September can be a great month here, with the rain coming back and bringing new growth and life. Canillas de Albaida’s Fabrica de la Luz is one of the best places to enjoy this, and river and trees are beautiful. It’s a great place to start and end a walk.
Lots of wildlife by water. Obviously the water-dwellers, from Water-boatmen to fish, but also amphibians. There’re those associated with water – dragonflies, and dozens of other insects whose nymphs live in it. Then there’s all the species that eat something that lives in or by water. And that’s not to mention all those animals that want a drink.
I’ve often heard about walks along the Levadas in Portugal. Our own acequias are a similar system of water channels for field irrigation that’s been in place for centuries. Open channels attract wildlife: I have had trouble walking along the acequia on a route between Sedella and Salares because bundles of bees had decided to enjoy the water, buzzing up from the shining shallow surface in annoyance when we wanted to pass. A friend of mine sat on the acequia that lay beside the Rio Turvilla just after the road bridge and before the waterfall.
It turned out others were using the concrete side as a highway. Distracted by his book my friend was surprised to look down and find a snake in his lap. He leapt so far he landed in the stream – not a good idea really, he would have done better to stay still. His new pal might have been anything – a Southern Smooth Snake, an Adder, a Ladder Snake, or even the venemous Montpellier Snake, which I’ve seen once or twice in riverbeds and on acequia banks. Much to my disappointment he couldn’t describe it, saying sharply, “It was a snake and it was in my lap, Grasshopper, that was all I needed to know!”
Tankfuls of frogs
I’ve mainly seen the Perez’s frog here – also known as the Marsh frog, the Iberian water frog, the Green frog… occasionally in the acequias, but mainly in the big open watertanks that are here and there in the park, not to mention the deposito for fire relief behind Salares. In spring there are dozens of frogs on the concrete lips of the pool croaking away – I hate to think of the rain of frogs that a fire in spring would cause!
The deposito near Cómpeta’s fábrica de la luz is always full of green-suited swimmers as shown above. It’s an ugly concrete tank in a lovely place but I always look in. I once counted 23 frogs (only the ones I saw). No wonder a fat Viperine Water Snake was coiled around the tank’s ladder!
But the tank on the flanks of Cerro Verde for years held dozens of tadpoles all year round, much to my surprise. I saw them in every season, and generally went that way at least every other month or more. They did not seem to change; I saw no evidence of metamorphosis.
The only adult I ever saw there was a spiny toad, spotted about 4 years after I’d first past the tadpole tank. The fountain of youth! Now the forestal seem to have refurbished the tank, emptying and painting it and putting up a sign to say how important such water tanks are for the wildlife. No sign of pond weed, dragonflies or tadpoles now….
Water tanks, just like natural pools, also attract other predators and not just snakes. Indeed a snake might well make a snake for a Cattle Egret, like this one seen near an open water tank near Árchez. This has to be the best bird shot I’ve got to date. I love it, even though grasshoppers are often on the menu.
The wildlife I’ve seen by swimming pools are generally accidental visitors, in need of a helping hand. Some are happier to be helped than others. Crickets are easy enough. Lizards, if they can be trapped have quite often got chilled and a sluggish enough to be guided or lifted out. Ditto snakes, though its best to lift them out with a net. But the yellow-necked mouse found trapped by the pool vent was convinced the net was deadly and kept taking a flying leap back into trouble.
There are two creatures that are very attracted to water to be wary of. One is the plague of standing water in warmer climes, the mosquito. I can’t say I have had a lot of mosquito bites in spite of living in Spain but I live in a town. When I’ve sometimes stayed at villas in the countryside, I remember one reason why I live where I do. The countryside mozzies come out and eat me alive.
The other species is more of a menace with moving water (streams, the sea) but is often seen at pools too. Flocks of them will appear, as if from nowhere, and create havoc. Human children. Watch out!