Murcia

In 2008 as part of my degree course I spent six months living in Murcia, S-E Spain. This region, along with neighbouring Almeria in Andalusia are the most barren areas of Spain (probably Europe too) and most of the province is extremely arid in general with some of the highest temperatures on the continent. As early as April temperatures already hit 35C and drought is a serious problem all year round. In addition to studying at the university of Murcia I spent alot of my free time in the wilderness, especially the beautiful but dry sierras of the region in search of reptiles and amphibians. Needless to say I have some great memories and experiences to share so I have selected a few of my favorite photographs along with a table showing some of my results from various search areas.

All photographs (C) Matt Wilson

La sierra de Almenara

A coastal hillside range that is rapidly being destroyed by plans for golf club construction and additional tourism expansion, but nevertheless holds a diverse flora and fauna. The sierra also has the biggest Spanish population of Spur-thighed tortoise (Testudo graeca) which is suffering from human expansion in Murcia like elsewhere in its range that includes coastal Andalusia and Majorca, however a number of conservation projects are helping protect the species.

La sierra de Almenara

La sierra de Almenara

La sierra de Almenara

La sierra de Almenara

Spur-thighed or Moorish tortoise (Testudo graeca)

Spur-thighed or Moorish tortoise (Testudo graeca)

Large and fierce: Montpellier snake (Malpolon monspessulanus)

Large and fierce: Montpellier snake (Malpolon monspessulanus)

Sub-adult Ocellated lizard (Timon lepidus nevadensis)

Sub-adult Ocellated lizard (Timon lepidus nevadensis)

Female Montpellier snake (Malpolon monspessulanus)

Female Montpellier snake (Malpolon monspessulanus)

Big Perez's frog (Rana perezi)

Big Perez's frog (Rana perezi)

Horseshoe whipsnake (Hemorrhois hippocrepis)

Horseshoe whipsnake (Hemorrhois hippocrepis)

Ladder snake (Rhinechis scalaris)

Ladder snake (Rhinechis scalaris)

Family of water frogs (Rana perezi)

Family of water frogs (Rana perezi)

A pair of Iberian worm lizards (Blanus cinereus)

A pair of Iberian worm lizards (Blanus cinereus)

Cartagena-Las Moreras

The coastal area of Murcia consists of the second biggest town (Cartagena) and hillsides which are now home to tourist resorts and villages. Las Moreras is one of few natural water courses present in the region, close to a sand dune system with salt pans.

Table 2: My findings from separate visits to the coastal areas of Murcia

Latin name Common name 03/08 05/08
Mauremys leprosa Spanish terrapin 1
Chameleo chameleon Mediterranean chameleon 1
Tarentola mauritanica Moorish gecko 5 8
Timon lepidus Ocellated lizard 2
Psammodromus algirus Large psammodromus few few
Podarcis hispanicus Iberian wall lizard few few
Acanthodactylus erythurus Spiny-footed lizard 2
Hemorrhois hippocrepis Horseshoe whipsnake 2
Malpolon monspessulanus Montpellier snake 1 1 slough
Rhinechis scalaris Ladder snake 1 dead
Natrix maura Viperine snake 1

 

Mediterranean chameleon (Chameleo chameleon)

Mediterranean chameleon (Chameleo chameleon)

Me holding the skin of a giant Montpellier snake (Malpolon monspessulanus), the skin measured 240cm!

Me holding the skin of a giant Montpellier snake (Malpolon monspessulanus), the skin measured 240cm!

Habitat near to the city of Cartagena

Habitat near to the city of Cartagena

Big Montpellier snake (Malpolon monspessulanus) of nearly two metres

Big Montpellier snake (Malpolon monspessulanus) of nearly two metres

Montpellier snake (Malpolon monspessulanus)

Montpellier snake (Malpolon monspessulanus)

Horseshoe whipsnake (Hemorrhois hippocrepis)

Horseshoe whipsnake (Hemorrhois hippocrepis)

Horseshoe whipsnake (Hemorrhois hippocrepis)

Horseshoe whipsnake (Hemorrhois hippocrepis)

Spanish terrapin (Mauremys leprosa)

Spanish terrapin (Mauremys leprosa)

I leave it up to my Spanish colleagues to don the silly water clothes and get to the net with the terrapins!

I leave it up to my Spanish colleagues to don the silly water clothes and get to the net with the terrapins!

La sierra de Ricote- Archena- La sierra de la pila

North of the city of Murcia are two sierras: la sierra de Ricote and la sierra de la pila, furthermore the town of Archena is surrounded by cultivated land with fruit trees that I found to be nice for reptiles. This is one of the driest areas in the whole of Spain.

Table 3: My findings on some trips to the area north of Murcia

Latin name Common name 04/08 05/08
Bufo calamita Natterjack toad 2 12
Pelodytes ibericus Iberian parsley frog 1
Pelobates cultripes Western spadefoot toad tadpoles
Tarentola mauritanica Moorish gecko 6
Hemidactylus turcicus Turkish gecko 3
Timon lepidus Ocellated lizard 12 1
Psammodromus algirus Large psammodromus few 1
Podarcis hispanicus Iberian wall lizard 2
Hemorrhois hippocrepis Horseshoe whipsnake 3 1 dead
Malpolon monspessulanus Montpellier snake 3 2 dead
Coronella girondica Southern smooth snake 1 1 slough

 

Barren landscape close to the town of Archena

Barren landscape close to the town of Archena

Home to the largest lizard in Europe: Ocellated lizard (Timon lepidus)

Home to the largest lizard in Europe: Ocellated lizard (Timon lepidus)

Turkish gecko (Hemidactylus turcicus)

Turkish gecko (Hemidactylus turcicus)

Guiding some Spanish ornthologists who were keen to see a snake

Guiding some Spanish ornthologists who were keen to see a snake

After missing a big Horseshoe whipsnake I caught this juvenile Montpellier snake (Malpolon monspessulanus)

After missing a big Horseshoe whipsnake I caught this juvenile Montpellier snake (Malpolon monspessulanus)

Dry canal used to water fruit groves, now a habitat for snakes and lizards

Dry canal used to water fruit groves, now a habitat for snakes and lizards

After running from rock to rock I eventually caught this big Ocellated lizard (Timon lepidus)

After running from rock to rock I eventually caught this big Ocellated lizard (Timon lepidus)

Vicente Jnr having a closeup look at Europes largest lizard

Vicente Jnr having a closeup look at Europes largest lizard

I was very lucky whilst lifting rocks to find a Southern smooth snake (Coronella girondica)

I was very lucky whilst lifting rocks to find a Southern smooth snake (Coronella girondica)

Southern smooth snake (Coronella girondica) and its biotope

Southern smooth snake (Coronella girondica) and its biotope

Small pond at the edge of cultivated land, home to Natterjack toads (Bufo calamita), Parsley frogs (Pelodytes punctatus) and Western spadefoot toads (Pelobates cultripes)

Small pond at the edge of cultivated land, home to Natterjack toads (Bufo calamita), Parsley frogs (Pelodytes punctatus) and Western spadefoot toads (Pelobates cultripes)

Natterjack toad (Bufo calamita)

Natterjack toad (Bufo calamita)

Natterjack toad (Bufo calamita)

Natterjack toad (Bufo calamita)

Natterjack toad and eggs

Natterjack toad and eggs

A possible hybrid of Natterjack toad and Western spadefoot toad

A possible hybrid of Natterjack toad and Western spadefoot toad

Parsley frog (Pelodytes punctatus)

Parsley frog (Pelodytes punctatus)

La sierra de la pila

La sierra de la pila

Spiny-footed lizard (Acanthodactylus erythrurus)

Spiny-footed lizard (Acanthodactylus erythrurus)

One of two huge Natterjacks found beneath a stone slab

One of two huge Natterjacks found beneath a stone slab

La sierra de Espuña- la sierra de Carrascoy y El Valle

Next to the city of Murcia is the Sierra de Carrascoy y El Valle which are mostly forested areas with an area of rock pools that form at the forest border. La sierra de Espuña lies to the west of Murcia and is the highest point in the region, it is also a nature reserve home to the only isolated population of Lataste’s viper (Vipera latastei) which I found near to Sevilla in Andalusia, but I could not find it in Murcia.

Table 4: My findings on my visit to the sierra de Espuña and El Valle

Common name Latin name 3/09 06/09
Perez’s frog Rana perezi few 20+
Mediterranean Common Toad Bufo bufo spinosus 2 1
Ocellated lizard Timon lepidus 1
Large psammodromus Psammodromus algirus 10
Spanish psammodromus Psammodromus hispanicus 5 2
Spiny-footed lizard Acanthodactylus erythrurus 10
Iberian worm lizard Blanus cinereus 2
Viperine snake Natrix maura 2 5
Horseshoe whip snake Hemorrhois hippocrepis 1 dead

 

La sierra de Espuña

La sierra de Espuña

Male common toad (Bufo bufo spinosus)

Male common toad (Bufo bufo spinosus)

Common toad habitat on the mountain

Common toad habitat on the mountain

La sierra de Espuña

La sierra de Espuña

Big viperine snake (Natrix maura)

Big viperine snake (Natrix maura)

Habitat of Viperine snake (Natrix maura)

Habitat of Viperine snake (Natrix maura)

Another viperine snake (Natrix maura)

Another viperine snake (Natrix maura)

Sub adult Ocellated lizard (Timon lepidus)

Sub adult Ocellated lizard (Timon lepidus)

Spanish psammodromus (Psammodromus hispanicus)

Spanish psammodromus (Psammodromus hispanicus)

14 comments on “Murcia

  1. Love the pictures.I have a house in Murcia,have seen plenty of snakes but as yet no tortoises.Where is the best area and season to spot them?

    Like

  2. Hi Chris,
    Thanks for the message
    Well, tortoises are rare in Murcia, they are only found around the Lorca area and are not common there. Glad you have seen snakes around, I am moving back to Murcia at the end of August so I hope to create a page on my blog where people can follow my observations of reptiles and amphibians there.
    Matt

    Like

  3. We found a small, thin, predominantly green snake with black or dark markings on our doorstep today. It was probably no more than 2 feet long, if that. About two hours later our neighbours found a similar one by their pool. I didn´t see the neighbours´one, but ours was lovely, beautiful shade of green. Would there be a nest of them? Or maybe it was the same one. ´We´ve been here, in Murcia, near Mazarron for 7 years, and have only seen one other, but in the campo. This was the third one for our neighbours.

    Like

  4. Hi Frances,
    Do you have a pond (such as on a golf course) or a stream close to your home? If so I’d say that your snake is a Viperine water snake (Natrix maura in latin). They often venture towards swimming pools etc, any snake you will see in the Mazarron area will be totally harmless.
    Matt

    Like

  5. Came across your blog whilst looking for information on the Murcia region. Spent 12 years in Murcia on and off having a house in Morata, never knew there were so many snakes only ever seen the occasional sighting. Seen many tortoise as our house is in the ‘Sierra de la Almenara. September is a good time to walk here and view the tortoise. Thanks for sharing this great blog 🙂

    Like

  6. Our daughter in Alhurin de Torre Malaga found some spawn in a drying up pool in January, saved them and has just let go in a very large campus pool I have identified tham as Natterjacks and we were delighted to help them out…..

    Like

  7. Hi Matt, I work at King’s College in Murcia and one of our topics is pond life and small creatures. Are any of the places in Murcia you went to suitable for a school trip, to observe a pond and the creatures that live around it? Also, are you still in the area and would you be interested in talking to the children about your job and travels? My email is paula.gardner@kingsgroup.org
    Thanks,

    Paula

    Like

  8. very informative , we have a snake in the garden about 1.5 meters in length , greenish and about the thickness an adults arm ,any ideas ?

    Like

  9. Hi Steve, the snake is probably a Montpellier snake (Malpolon monspessulanus) in Latin. Unless you live in the north-west mountains of Murcia all of the snakes are harmless so no need to worry.
    Matt

    Like

  10. Hello, came across your page trying to find out more about a toad I found in El Valle and just wanted to say thanks very much! I’ve been in Murcia a wee while and wanting to know more about the natural history but haven’t really come across many resources that I like (probably looking in the wrong place). But anyway, very happy to find your blog and I’ll be going out lizard spotting prontico – cheers 🙂

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s