In late summer 2019, we spent another week in Northern Iberia in the Provinces of Soria, Burgos, Zamora, León and Asturias. The latter ones have been destinations of our trips in former years. However, the Soria area was absolutely new for us and it seems that not too many people from abroad spend their holidays there. As we had learned from Wikipedia, this remote area belongs to the Serranía Celtibérica, a mountain range with rough climate, and that the population density in the Soria Province is only 8.6 inhabitants per km² (EU-average: 102 inhabitants per km²). This sounded like a perfect destination!
During our stay, we had beautiful sunny weather but a strong wind sometimes spoiled our search for lizards. Hence, we did a lot of hiking, instead.
Soria, the provincial capital, with its less than 40.000 inhabitants is a busy and charming place where apparently everyday people are celebrating fiesta in the bars of the city center. But as soon, as you leave the city, you will be very lonely – the perfect place for misanthropists. The landscape is characterized by steppe-like pastures but northwest of the capital, the mountain ranges of the Picos de Urbión with its deep pine forests and scenic views are really worth visiting. Hiking to the glacial lakes of this area is an unforgettable experience – We loved it!
The local herpetofauna comprises some species which also occur in central Europe like Lacerta bilineata (Western Green Lizard), Podarcis muralis (Common Wall Lizard) or Lissotriton helveticus (Palmate Newt). But several Iberian species like Psammodromus algirus (Large Psammodromus), Podarcis liolepis (Catalonian Wall Lizard) or Natrix astreptophora (Iberian Grass Snake) can be found there too. It was interesting to search for reptiles in this poorly explored area.
We re-visited the mountains around Lago de Sanabria, which have turned out one of our favorite places in Iberia during the last years. Again, the weather was sunny but windy with rather few lizards being active. However, straying through the rocky slopes of these mountains was great. We stayed 2 days in that area and when headed north with a stop over in the Montes de León. A deserted mountain range with some beautiful places – and a heaven for Podarcis bocagei (Bocage’s Wall Lizard). Other lizard species seen during these days were Timon Lepidus (Ocellated Lizard), Lacerta schreiberi (Schreiber’s Green Lizard), Podarcis guadarramae lusitanicus (Guadarrama Wall Lizard), Iberolacerta galani (Galan’s Rock Lizard).
When we arrived in southern Asturias, a strong wind spoiled our lizard safari, again. Therefore, we decided to do some hiking instead. The Lagos de Saliencia turned out as a mountain paradise with crystal clear lakes and rocky peaks. Only very few Podarcis muralis, Iberolacerta monticola (Iberian Rock Lizard) and a single Lacerta schreiberi were seen in that area.
Two days later, we headed back to Bilbao for our return flight. However, we had enough time for a stop-over in the Lebeña area to photograph the local population of Podarcis guadarramae: In 2017, we only found juveniles of this strange color morph but this time we succeeded. A nice finale!