bedriaga’s Skink and Horseshoe Whip Snake were found, next thing was meeting with Juan Pablo Gonzalez Vega, he gave us a nice route for the afternoon and then we crossed the border again.


Back in Portugal we slept in a huge hotel in Monte Gordo, but before that was going to happen we had dinner in a Dutch eating joint, it wasn't great...

But, we had one place left to visit before Matt and Carl would fly back home the next morning.


It was a valley where Matt already found Iberian Midwife Toad and Fire Salamander larvae, now we found 2 adult Fire Salamanders, they looked very different from the ones in Monchique, the bodies were slim and the heads very flat.


Also one Iberian Midwife Toad was found, we heard more of them calling, but couldn't find the little buggers.

Friday, december 14th

We arrived before 0800 at the airport and after waving goodbye to Matt and Carl I went straight to the avis car rental and grabbed my car, Liam was going with me and my plann was to go to Alcornocales natural park to look for Iberian Parsley Frogs and the "longirostris" subspecies of Fire Salamander.


It was a +300km drive, but the weather forcast gave a big chance of a rainy night in that area, so we went there and used the daylight to find some temperary ponds where we would come back in the night, after diner we went to the first spot, the moment we got out of the car we heard the Iberian Parsley Frogs calling, after a while I found 2 of them and 2 more later that night.


Next place was a small mountain lake, within 5 minutes the first "Longirostris" was found, in total we found 7 Fire Salamanders, at the lake were also lots of Southern Marbled Newts and Sharp Ribbed Newts.


Then the rain started and almost all species were found on the road.

Saterday, december 15th

We drove around in the Alcornocales Natural Park, but it was raining very hard, and we saw nothing, we went back to the Faro area and did a search North of Faro.


Now it was time for me to fly back home, this trip was a great trip, we found everything we wanted to find, the company had a good "can-do" mentality and I like that.


So Thanks a lot Liam, Carl and Matt!


I also like to thank Jeroen Speybroeck, Wouter Beukema, Bobby Bok, Peter Oefinger, Frank Deschandol and Juan Pablo Gonzalez Vega for their help and information!

Observed Species

1.   Fire Salamander - Salamandra salamandra ssp. crespoi & longirostris
2.   Southern Marbled Newt - Triturus pygmaeus
3.   Bosca’s Newt - Lissotriton boscai  “maltzani”
4.   Sharp-Ribbed Newt - Pleurodeles waltl
5.   Iberian Midwife Toad - Alytes cisternasii
6.   Iberian Painted Frog- Discoglossus galganoi ssp.galganoi & jeanneae

7.   Iberian Parsley Frog - Pelodytes ibericus
8.   Parsley Frog sp. - Pelodytes sp. nov

9.   Western Spadefoot Toad - Pelobates cultripes
10. Common Toad - Bufo bufo
11. Natterjack Toad - Bufo calamita
12. Stripeless Tree Frog - Hyla meridionalis
13. Iberian Water Frog - Pelophylax perezi

14. Maria's Worm Lizard - Blanus mariae

15. Moorish Gecko - Tarentola mauritanica
16. Algerian Psammodromus - Psammodromus algirus
17. Western Psammodromus - Psammodromus occidentalis
18. Vaucher’s Wall Lizard - Podarcis vaucheri
19. Carbonell’s Wall Lizard - Podarcis carbonelli
20. Iberian Wall Lizard - Podarcis hispanicus morphotype 2

21. Occelated Lizard - Timon lepidus

22. Bedriaga’s Skink - Chalcides bedriagai

23. Horseshoe Whip Snake - Hemorrhois hippocrepis

24. Viperine Snake - Natrix maura



Comments: 2 (Discussion closed)
  • #1

    Liam Russell (Wednesday, 02 January 2013 14:43)

    Hello GertJan
    Nice pictures! Especially the stripy Discoglossus face. Good trip I think - see you next time...

  • #2

    Will Hobson (Monday, 27 July 2015 10:31)

    You went herping in Spain and Portugal in 'December'? You were very to spot what you did for that time of year. Especially seeing Chameleons in December. I thought they hibernated 5 months of the year down there.