Yesterday was a bit of a write-off for wildlife watching - lots of driving from Galicia to Castilla y Leon. Discovered a great visitor centre at Lago de Sanabria - not mentioned in my books, and it must have cost a fortune. The place is great for wildlife too, with a wide variety of habitats - the glacial lake (Lago), and surrounding Mediterranean habitats, rising to mountains with subalpine relict vegetation.
I did two walks here - one up the Rio Tera canyon, and one around the high altitude lagoon at the end of the road from the monastery of San Martin. The Rio Tera canyon is a great walk, although typical of Spanish walks, the route markers can be frusrating hard to find, or entirely absent in places! The canyon was full of lizard life, and every pool seemed to have a resident Iberian Water Frog (Rana perezi).
The lagoon walk was less inspiring, especially the main tourist track, which like everywhere (seemingly) in Spain has a distressing amount of discarded rubbish along its flanks. Once off the main track I saw gentians, more frogs (the whole lake resounded with their calls when the sun came out), and a range of birds in the meadows - linnets, wheatears, choughs.
Here are some of the sights I saw:
Bath White (Pontia daplidice)
Iberian Water Frog (Rana perezi)
Rio Tera Canyon
Today I visited the coastal nature reserve of Corrubedo, west of Santiago de Compostela. I had hoped to go to another reserve in the morning to look for reptiles, but the typical Galician morning low cloud and sea mist put paid to those plans. Corrubedo is an important bird breeding site, as well as having a strong reptile population, but sadly neither were much in evidence on my visit, much to my disappointment! There were a few Chalcides skinks which dashed into their hiding places as I walked past, and I caugfht a fleeting glimpse of my first Ocellated Lizard, but apart from that, wildlife seemed largely absent. The coastal dune flora was good though, and my wish to see Sea Daffodil flowering was granted - there are thousands of plants there, which must be an amazing sight when they are all in bloom.
Euphorbia paralias (Sea Spurge)
Pancratium maritimum (Sea Daffodlil)
Today's adventure was to explore this pristine Atlantic coastal forest in Galicia. My main hope was to see the rare endemic Golden-Striped Salamander (Chioglossa lusitanica), and after 3 hours of walking and looking under well over a hundred stones, I finally found one. Half an hour later I had found six!
The forest was a beautiful place, with an eerie mist lying over the river throughout the morning, but the sun came out later on and brought out plenty of dazzling blue demoiselle dragonflies. All in all, a tiring day, but well worth the wait for the salamanders especially!
Adult Golden-Striped Salamander (Chioglossa lusitanica)
Baby Golden-Striped Salamander
Fragas do Eume, morning
Trichocolea sp (liverwort)
My second day in Somiedo, and the aim today was to explore the glacial lakes of Saliencia. I was aiming to get some good photos of the lizards found there, and hopefully find some good upland birds. There were wheatears, black redstarts, vultures, and lots of choughs (not sure which species). The echoing of their calls around the valley was very atmospheric indeed.
The scenery in this place is wonderful, and one of the easiest ways to enjoy the park in a short space of time, since you can drive to within 15 minutes' walk of the first lake. On the way back down the valley I stopped at one of the many roadside verges to look at the butterflies again - in half an hour there I probably saw more species than I would in a whole summer here in Derbyshire!
Lago de Cerveriz
Iberolacerta galanii, Lago de Cerveriz
Flock of choughs
Brimstone, Saliencia valley
Somiedo Parque Natural – what a place! Spectacular limestone gorge country, and an absolute paradise for all sorts of wildlife. The area is famous for harbouring the largest proportion of bears left in Spain, and viewing the landscape you can see how they survive so well. There were all sorts of butterflies along every roadside, and the upland flora was equally impressive. I saw my first alpine butterfly (an Apollo), and nearly stood on the young snake below! I was photographing plants at the time, when this little guy shot out from next to me and swan away in the mountain stream. By the time I'd changed to a better lens he/she had disappeared into a clump of vegetation and wouldn't be coaxed out - a real shame!
I visited the area around Puerto de Somiedo today, and here are some of the sights:
Scarce Copper (Lycaena virgaureae)
Young Seaone Viper (Vipera seoanei)
View from Saliencia lakes, Somiedo
First day in Spain, and my first taste of the Spanish natural world. Drove from Bilbao to Saja-Besaya – part of the Cantabrian Mountains, with lots of exposed limestone plateau. To be honest, it reminded me a lot of the Derbyshire limestone dales, but with various different inhabitants, some of which are shown below:
Daboecia cantabrica (St.Dabeoc's Heath)
Podarcis muralis (Common Wall Lizard)
Wall Brown (female)