Saturday, 18 April 2015

In search or orchids and chameleons - Barbate

There are differences between Italy and Spain:
Italy has few birds but many lizards; Spain has few lizards but many birds - coincidence?

Italy has many orchids; Spain, relatively few. We saw hardly any on our trip a couple of years ago, and none on our travels this time until the last day when we parked on a sandstone cliff and searched the apparently likely places, in clearings with rosemary, sun rose and heather, and a strange plant called Dipcadi serotinum.
Foolish we were, until we moved into the shadows of the pine woods and finally found some sawfly orchids.

Nearby were occasional sombre bee orchids.
- if sawflies seek out sawfly orchids, what is the sombre bee orchid trying to attract?
 Of course - sombre bees!
Sod's law - when we returned to the car we saw plenty of sawfly orchids around the carpark - we'd been looking in the wrong habitat.

The final quarry on the holiday was chameleon (the common or Mediterranean chameleon, chameleo chameleon) , although it was early in the year - they prefer not to emerge until April. We read that they live in white broom in this south-western part of Spain, so we dutifully checked some of the many bushes between Barbate and Cape Trafalgar and found just two - grumpy looking buggers they were too.
Best found by looking for their silhouettes on branches against the light,they are indeed well camouflaged - so they don't seem to change colour. Their green-and-white patterning matched the foliage and flowers perfectly.
You know that they have seen you, but unlike lizards they are not speedy movers, so put on a panic-stricken slow-motion creep, all the while giving a baleful glare, as if disgusted at being disturbed.
And just look at those feet - superb!

The holiday was complete - we couldn't ask for more. It's a great area, full of fascination - well worth a visit.

Other incidentals:

Ubiquitous Sardinian warbler

Ditto serin

Red-striped oil beetles Berberomeloe majalis


And a monarch - crowning glory!