7 June 2017  Extremadura wildlife

After blogs on Lesser Kestrels specifically and birds generally, now one on other wildlife. I had hoped that a main focus of the trip would be orchids, but sadly, all my target species had gone to seed. No matter, herps and butterflies were around in numbers! But first up, a mammal. One evening in Pago San Clemente, while dipping Red-necked Nightjar, I turned round to find a Beech Marten lolling along the road towards me. I managed a couple of snaps before it absconded. Only the second one I have seen, and a nice double given last month's Pine Marten in Estonia

A short video shot with my phone.

Given the heat, amphibians were understandably in short supply. I did, however, manage two new species - one long sought after (if ultimately disappointing). At least two Bosca's Newts wereat the pond on the upper north slope of Monfrague Castle). The second (below) confused me. I initially put it down as  a young Southern Marbled Newt, even though I couldn't make it fit, given the adult's colour/pattern. Brian Banks put me right: it's a young Fire Salamander instead; the yellow patch at the top of the rear thighs being distinctive. Given that FS is one of my most-wanted, I should be happy; instead, I am gripped that it was not an adult! This was in the water font by the car park at the bridge - ironically a known site for Southern Marbled Newt but not Fire Salamander. Iberian Water Frogs were widespread, residing in rivers and mini-reservoirs alike.

We saw surprisingly few moths, although there were plenty of Hummingbird Hawk-moths everywhere, some Orange Underwing types around the rocks at Monfrague Castle, with a Crimson Underwing on the mid-northern slope there, a Pale Shoulder (below) seen by day at Trujillo, and some other stuff that i will doubtless struggle to identify. No such identification issues with the biggest (literally) surprise of the trip: a Giant Peacock Moth that we flushed late morning at Monfrague. It flew around us, putting morpho butterflies to shame with its size, before finding a new roost site, high up in a tree. No photographs of my most-wanted moth in Europe...

Ocellated wasn't the best lizard, however. Investigating the Sierra de Villarucas, specifically just south of Castanar de Ibor, we chanced upon two adult and one juvenile Schreiber's Green Lizard. What a beast! Definitely a trip highlight.


James Lowen 

Given I started with a mammal, I will end with one too. Red Deer were surprisingly confiding at Monfrague, and this young stag posed for a few photos at ten metres range before deciding to drift into the scrub. Fabulous!

Reptiles were more numerous and obliging. There were both Turkish and Moorish Geckos around our accommodation at Casa El Recuerdo. Just before dusk one evening, a snake whipped along (and then into) the wall outside the property. I only got a brief view but it looked like a juvenile Ladder Snake. Spanish Terrapins were easy to see (a dozen or more in a brief stop) from the bridge over the Rio Almonte, near Torrejon el Viejo, but the hoped-for Viperine Snake (which should have been hunting frogs in the shallows) did not materialise. More confiding were lizards. Large Psammodramus was common at Monfrague, and Spanish (Western) Psammodramus seemed to be the species at Trujillo. The Wall Lizard at Trujillo, if I have interpreted the map of splits correctly, is Geniez's.

My target lizard was Europe's largest: Ocellated Lizard. I managed a remarkable encounter with one juvenile, which was ludicrously tame (walking towards me, so i had to back away to maintain focus) plus a few brief views of others - all at Monfrague. Sadly, I failed to connect with an adult.

We were checking out the trail here, well off the beaten track in Extremadura, on the advice of Martin Kelsey, who suggested it was excellent for orchids and butterflies. Sadly, we were too late for the latter, with every one of the numerous plants we encountered having gone to seed. Butterflies were good, however. Nothing particularly rare, but plenty of interest - and colour. Sadly, at Monfrague, we dipped our two target butterflies: Two-tailed Pasha was numerous here the previous week but we saw none, and Spanish Festoon was well over.