Herpetofauna of Europe : pyrenees and ne spain (july 2004)
Herpetofauna of Europe European Amphibians & Reptiles

Herpetological trip to the Pyrenees and northeastern Spain
16 July - 30 July 2004

All pictures (c) of Jeroen Speybroeck.

In July 2004, I went to the mountains in between France and Spain, looking for several Pyrenean herpetological endemics and some (to me new) species that live in the surrounding area. The first week of the trip, we joined the people from HYLA, doing pretty much the same trip at the same time. During the second week, it was just the four of us - Jan (VDB), Mieke, Stefanie and myself. We found 35 species of amphibians (15) and reptiles (20). All Pyrenean endemics, known at the time, were observed and a high number of Vipera seoanei at a French site was a remarkable surprise for this summer trip.
Apart from Mieke, Jan and Stefanie (who put up with me for 2 weeks of massive madness) and the HYLA crew, I would like to thank some people who shared their knowledge on where to find one or several species: Onésime Prud'homme, Gilles Pottier, Marcus Schmitt, Pedro Janssen, Ferran Bergalló, Richard Gonzalez, Mario Garcia-París, Hellin de Wavrin, Oscar J. Arribas, Javier Blasco-Zumeta, Lasse Bergendorf, Anders Selmer, Jan Van Der Voort, Pascal Dubois, Henk Strijbosch and especially Pierre-André Crochet. Helping with many localities and information, these people made our trip a true success.

overview of prospected sites

16 July – transit

Stefanie and I picked up Jan and Mieke and we drove from Gent (Belgium) to Mimizan (France) in the Landes area. No real herping on this day, except for some Marsh frogs (Pelophylax ridibundus) in a pond on one of the "aires" where we stopped.

17 July - towards Iraty forest

We searched for vipers near Hendaye, without any luck, but some Common Wall Lizards (Podarcis muralis) were present. We drove on, towards Iraty forest, and started exploring some streams. Soon several species where encountered: Common Frog (Rana temporaria), Viviparous Lizard (Zootoca vivipara), Common Wall Lizard, Common Midwife Toad (Alytes obstetricans), Common Toad (Bufo bufo), Fire Salamander (Salamandra salamandra) and the first Pyrenean Brook Newt (Calotriton asper).

Fire Salamander (Salamandra salamandra)

18 July – Iraty forest

We met with the HYLA people, and went to one of the few French sites of Seoane's Viper (Vipera seoanei). Just next to the campers, in some low shrub, Peter found, thanks to the excellent weather conditions, 8 (eight!) individuals of the species. We also found our first Slow Worms (Anguis fragilis) here. In and around a stream just near the border, we found Palmate Newt (Lissotriton helveticus), Pyrenean Brook Newt, Common Midwife Toad, Common Toad, Fire Salamander and larvae and adults of the Pyrenean Stream Frog (Rana pyrenaica).

the first Seoane's Viper (Vipera seoanei)

another one

Jan (VDV, again the HYLA gang leader) shooting the viper

a black one

animal showing the so-called bilineata pattern

the habitat ...

Pyrenean Stream Frog (Rana pyrenaica)

19 July – from Iraty to Ordesa

We moved on to our next stay, at the PN Ordesa in Spain. We stopped near Urdos and found Green Lizard (Lacerta bilineata), Common Wall Lizard, Asp Viper (Vipera aspis), Smooth Snake (Coronella austriaca) and Viperine Snake (Natrix maura). Another stop, at an old site of East-Iberian Painted Frog (Discoglossus galganoi jeanneae) near Jaca, remained without succes.

Western Green Lizard (Lacerta bilineata)

Viperine Snake (Natrix maura) - smelly as always


20 July – PN Ordesa

On this day, we went looking for the first out of three Pyrenean endemic lizards. We walked from the Ordesa car park towards the Circo de Cotatuero. Along the river on some rocks, I was able to spot the first Pyrenean Rock Lizard (Iberolacerta bonnali). Afterwards, we continued our walk towards Faja Racón and then back down to the car park. Along this walk, we saw some chamois and at a stream, we found again some Pyrenean Stream Frog and Pyrenean Brook Newt.

view of the barranco de Cotatuero, while climbing

Pyrenean Rock Lizard (Iberolacerta bonnali)

same - note large masseteric and tympanic scales, with 3 small ones in between

Pyrenean Brook Newt (Calotriton asper)

another shade of Pyrenean Stream Frog (Rana pyrenaica)

stream in PN Ordesa, with Pyrenean Stream Frog and Pyrenean Brook Newt

21 July – Rio Bellos & Néouvielle

We went looking for Lataste's Viper (Vipera latastei) near Puyarruego, without any luck. We did -however- see the first Large Psammodromus (Psammodromus algirus) and Catalonian Wall Lizard (Podarcis liolepis) here, next to a dead Iberian Water Frog (Pelophylax perezi) that was found on the road. We drove on to France and visited another site for Pyrenean Rock Lizard, near the Lac de Cap de Long. It started to rain a bit. Just as the rain stopped and the first sun beams came through, I caught an Asp Viper near Lac d'Oredon.

Lac de Cap de Long

Pyrenean Rock Lizard (Iberolacerta bonnali) - shedding its skin

less typical Pyrenean Rock Lizard (Iberolacerta bonnali)

Lac d'Orédon

Asp Viper (Vipera aspis)

head of the same Asp Viper (Vipera aspis)

22 & 23 July – Vall d'Aran (part 1 & 2)

We moved again, and this time into the area of the Aran Rock Lizard (Iberolacerta aranica). We went from Bagergue towards the Estany de Liat. From Cabana des Calhaus upwards, we could find a lot of Aran Rock Lizards. Another Asp Viper was caught and also Common Frog, Palmate Newt, Fire Salamander, Common Wall Lizard and Viviparous Lizard were seen. Of the latter, also eggs where found, as Pyrenean populations are oviparous. On the road between Salardu and Bagergue, Stefanie found a dead Western Whip Snake (Hierophis viridiflavus).

very common from Bagergue uptil the Cabana - Common Wall Lizard (Podarcis muralis)

Aran Rock Lizard (Iberolacerta aranica)

Aran Rock Lizard (Iberolacerta aranica) - note three large scales on the cheek

habitat of Aran Rock Lizard (Iberolacerta aranica)

Viviparous Lizard (Zootoca vivipara)

eggs of Viviparous Lizard (Zootoca vivipara) - it is noted that the round, copper thing is not an egg

another Asp Viper (Vipera aspis)

24 & 25 July – from Barrage de Soulcem towards Port del Rat (part 1 & 2)

Staying in Vicdessos, we went towards the Port del Rat. A first try didn't give exactly what we wanted (though a lot of Viviparous Lizard, some Common Frog and a Pyrenean Brook Newt). After a phone call to an omniscient informant, we realised that we had been looking in the wrong place and the next day, we went up the mountain once more - this time without the HYLA people, as they went home already. This second time was a better try, as now we were able to spot a lot of Aurelio's Rock Lizards (Iberolacerta aurelioi) on a slope along the path.

Aurelio's Rock Lizard (Iberolacerta aurelioi)

Aurelio's Rock Lizard (Iberolacerta aurelioi) feeding on a wasp - note the small temporal scales and a little bit of the yellow belly colouring, just in front of the hind leg

26 July – Rio Cinca and Rio Ebro

We drove south and stopped near La Granja d'Escarpe. It was really hot and there were no reptiles to be seen. Some dragonflies and birds eased that pain. After picking a spot at a camp site in Mequinenza, we drove towards a pond near Ballobar, where we found Viperine Snake, Iberian Water Frog and the large tadpoles of Western Spadefoot (Pelobates cultripes).

the rare Onychogomphus costae

the pond near Ballobar - an oasis for a lot of animals

27 July – los Monegros

We met with Javier Blasco-Zumeta in Pina de Ebro. He showed us the los Monegros area and we learned a lot about all aspects of flora and fauna of the landscape (for an impressive species database and much more on his enormous work please visit Javier's los Monegros website). In some water tanks, we also found subadult Western Spadefoots that where trapped in the tanks, next to some Natterjack Toads (Bufo calamita). On the barren parts of grey soil with rosemary shrubs and enchanting herbal scents, we chased Spiny-Footed Lizard (Acanthodactylus erythrurus).

Western Spadefoot (Pelobates cultripes)

Western Spadefoot (Pelobates cultripes) - black metatarsal tubercles are visible

water tanks in los Monegros

looking for Spiny-Footed Lizard and much more

Spiny-Footed Lizard (Acanthodactylus erythrurus)

Spiny-Footed Lizard (Acanthodactylus erythrurus) - subadult with still a reddish tinge on its tail

28 July – PN Aiguamolls de l'Emporda

We went back north, to the area around Rosas. We found Spanish Terrapin (Mauremys leprosa) but also the invasive Red-eared Terrapin (Trachemys scripta elegans), Slow Worm, Green Lizard, Iberian Water Frog and Stripeless Tree Frog (Hyla meridionalis). At some ponds near Delfia, we found plenty of Spanish Terrapin, the same amphibians plus larvae of Western Spadefoot. Near the river of Rabos, we saw a subadult Ocellated Lizard (Timon lepidus) and again Iberian Water Frog and Spanish Terrapin.

Spanish Terrapin (Mauremys leprosa) - though threatened by its exotic relative still smiling

Stripeless Tree Frog (Hyla meridionalis)

29 July - l'Albera

During the day before and this day, we searched a lot for Painted Frogs (Discoglossus pictus), which turned out to be the only really missed species on this trip. Apparently, conditions were too dry and a search at night near els Estanys did not help, although it did bring a dead Marbled Newt (Triturus marmoratus). Searching streams, we found one more species to add to the list, Grass Snake (Natrix natrix). We also visited the breeding center for Hermann's Tortoise (Testudo hermanni) at Garriguella. At night, plenty of Moorish Geckos (Tarentola mauritanica) could be seen at our camp site in Garriguella.

Moorish Gecko (Tarentola mauritanica)

Moorish Gecko (Tarentola mauritanica)

30 July - Lac du Salagou

We moved back into France. At the Lac du Salagou, we spent several hours trying to trap the shy Water Frogs and in the end we were 99% sure (intervomeral space etc.) that we were dealing with Graf's Hybrid Frog (Pelophylax kl. grafi). The photomodel-to-be sadly escaped my (somewhat tired) grasp, so no decent picture of the beast was made. We gave up, and after a divine meal in St-Paul-Trois-Châteaux, we slept well. The next day, we drove home and, though it was very hot, we were lucky to encounter few traffic jams.

List of the observed species

1. Fire Salamander (Salamandra salamandra) - both fastuosa and terrestris subspecies
2. Pyrenean Brook Newt (Calotriton asper)
3. Palmate Newt (Lissotriton helveticus)
4. Marbled Newt (Triturus marmoratus)
5. Common Midwife Toad (Alytes obstetricans)
6. Western Spadefoot (Pelobates cultripes)
7. Common Toad (Bufo bufo)
8. Natterjack Toad (Bufo calamita)
9. Stripeless Tree Frog (Hyla meridionalis) - a lot of juveniles at Delfia and els Estanys
10. Common Frog (Rana temporaria)
*. Agile Frog (Rana dalmatina) - the long-legged brown frogs we saw on the 17th are probably just Common Frog
11. Pyrenean Stream Frog (Rana pyrenaica)
12. Marsh Frog (Pelophylax ridibundus)
13. Iberian Water Frog (Pelophylax perezi)
14. Graf's Hybrid Frog (Pelophylax kl. grafi)
15. Spanish Terrapin (Mauremys leprosa)
16. Red-eared Terrapin (Trachemys scripta elegans) - more seen in PN Aiguamolls de l'Emporda than 16.
17. Moorish Gecko (Tarentola mauritanica)
18. Large Psammodromus (Psammodromus algirus)
19. Spiny-Footed Lizard (Acanthodactylus erythrurus)
20. Viviparous Lizard (Zootoca vivipara)
21. Ocellated Lizard (Timon lepidus)
22. "Western" Green Lizard (Lacerta bilineata)
23. Pyrenean Rock Lizard (Iberolacerta bonnali)
24. Aran Rock Lizard (Iberolacerta aranica)
25. Aurelio's Rock Lizard (Iberolacerta aurelioi)
26. Catalonian Wall Lizard (Podarcis liolepis)
27. Common Wall Lizard (Podarcis muralis)
28. Slow Worm (Anguis fragilis)
29. Western Whip Snake (Hierophis viridiflavus) - just a dead one
30. Smooth Snake (Coronella austriaca)
31. Viperine Snake (Natrix maura)
32. Grass Snake (Natrix natrix)
33. Seoane's Viper (Vipera seoanei)
34. Asp Viper (Vipera aspis)

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